Yohan Blake wins the 200m at the Jamaican Championships (© AFP / Getty Images)
Yohan Blake, as he did four years ago, completed the sprint double on the final day of the Jamaican Championships in Kingston on Sunday (3). But it was a hard-fought victory as Nickel Ashmeade and Julian Forte made the half-lap contest pulsating.
Forte, who had the indignity of a false start in the 100m on Thursday, showed superb curve-running technique to come into the home straight first. He held a marginal lead with some 50 metres to go, but his ambitions of victory were short-lived as Blake swept by him in one fell swoop.
Running into a -1.5m/s headwind, Blake won in 20.29, his fastest time in four years.
“My confidence is back and to take the double is a wonderful feeling,” said Blake. “It was windy when I came on the straight but my coach told me to keep my composure and stay tall.”
Ashmeade, who a day earlier was fortunate to have got a reprieve in the second semifinal after exiting his blocks prematurely, accelerated on the inside to edge Forte, who by now was grinding to a halt. Both men were eventually accredited with the same time (20.45).
There was major disappointment for Olympic bronze medallist Warren Weir, who tightened up in the final 15 metres and finished fourth.
The women’s 200m final instantly diminished in star quality after the withdrawal of training partners Elaine Thompson and Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce. The event was won by Simone Facey in 22.65 (-3.1m/s) ahead of two-time Olympic champion Veronica Campbell-Brown, who ran 22.80.
In the men’s 110m hurdles on Saturday, Omar McLeod showed that he is in mint condition with another strong run to win his first national senior title.
McLeod, who is undefeated this season but hadn’t competed for a month, extended his winning streak to five after producing the second-fastest time this season, 13.01. McLeod now owns the five fastest times in the world and was happy with the win.
“I’ve been confident all season, win or lose,” said the world indoor champion. “I ran 13.01, which tells me that I’m really consistent so I’m really happy about that. I just need to continue the dominance because I’m going nowhere but up from here.”
McLeod remains the only man in the world to run faster than 13 seconds this season, but is not daunted by the pressure of being the favourite in Rio.
“I just wanted to book my spot today,” he said. “I feel no pressure, I want to be at the top and it comes with high expectations so I’m really embracing that and living in the moment.”
Olympic bronze medallist Hansle Parchment joined a growing list of high-profile absentees receiving medical exemption as he did not recover sufficiently from his injury to challenge McLeod.
It paved the way for the improving Deuce Carter to gain a spot on the Olympic team; he duly obliged after coming second behind McLeod in 13.21, just 0.01 shy of his PB. Commonwealth champion Andrew Riley was third in 13.49.
After getting a flying start, world champion Danielle Williams spectacularly crashed out in the women’s 100m hurdles. The event was won by an exuberant Megan Simmonds in a PB of 12.79 ahead of the other Williams sibling, Shermaine, who grabbed second in 12.90.
The women’s 400m lived up to expectations as one of the most hotly contested events. The four women who took gold in the 4x400m at last year’s World Championships – Christine Day, Stephenie-Ann McPherson, Novlene Williams-Mills and world bronze medallist Shericka Jackson – lined up against each other for the first time this season.
Day and McPherson both went out hard and built up a sizeable lead on their rivals to turn the contest on its head. McPherson proved the stronger of the two and won in 50.04.
“This year is the only year I’ve ever trained right throughout the season and so I knew that I was going to come out here and do great things,” said McPherson.
Day crossed the line in 50.29 followed by Jackson in 50.42 and Willams-Mills 50.64. All four women registered season’s bests.
It was a precursor to the epic battle that ensued in the equivalent men’s event. Prior to the championships, only five Jamaican men had bettered 46 seconds this year. That figure had doubled on Saturday after the keenly contested semifinals.
Sunday produced faster times. Peter Matthews, drawn in lane seven, was plotting a huge upset and ran a rapid first 300 metres. Meanwhile favourite Javon Francis had distributed his energy more evenly and caught up with Matthews with 80 metres to go.
Francis won comfortably in 44.95 ahead of Fitzroy Dunkley and Nathon Allen, who ran 45.35 and 45.52 respectively. National record-holder Rusheen McDonald, who has struggled for form all season, was fourth in a season’s best of 45.61.
Elsewhere, Natoya Goule was a comfortable winner of the women’s 800m in 2:00.23 ahead of 35-year-old national record-holder Kenia Sinclair, 2:01.11.
Damar Forbes leapt out to 8.16m to win the men’s long jump while Fredrick Dacres won the men’s discus with 62.27m.
Kimberly Williams and Shanieka Thomas treated the crowd to an exciting triple jump contest. Williams opened with 14.56m (1.5m/s) and then bounded out to a wind-assisted 14.66m (2.6m/s) in round four. Thomas kept the pressure on by recording six jumps beyond 14.25m, the best of which was a wind-assisted 14.44m (3.0m/s).
“I’m pretty pleased with my series, it’s my third competition” said Williams. “I’m happy that I’m finally healthy and working on trying to get better and improve with each meet.”
Noel Francis for the IAAF