USA's Johnny Dutch in the 400m Hurdles (© Getty Images)
American 400m hurdler Johnny Dutch ran a world-leading time of 48.02 to upset local hero Javier Culson and US-based Ivory Coast sprinter Murielle Ahoure scored a 100m and 200m sprint double at the 7th Ponce Grand Prix in Puerto Rico, an IAAF World Challenge meeting, on Saturday (19).
Despite the late withdrawal of USA’s London 2012 Olympic Games 400 Hurdles silver medallist Michael Tinsley due to illness, like 12 months ago the event was the highlight of the programme and lived up to its billing with an intense battle between Dutch and Culson from start-to-finish in front of a packed 12,000 crowd at the Francisco Montaner Stadium.
Unbeaten at home in Ponce since 2009, Culson entered the home stretch with a slight lead over Dutch but the latter cleared the last two hurdles better and finished stronger to cross the line in 48.02 for his second fastest time ever and his best run since his breakthrough year of 2010.
The duel finished with Culson was second in 48.36, and Cuba’s Pan American Games Champion Omar Cisneros third with 48.92.
The fastest woman indoors over 60m this year, Ahoure took the 100m comfortably in 11.09, a season’s best, well ahead of USA’s Barbara Pierre and Alexandra Anderson, who were second and third respectively although both clocked at 11.30.
The 2012 IAAF World Indoor Championships 60m silver medallist returned to the track almost two hours later after her first win for her first 200m of the year and posted another comfortable victory in a quick 22.47, just 0.05 short f her personal bests.
USA’s former 100m world champion Lauryn Williams was her closest rival in the longer sprint but finished second with 22.90.
USA’s 2012 Olympic Games 4x100m gold medallist Tianna Madison, who won over both 100m and 200m in 2012 and who is now running under her married name of Bartoletta, was never a factor this year and finished a distant sixth and fifth in her races over the respective distance.
Ziolkowski still a threat
For the first time in the history of the Grand Prix, Ponce was added to the IAAF Hammer Throw Challenge and Poland’s former Olympic and World champion Szymon Ziolkowski prevailed in the men’s event with 77.08m, finishing ahead of Slovakia’s Marcel Lomnicky, whpo was second with 76.28m.
Ten days later after posting his world leading 13.17, 110 Hurdles Olympic finalist Orlando Ortega confirmed her fine early season form with a close victory over Barbados’s 2009 World Champion Ryan Brathwaite.
They were timed at 13.23 and 13.25 respectively, running into a slight negative wind (-0.8 metres-per-second).
“I am happy with my time. I always fight to get to the finish line first. I have been training well and my target is to reach the final in Moscow,” said Ortega in a matter-of-fact fashion, whose next race will be the IAAF Diamond League meeting in New York next Saturday.
USA’s Nia Ali took the women’s 100m Hurdles in 12.86. Another American victory went to 2012 World Junior Championships 800m gold medallist Ajee Wilson, who only turned 19 earlier this month, when she won over two laps of the track in 2:01.08, the second fastest time by a junior this year and less than two-tenths of a second away from her personal best set when winning in Barcelona last summer.
Three other events were also contested at the Ponce Grand Prix for the first time: the men’s 3000m as well as the women’s 3000m Steeplechase and Triple Jump.
The inaugural winners and meeting record setters, in order, were USA’s Andrew Poore (8:02.71), Australia’s2012 Olympian Genevieve Lacaze (9:37.62) of Australia and Cuba’s 2012 IAAF World Junior Championships bronze medallist Liuvia Maria Zaldivar (13.66m)
Local fans, regardless of the fate of Culson, were also rewarded when Coralys Ortiz improved her own national record in the Javelin to 57.46m with her last attempt. Ortiz moved from third to first to provide the only Puerto Rican victory of the night.
Javier Clavelo Robinson for the IAAF