Kirani James celebrates his victory in the 400m (© Getty Images)
World and Olympic 400m champion Kirani James got his season off to a flying start with a 44.72 victory at the inaugural Chris Brown Bahamas Invitational in Nassau on Saturday (13).
The 20-year-old Grenadian skipped the indoor season for the first time in three years in order to focus on his summer campaign and his World title defence, but he showed no signs of being race-rusty in his first race in almost eight months.
Up against two of the four Bahamians who won a memorable 4x400m gold at the London Olympics last year, James set off cautiously as Michael Mathieu moved up on to his shoulder after just 150m. But as they came into the home straight, James moved up another gear and opened up daylight on the home town heroes.
He won by more than a second and his time of 44.72 matched exactly his season opener from last season. Mathieu just about held on for second place in 45.83, one hundredth ahead of fellow Bahamian Ramon Miller.
Following his recent wind-assisted 100m clocking, USA’s Darvis Patton was looking for another eye-opening performance in the 100m. But this time the 35-year-old faced a strong -2.0m/s head wind and had to be content with a time of 10.09. European 200m champion and double Olympic finalist Churandy Martina was a distant second in 10.34, just 0.01 ahead of Dexter Lee.
Olympic bronze medallist Kellie Wells was another decisive winner. Competing in her first 100m Hurdles race of the season, the American clocked 12.88 (-0.1m/s) to win by more than three tenths of a second ahead of Chelsea Eades (13.19).
Jamaica’s Andrew Riley, the NCAA 110m Hurdles and 100m champion, won the men’s sprint hurdles in a season’s best of 13.31 to beat former US record-holder David Oliver (13.37) and Antwon Hicks (13.57).
Back from the injury that prevented him from finishing his 400m heat at last year’s Olympic Games, 2008 Olympic champion LaShawn Merritt moved down in distance to win the 200m in 20.34 from Olympic 100m bronze medallist Justin Gatlin (20.44).
The women’s 200m was also won by a 400m specialist as World indoor bronze medallist defeated double Olympic 200m champion Veronica Campbell-Brown, 23.13 to 23.18 (-1.6m/s).
Elsewhere, Olympic finalist Jehue Gordon easily won the 400m Hurdles in 49.50, while Commonwealth and African champion Ajoke Odumosu won the women’s race in 55.73 ahead of Ristananna Tracey (55.96). Alexandria Anderson took the 100m in 11.26, and Moushami Robinson ran her fastest time for three years to win the 400m in 51.89.
Jon Mulkeen for the IAAF