Despite heavy rains and other lessthanideal conditions that took centre stage at the 2012 Seiko Golden Grand Prix on Sunday (6), several notable performances were produced at this IAAF World Challenge meeting.
Three invited superstars - Liu Xiang, Allyson Felix and and Amantle Montsho - dominated their event as expected. Liu won 110mH with 13.09, nearlya quarter-of-a-second ahead of second place Omo Osaghae, while Montsho, the reigning World 400m champion, won her specialty in 50.52, more than a full second ahead of runner-up Joanne Cuddihy. Felix won the 100m in 11.22, a hefty 0.16 ahead of Melissa Breen. Japanese national record holder Chisato Fukushima was third with 11.39, not exactly the time she was shooting for.
It was an auspicious start for Liu almost matching the time of 13.07 he recorded in his outdoor debut last year in Shanghai. For Montsho it was her second 400m of the season but first race in Japan. She also nearly matched her time from last year’s outdoor opener, 50.41. For Felix it was her first individual outdoor event of the season, having run several relay events back in the US at Penn Relays and JJK/Johnson meet.
"I know where I am now and what I need to improve, so I am excited to start working on things," Felix said. She also said that 200m is her favorite event and whether she will run the 400m or not will be decided with her coach before the US Olympic Trials.
Felix was able to race in relatively good weather for the day. However both Liu and Montsho were not so fortunate. Montsho said, "I had a great race even though the weather was bad." Liu said, "It was my first outdoor race. The track was wet and the wind was strong, but I am satisfied with my time."
The conditions were so bad that at one point both the Pole Vault and Javelin Throw were suspended for about 10 minutes.
Nazarov takes early lead as Hammer Throw Challenge begins
Dilshod Nazarov (TJK), the 2010 Asian Games champion, won the kick off of the men’s 2012 IAAF Hammer Throw Challenge with a modest distance of 77.34m ahead of Pawel Fajdek of Poland who threw 76.31m and Marcus Esser of Germany who reached 76.29m. The 2000 Olympic champion, Polad’s Szymon Ziolkowski, was only fifth with 73.72m
Alem Gereziher of Ethiopia won the women’s 800m with 2:05.06, while Job Kinyor of Kenya won the men’s 800m with 1:47.05. The times wwere slow because of strong wind as both Gereziher and Kinyor expressed after the race.
Although 2008 Olympic champion Brimin Kipruto did not start the race, the first four runners all dipped under the old meet record. Jairus Kipchoge won with 8:18.06 while Conseslus Kipruto was second with 8:19.49 and Roba Gari third in 8:19.62. The World Junior champion Jonathan Ndiku was only fifth in a slow time of 8:26.01, while Mekonnen Gebremedhin, bronze medalist at 1500m at the World Indoor Championships, was only eighth with 8:59.06. It was not an auspicious debut in the event for Gebremedhin.
Su Bingtian of China, 2011 Asian Champion, won a tight men’s 100m race. He clocked a wind-assisted 10.04 (+2.9), only 0.01 ahead of Mike Rodgers, who in turn was only 0.02 second ahead of 2003 World champion Kim Collins, who turned 36 a month ago.
The men’s Pole Vault was badly affected by wind. The winning mark was just 5.32m, a height only three vaulters cleared. Yangshing Yang of China cleared on his first attempt and was declared the winner.
Mixed fortunes for the 'home’ team
The host country’s victories came in six events – the men’s Javelin Throw, 400m Hurdles, Long Jump and 4x400m Relay, and in the women’s Long Jump and 4x100m Relay. Genki Dean threw the Javelin 81.43m with his first throw - although he never recorded another 80-metre throw it was enough to win. Yukifumi Murakami, the 2009 World Championships bronze medallist, threw 80.26m in the last round to finish second. It was the second consecutive meet with over 80 metres for Dean while it was first 80-metre throw of the season for Murakami.
Although he failed to hit the eight metres, Yohei Sugai won the Long Jump against such big names as 2006 World Indoor champion Ignisious Gaisah and Fabrice LaPierre, the 2010 World Indoor champion. Takayuki Kishimoto may be the next star at 400m Hurdles, and event Japanese have excelled in historically. After defeating American Johnny Dutch again, Kishimoto has now won six straight 400m Hurdles races after his failure in Daegu.
The women’s 4x100m Relay squad was shooting for the national record. Although they won in 44.28, the record did not come to them.