Report15 May 2011

Liu Xiang is back – Shanghai REPORT – Samsung Diamond League


Liu Xiang ends David Oliver's win streak in Shanghai (© Errol Anderson)

A victory for the city’s favourite son, Liu Xiang, brought the Dunlop Shanghai Golden Grand Prix – the second of this year’s Samsung Diamond League series – to a tumultuous conclusion here in front of a crowd of 30,000.

The former World and Olympic 110m Hurdles champion lived up to all the local expectations – and apparently exceeded his own – in putting an end to the unbeaten outdoor sequence of 18 finals races established by one of the other marquee names of this meeting, David Oliver. And Liu Xiang’s time of 13.07sec became the eighth world-leading performance of the night.

Liu’s new starting technique – taking seven rather than eight steps to the first hurdle – appeared to work perfectly as he took hold of the race and never let go, unleashing pandemonium as he crossed the line with his face breaking into a smile that was at least partly of relief.

His US opponent, who was last beaten outdoors on 31 August 2009, was not so sharp at the start and never established the expected challenge to his Chinese opponent, taking second place in 13.18.

“It felt great,” said Liu Xiang, who had commented beforehand that he was “not expecting to overtake” his US opponent. “This is my first outdoor race of the season. I reacted the fastest from the blocks and my seven-steps start worked very well for me.”

“I am very, very satisfied with the time. I wasn’t quite expecting it. But I do not think Oliver ran his best. I think he looked a little bit nervous. He was not very relaxed.”

Oliver, clearly dejected, put up a sporting front at the post-race press conference.

“My start was not very good,” he said. “I wish I had the answer to why I underperformed tonight. I will just have to go away and train harder and be ready for my next major competition.”

5 world leads and another 3 equalled

Liu’s was the fifth clear world-leading performance of the night, the others coming from Kaliese Spencer in the 400m Hurdles, Brimin Kipruto in the 3000m Steeplechase, Nixon Chepseba in the 1500m and Vivian Cheruyiot in the women’s 5000m. And there were performances equalling the world-leading mark from Tero Pitkämäki in the Javelin Throw, Mitchell Watt in the Long Jump and Blanka Vlasic in the High Jump.

Asafa Powell was not among the world leaders, but performed well following his disappointing run over 200m at the Kingston meeting, winning in 9.95sec.

Thorkildsen injured

Norway's Andreas Thorkildsen experienced the highs and lows of sport in the Javelin, taking the lead with a season’s best of 85.12m, only to see his perennial rival Tero Pitkämäki of Finland better it with the next throw of 85.33m, and then having to limp out of the competition after staggering to a pained halt as he prepared to release his fifth attempt of the night.

Thorkildsen, who appeared to suffer pain in his left leg, made straight for the bench to put on his tracksuit, clearly done with the competition.

“I felt something in my thigh, close to my knee,” Thorkildsen said. “I don’t know what it is. It happened on the run-up. I am glad I did not throw that throw. I have to check now what it is. It felt weird.”

But the World and Olympic champion was among the throwers offering encouraging applause for Pitkämäki as the Finn, already the winner with a throw which equalled this year’s world-leading effort, launched his last throw of the night. A nice touch from an event known for its sportsmanship.

Robert Oosthuizen of South Africa took third place with 83.73m.

It was an unhappy end to the night for Thorkildsen, who had also achieved another of his objectives in defeating the young Czech Republic thrower, Petr Frydrych, who had beaten him in the first Samsung Diamond League meeting of the season in Doha. Frydrych finished sixth with 79.40m.

Job well done - Powell

Powell had hinted that he might produce something super-fast in the 100m. As it happened, it was only fast, but a time of 9.95 was more than enough for him to get the job done.

Running with an empty lane on his left, following the disqualification of Norway’s Jaysuma Saidy Ndure for a false start, Powell came under a bit of pressure in the closing stages from the man on his right, Michael Rodgers, but did not need to over-exert himself to claim victory as the American finished in 10.01, with Mario Forsythe of Jamaica clocking a season’s best of 10.12 in third place. “My coach told me not to push it too hard,” Powell said.

A happy birthday for VCB

Veronica Campbell-Brown celebrated her 29th birthday in ideal fashion.

Jamaican’s double Olympic 200m champion took the 100m honours in what is likely to be another close season-long rivalry with Carmelita Jeter, whose sluggish start left her at a disadvantage she was not quite able to close as she finished three-hundredths of a second behind the Jamaican, who won in 10.92.

The American, winner of the Diamond Race in this event last year, had to settle for second in 10.95, while Blessing Okagbare of Nigeria, whose own swift start had briefly established her in the lead in lane seven, finished third in 11.23.

“I am very happy,” said Campbell-Brown. “This is my birthday gift. Thank God.”

Jeter commented: “Veronica had a really good start. I was not as good as I was supposed to be. I did not execute well. But we have a long season, so I will be all right.”

Kiprop beaten

There was a major surprise in the men’s 1500m as Kenya’s Olympic champion Asbel Kiprop, who had warmed up for this race with victory in the opening Samsung Diamond League 800m race in Doha, was frustrated in his main event by the determination of fellow Kenyan Nixon Chepseba, who won in a world-leading time of 3:31.42 which was also a meeting record.

A fast time had looked likely from the gun as the two pacers in the race set off at a sprint more suited to the 400m, and the field responded. After 800m was reached in 1:52.18, Kiprop bided his time, and was sixth at the bell.

But as the leaders approached the end of the back straight he had moved up ominously onto the shoulder of Chepseba. All was set – but Chepseba refused to go along with the battle plan, responding to every surge as the two men raced down the finishing straight, and finishing with arms aloft after a famous victory.

Kiprop finished in a season’s best of 3:31.76, with Ethiopia’s Mekonnen Gebremedhin, the only non-Kenyan in the top dozen, third in 3:32.36.

“It was not my day,” said Kiprop. “I really have to work a bit harder in training. But I am better this year than I was last year, when I did 3.32, so this is a good start to the season.”

Final effort brings Kipruto home

For a while it looked as if Kiprop’s fate was about to befall another of Kenya’s Olympic champions, 3000m steeplechaser Brimin Kipruto, who also moved up onto the shoulder of the race leader at the end of the back straight, only to discover a marked unwillingness to move over.

Kipruto’s fellow Kenyan Paul Koech hung on all the way into the home straight, but his aspirations of creating another shock were annulled as Kipruto gathered himself for a final effort which saw him move into the lead in the final metres, finishing in a world-leading time of 8:02.28 which was also a meeting record.

Kenya’s Hillary Yego took third in a personal best of 8:07.71.Behind him two other Kenyans produced personal bests – Patrick Langat with 8:08.59, and Richard Mateelong, with 8:11.07.

“This is the fastest opening time of the season for me,” Kipruto said. “Next time I will run under eight minutes. I think the rest of the season will bring something good . In Daegu!”

Watt consolidates great form

Mitchell Watt of Australia produced an effort of 8.44m to win the Long Jump, equalling his own world-leading mark and setting a meeting record.

“I need to win a medal in Daegu,” Watt said. “8.50 is my goal this year. 8.49 is the Australian record so that will be something special.”

Su Xiongfeng of China leapt a personal best of 8.19m to claim second place, with Ignisious Gaisah of Ghana third with 8.12m. World champion Dwight Phillips had to settle for fourth place with 8.07m.

Last lap burst sees Cheruyiot hold of compatriots

An exhilarating last lap in the women’s 5000m saw Kenya’s World champion Vivian Cheruyiot held off the challenge of fellow countrywomen Sentayeha Ejigu and World 10,000m champion Linet Masai to win in a world-leading time of 14:31.92. Ejigu clocked 14:32.87 and Masai 14:32.95, with another Kenyan, Viola Kibiwot, running a personal best of 14:34.86 to claim fourth place.

Spencer overtakes fading Demus

Lashinda Demus had happy memories of Shanghai after winning last year’s Samsung Diamond League here in a meeting record of 53.34. But those memories will be clouded now by the memory of her race a year later as she was overtaken in the final few metres by Jamaica’s Kaliese Spencer, who won in 54.20 with the American recording 54.58.

Demus had begun as if she wanted to obliterate her record here, establishing a clear lead after the first two hurdles, but by the fourth hurdles the Jamaican was back in touch. By the time she reached the final rank of barriers, Demus’s lead was marginal, and her legs laboured as Spencer drew level and then passed.

Spencer’s Jamaican team mate Melaine Walker took third place with a season’s best of 54.96.

“I should have won today,” Demus said.”I had a bad technique – I jumped the hurdles with my bad leg. I will meet Kaliese again at the Eugene Diamond League meeting. Then I will run how I am supposed to run.”

Gong takes first Chinese Diamond Race victory

Lijiao Gong provided the home crowd with an emphatic opening victory in the women’s Shot Put as she provided the five best throws of the competition, including a season’s best of 19.94m.

But it was an indication of this 22-year-old’s ambitions that she was not totally content. “I’m not satisfied with the result, because I had expected to throw over 20 metres. I hope to stand on the podium again at this year’s World Championships.”

Jillian Camarena-Williams of the United States took second place with 19.35m, preventing a clean sweep for China with Li Ling placing third on 19.30m, and Liu Xiangrong fourth with a season’s best of 18.54m.

The host nation had announced its intentions in the first round as their throwers moved into the top three places, with Lijiao Gong, the last to throw, literally announcing her intention with a roar that echoed through the stadium as she launched the shot to 19.82m to take the lead.

1.94m enough for Vlasic who is halted at 1.97m

Blanka Vlasic, as expected, proved victorious in the women’s High Jump, seeing off all her rivals with a clearance of 1.94m which equalled the world-leading mark before making three failed attempts at 1.97m.

Vita Styopina of the Ukraine was joint second with 1.90m alongside Nadezhda Dusanova of Uzbekhistan and China’s Xingjuan Zheng.

“To win here was my only goal,” Vlasic said. “I am not in top shape. I am very tired. You need to start somewhere.”

Meadows wins with ease

Jenny Meadows of Britain won the 800m with a strong display of front running, taking over the lead as the pacemaker dropped out after 600 metres and extending it to five metres at the line as she crossed in 2:00.54.

Malika Akkaoui of Morocco was second in 2:01.45, with Angelika Cichocka third in 2:01.75.

Perkovic commanding

Three fouls from Cuba’s World Discus Throw silver medallist Yarelis Barrios took her out of the reckoning on a night when Sandra Perkovic, who leads this year’s world list with 67.96m, established her pre-eminence by winning with 65.58.

Perkovic took a commanding first round lead of 64.93m, and although Li moved up to second place with her second round effort of 61.75m, improving to 62.73m with her next throw, Perkovic responded with 65.18m and extended it on her fourth attempt.

Having scraped through to the final round of throws in eighth place, Australia’s World champion Dani Samuels moved up to third with an effort of 61.98m but a final effort that missed the sector confirmed it was not going to be a great night for her.

Li was also less than thrilled with a performance that took place on her 32nd birthday. “I was not in my best form tonight, and the result is not good enough, but it was great to see so many fans with me celebrating my birthday so I don’t regret my silver medal.”

Savigne reigns supreme

Cuba’s World Triple Jump champion Yargelis Savigne showed her class as she lost and regained her lead after three rivals had moved above her, finishing with a flourish to record her best effort, 14.68m.

Having been pushed down to fourth place after making an initial effort 14.05m, Savigne regained her lead with a third round effort of 14.41m, moving ahead of China’s Li Yanmei, who had produced a personal best of 14.35m.

Olga Rypakova of Kazakhstan was third with 14.17m.

Smith over Dixon

A late surge over the final 20 metres took Calvin Smith and Greg Nixon past their US colleague David Neville in the 400 metres, with Smith winning in 45.47sec and Nixon second in 45.50.

Neville, who had established an early lead, held on to complete an American clean sweep with a time of 45.58.

Spiegelburg remains in the groove

Silke Spiegelburg of Germany won the women’s Pole Vault with a season’s best of 4.55m before having three failures at 4.65m. Fellow German Carolin Hingst was second with 4.50m, with Mary Saxer of the United States third with the same height, a personal best.

Mike Rowbottom for the Samsung Diamond League

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