Sha'Carri Richardson wins the 100m at the USATF Golden Games at Mt SAC (© Kirby Lee)
A pair of sub-10.80 runs from Sha’Carri Richardson in the 100m and a highly convincing 47.13 400m hurdles victory from Rai Benjamin were among the many highlights of the USATF Golden Games – a World Athletics Continental Tour Gold meeting – held at Mt SAC in Walnut, California, on Sunday (9).
Richardson turned heads early in the programme with her run in the 100m heats. With her customary strong start, followed by her astonishing turnover in the closing stages, Richardson breezed through the line in 10.74 (1.1m/s) – the fastest wind-legal time ever recorded in the first round of a 100m competition.
She was back on track about 90 minutes later for the final. The wind had changed direction, which only became apparent after the race, but the outcome was almost identical. Once she hit top speed, she pulled away from the rest of the field with incredible ease and tore through the finishing tape, stopping the clock at 10.77 (-1.2m/s).
No one else has ever run so fast into a headwind of -1.0m/s or more. The 21-year-old also becomes just the third woman in history to better 10.80 twice in one day with legal wind.
“I executed a fine race and I walked away with the win, so I’m not disappointed,” said Richardson, who last month clocked a world-leading PB of 10.72. “I know I can do better, so I’m just waiting for the next opportunity.”
Javianne Oliver was second in the final in 11.08, having recorded a PB of 10.97 in the heats. World U20 champion Briana Williams was third in 11.15 and 2007 world champion Veronica Campbell-Brown, now 38, was fifth (11.31).
Benjamin, competing in his first 400m hurdles race since taking the silver medal at the World Athletics Championships Doha 2019, looked anything but race rusty.
Commonwealth champion Kyron McMaster of the British Virgin Islands matched Benjamin through the first half, but Benjamin started to pull ahead on the final bend and emerged with a clear lead at the start of the home straight. He continued to extend his lead and crossed the line in 47.13, the third-fastest time of his career and just 0.15 shy of his PB. It also smashed the previous facility record of 47.89, set by the legendary Edwin Moses back in 1979.
McMaster finished second in a national record of 47.50 and 20-year-old Alison Dos Santos was third in a Brazilian record of 47.68.
“I was on a Zoom call with Edwin Moses a few weeks ago,” said Benjamin. “We were talking about technique and the rhythm of the race, so it’s pretty cool to break one of his records.”
World leads from Little, Purrier and Nelson
Benjamin’s run was one of four world-leading marks set in Walnut.
The first came in the women’s 400m hurdles, courtesy of Shamier Little. Like Benjamin, the 2015 world silver medallist was contesting her first hurdles race of 2021, having focused on – and thrived in – flat events so far this year.
She bided her time for the first 300m, doing just enough to stay on equal terms with Panama’s Gianna Woodruff. Coming off the final hurdle, Little produced incredible finishing speed to cross the line more than a second ahead of the rest of the field, winning in 53.65. Woodruff was rewarded with a national record of 54.70.
About 15 minutes later, Elle Purrier produced a dominant run in the women’s 1500m to join the event’s sub-four-minute club. Once the pacemaker stepped aside, Purrier dictated the pace and kept Canada’s Gabriela DeBues-Stafford at bay before unleashing a strong finish down the home straight, winning in 3:58.36.
DeBues-Stafford was second in 4:00.69 and Shannon Osika was third in a PB of 4:00.73.
In the men’s pole vault, Pan-American champion Chris Nilsen cleared 5.91m to knock Mondo Duplantis off the No.1 spot on this year’s world list. He led from the outset and watched as his last two remaining opponents, Nate Richartz and Matt Ludwig, exited the competition with misses at 5.75m and 5.80m. Nilsen then vaulted 5.91m on his first try and ended his series with three misses at a would-be PB of 6.00m.
Lyles and Thomas take 200m honours
It’s no secret by now that Noah Lyles likes to leave it late to make his move, but even his most ardent of followers would have been biting their nails watching him in action in Walnut.
The world 200m champion, competing in his specialist event, had no response when Kenny Bednarek breezed past him on the bend, opening up a lead of two or three metres. Even as they entered the straight, Lyles seemed to be making up little ground on his US compatriot, but then in the last 10 metres or so, Lyles found an extra gear and just edged ahead to win in 19.90 to Bednarek’s 19.94 (0.7m/s).
The women’s 200m was of a similarly high quality, but played out slightly differently with four women in contention. With about 50 metres to go, little separated Gabby Thomas, Allyson Felix, Lynna Irby and Jenna Prandini. Thomas found a little extra at the end to pull clear and win in 22.12 with the wind just over the allowable limit (2.1m/s).
Felix held on for second in 22.26, her fastest 200m in any conditions since 2016. Irby was close behind (22.27) with Prandini fourth (22.30).
World record-holder Kendra Harrison equalled her season’s best to win the women’s 100m hurdles in 12.48 (2.0m/s). The world silver medallist finished ahead of Britain’s Cindy Sember (12.53), Tobi Amusan (12.61) and Devynne Charlton, who set a Bahamian record of 12.61. Close behind, world 400m hurdles silver medallist Sydney McLaughlin clocked a PB and Olympic qualifying mark of 12.65.
Michael Norman dominated the men’s 400m to win in 44.40, breaking the facility record set 29 years ago by 1988 Olympic champion Steve Lewis. Michael Cherry was second in 44.86.
Darrell Hill produced the highlight of the field events, winning the men’s shot put with 22.34m. The 2017 Diamond League champion led from the opening round (21.13m) and improved with his next three throws: 21.69m, 22.19m and 22.34m. Josh Awotunde was second with a PB of 21.68m.
All-round throws talent Maggie Ewen threw a season’s best of 19.32m to win the women’s hammer, beating world silver medallist Danniel Thomas-Dodd of Jamaica (18.91m).
Cravon Gillespie won a competitive men’s 100m final in 9.96 (1.9m/s) with Isiah Young (9.99) and Chris Belcher (10.01) close behind. Most of the talk for this discipline, however, centred around the participation of NFL player DK Metcalf. The Seattle Seahawks wide receiver ran a respectable 10.37 to finish ninth in his heat.
Outdoor PBs for Reekie and Hoare
Britain’s Jemma Reekie produced an impressive finishing kick to overhaul Canada’s Melissa Bishop-Nriagu in the finishing straight of the women’s 800m. Reekie crossed the line in an outdoor PB of 1:58.27 while European 1500m champion Laura Muir came through to take second place (1:58.46). Bishop-Nriagu was third in 1:58.62, her fastest time for almost four years.
Australia’s Oliver Hoare, one of the middle-distance sensations during this year’s indoor season, stuck doggedly to the pacemaker in the men’s 1500m and was rewarded with an outdoor PB of 3:33.19. Canada’s Justin Knight shadowed Hoare the entire way, finishing in 3:33.41.
Bryce Hoppel – like Muir and Hoare, another strong indoor performer – took the men’s 800m in 1:44.94.
Elsewhere, Olympic champion Katerina Stefanidi cleared a season’s best of 4.80m to win the women’s pole vault from Katie Nageotte and Oliva Gruver (4.70m).
Jamaica’s Kimberly Williams came within two centimetres of her PB to win the women’s triple jump with 14.62m, while Will Claye won the men’s event with 17.15m.
Jon Mulkeen for World Athletics