Xie Wenjun after winning the 110m hurdles at the IAAF Diamond League meeting in Shanghai (© Errol Anderson)
Sandra Perkovic and Ihab Abdelrahman El Sayed aside, there were five more world leads at the IAAF Diamond League meeting in Shanghai, and a rare IAAF Diamond League double from Blessing Okagbare in the long jump and 200m on Sunday (18).
But Shanghai is in China, to state the geographically obvious, and the 110m hurdles, thanks to a certain Liu Xiang, is nowadays the centre of Chinese attention.
When a local athlete wins the hurdles, as Xie Wenjun did, to bring the meeting to a tumultuous close, all else pales by comparison.
Even more so when a smiling Liu is seen admiring in the grandstand, perhaps watching his heir apparent.
USA’s David Oliver, the world champion and winner at the opening Diamond Race round in Doha a week ago, was the overwhelming favourite.
Xie, by contrast, had a self-described mediocre indoor season and came to the line with few believing he had a winning chance, maybe not even himself.
However, he was ready; and the set, go took care of themselves.
The 23-year-old Xie appropriately trimmed his personal best to 13.23, finishing 0.03 in front of France’s world indoor silver medallist Pascal Martinot-Lagarde, with a relatively sluggish Oliver a further 0.02 back in third.
Blessing Okagbare set no world leads but a double is something of a rarity at this level of competition.
The Nigerian won the long jump, with her first jump as it turned out, with a distance of 6.86m, a meeting record and just two centimetres short of the world lead.
It was narrow margins all round, with Serbia’s Ivana Spanovic just a centimetre behind in second place, but Okagbare was relaxed enough to pass her final three attempts in order to prepare for the 200m.
It proved to be a good decision. With Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce a late withdrawal, due to a minor lower-leg problem, Okagbare dominated to win in a sizzling 22.36 from The Bahamas’ Anthonique Strachan in second with 22.50.
Lavillenie leaves happy
The world leads came from Renaud Lavillenie – an outdoor lead in the pole vault – a surprise one from Emma Coburn in the women’s 3000m steeplechase, an unsurprising one from Abeba Aregawi in the 1500m, from Justin Gatlin in the 100m and, in another surprise, an outdoor lead from Ana Simic in the high jump.
Lavillenie had said before the meeting that he would be happy to clear 5.82m if that turned out to be a winning height.
He did, and it did, but he went on to clear 5.92m first time and then have three unsuccessful attempts at 6.03m, which would have been an outdoor personal best but 13cm below his world record of 6.16m set indoors in February.
He was, he said later, delighted with the result.
Coburn and Simic were the two surprises of the night, Xie excepted.
Coburn was the only runner to go with the pacemaker early in the steeplechase, taking her into a lead which kept growing. After 1000m, the US athletewas more than 20 metres clear; after 2000m, that had grown to about 65 metres.
She never came back, and the chasing pack, including Kenya’s world champion Milcah Chemos and the other two Moscow medallists, never made an impression.
Coburn won in 9:19.80, taking almost four seconds off her former previous best set in the London 2012 Olympic Games final, with Ethiopia’s Sofia Assefa winning the race of those who had gone to sleep and left it too late to respond, from her compatriot Hiwot Ayalew. Chemos was a lowly eighth.
“The people behind me all had better PRs,” said Coburn. “I’m happy I did mine on my own.”
Nothing in Simic’s previous form suggested she was going to be a winner in Shanghai but as all the more favoured ones fell out – Irina Gordeyeva after 1.85m, Ruth Beitia and Inika McPherson after 1.92m – the 24-year-old just kept on clearing heights first time: 1.80m, 1.85m, 1.89m, 1.92m, 1.95m and then finally 1.97m, a personal best.
Not until 1.99m did Simic fail, but by then she had won a notable victory.
There was nothing surprising about the wins of Aregawi and Gatlin.
With the dangerous kicker Jenny Simpson again behind her coming into the final lap, Aregawi produced a 60.26 finish over the last 400m to take the win in 3:58.72. USA’s Simpson was second in 4:00.42 and the Netherlands’ Sifan Hassan third in a personal best of 4:01.19.
Gatlin faced a field of quick starters in the men’s 100m, but he produced one of his own best getaways to lead all the way. His 9.92 put him two metres clear of Nesta Carter, 10.12, with Michael Rodgers third in 10.18.
Len Johnson for the IAAF