Usain Bolt answered all the questions that had been thrown his way after a poor start to the season, twice running 9.87 to take 100m victory at the Sainsbury’s Anniversary Games.
Despite the pouring rain that tried but failed to ruin a wonderful night of athletics, Bolt silenced the doubters in his heat, comfortably beating a quality field; he even had the luxury of being able to ease up and still cross the line in 9.87.
Come the final, expectations were high, and despite a poor start the Jamiacan came through to take victory in the same time as he ran earlier in the night, even running into a 1.2m/s headwind. Post-race the six times Olympic champion commented:
“I felt good. My coach was happy with my transition, I’m feeling happy with my start and my last 50m was good. But in the final I got a really bad start, I kind of lost focus for a minute and I lost my form, but I got it back at the end. So it taught me a lot, these two races.
“I wasn’t looking for a specific time but I knew I could have gone faster if I had got the start I wanted. The key thing coming into this race was trying to get everything right on the track. The heats were good, but the finals not so good.
“Anything is possible in Beijing – it’s all about the effort you put in. I’ve been running fast in training, but it’s easier in training because you’re under no pressure and you can execute well. My coach has been happy with my technique and my work but it’s all about getting race-ready now.”
American Michael Rodgers got a terrific start and ran a great race to take second in 9.90, whilst Bolt’s compatriot Kemar Bailey-Cole took third in a lifetime best of 9.92.
After clocking a season’s best of 10.04 in the heats, Chijindu Ujah (coach: Jonas Tawiah-Dodoo) turned up the heat in the final, breaking ten seconds for the second time in his young career with a 9.96 run from lane one. The recently crowned British champion was clearly overwhelmed by the crowd support:
“It’s crazy to run in front of my home crowd. I just want to build on this ahead of Beijing now. This is my first time running in the stadium, so this is all quite new to me – the atmosphere is just electric. I wanted to pull out the performances because I knew I was capable of it.”
With 200m to go in the men’s 3000m, Mo Farah (Alberto Salazar) turned on the afterburners to streak away from his opposition and send the British crowd into raptures. Receiving a warm welcome on his return to the stadium where he made his name, Farah looked cool, calm and collected taking up the lead with 400m to go before sprinting away to a convincing victory.
What’s more, Farah’s time of 7.34.66 was a world leading performance & stadium record, and the double Olympic champion celebrated by pulling Usain Bolt’s signature move.
“I got amazing support tonight which was incredible. It meant everything to me tonight, this is where I made my name and it changed my life to win and become Olympic champion here.
“It is not going to be easy [in Beijing] but I will carry on doing what I am doing – I’m winning races and running quick times. I just want to keep enjoying it and going out there to represent my country and win medals.”
The first British win of the night came from new-boy Zharnel Hughes (Glen Mills), who stormed to an impressive 20.05 personal best in the men’s 200m. Into a strong 1.4m/s headwind, Hughes held off Dukes and Jobodwana and was pleased with his efforts.
“I didn’t expect the PB because last week I had a niggle in my hamstring. I was just thinking relax and get to the line. It’s my first time in the stadium so I wanted to perform well. In the Olympics Bolt was also in lane 7, so I thought if he can do it, I can do it.
“I got a PB, I got the win and I got extra points in the Diamond League, what more can I ask for? I’m going to put in as much work as possible before the World Championships to get ready for the race. You never know what can happen but I’m going to try and go sub-20 seconds; I think I could have run it tonight but there was a minus wind. Next time I will get it probably.”
In true North-Eastern style, Laura Weightman (Steve Cram) grit her teeth as she mustered every ounce of strength in her body to hold on for a memorable 1500m victory inside the former Olympic stadium. Hitting the front with just over 400m to go, the Commonwealth & European medallist was made to work very hard by Gabriele Grunewald of the USA, but battled all the way to line, crossing it arms aloft.
“I really wanted that today and it was really important that I got the win. It was my first time back in the Olympic Stadium and that really gave me belief that I could come here and win. I’ve had a tricky few races recently and that made me lose a bit of confidence, so this has really brought it back and told me that I am in the right place. As soon as I walked out, the crowd cheered and that brought all the memories back.”
Natasha Hastings finished strongest to cross the line in a season’s best 50.24 and win the women’s 400m, although Christine Ohuruogu (Christine Bowmaker) showed she’s returning to form, finishing fourth in 51.00, just outside her season’s best. Running from the inside lane, youngster Seren Bundy-Davies (Stephen Ball) finished down in seventh, but her 51.48 was a new lifetime best.
The men’s 110mH final went right to the wire, as Pascal Martinot-Lagarde clattered the last hurdle allowing Jason Richardson to pip him on the line, 13.19 to 13.22. Leading all the way, the Frenchman will be frustrated an error cost him victory, whilst Lawrence Clarke (Malcolm Arnold) also hit hurdles early on and never got into the race, after running 13.41 in the heats.
Despite the driving rain earlier in the programme, newly crowned European U23 Champion David Omoregie (Benke Blomkvist) set a lifetime best of 13.50 in the heats to qualify for the final, where he finished eighth.
There was an American clean sweep in the women’s 100mH as Jasmin Stowers broke the meeting record with a 12.47 run, ahead of Dawn Harper-Nelson and Brianna Rollins. Tiffany Porter (Rana Reider) continued what was until that point a theme of British fourth place finishes, whilst Olympic heptathlon champion
Jessica Ennis-Hill (Toni Minichiello) continued her comeback with an impressive 12.79 season’s best.
There was a typically commanding performance from the Czech Republic’s Zuzana Hejnova, who took the win in the women’s 400mH in 53.99. Chasing her all the way, Georganne Moline was rewarded with a season’s best of 54.24, whilst GB & NI’s Eilidh Child (Malcolm Arnold) was fourth in 54.58. Two places further back Meghan Beesley (Nick Dakin) was rewarded for an aggressive run from lane eight with a 55.37 season’s best.
An American quartet of Jessica Young, Tiffany Townsend, Charonda Williams and Sanya Richards-Ross set a meeting record in the women’s 4x100m as they beat Netherlands and GB & NI ‘A’. The British quartet of Dina Asher-Smith (John Blackie), Jodie Williams (Bowmaker), Bianca Williams (Lloyd Cowan) and Desiree Henry (Rana Reider) clocked 42.80.
The weather really spoilt the party for the Diamond League leader in the men’s discus, Piotr Malachowski, who struggling down in fourth place could do nothing to stop Philip Milanov of Belgium taking the win in 65.14m.
It was fifth for GB & NI’s Robbie Grabarz (Fuzz Ahmed) in the men’s high jump, a second time clearance of 2.24m his best effort of the evening. His training partner Marco Fassinotti had more to cheer about though thanks to a winning clearance at 2.31m, before going very close to an Italian record of 2.35m.
In the final round of the women’s triple jump, Kazakhstan’s Olga Rypakova hopped, stepped and jumped to 14.33m to snatch victory from long-time leader Kimberly Williams of Jamaica.
The weather also spoilt things for the men’s pole vaulters, who for safety reasons didn’t compete, but they’ll be back tomorrow.
The programme kicked off with the usual Club:Connect relays, which saw eight local clubs go head to head in male and female 4x100m races, ranging from the u13 age group right through to u20s. Those events saw Croydon prevail on three occasions, whilst Enfield & Haringey took two victories.
To buy tickets to the Sainsbury’s Anniversary Games visit britishathletics.org.uk. Sainsbury’s is proud to be a long-term supporter of British Athletics and a champion of inclusive sport for all, from grassroots to elite level.