PARIS: Jamaican sprinters Asafa Powell and Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce made up for the absence of injured Usain Bolt by storming to double 100m glory in the Diamond League meet in Paris on Saturday.
But there was heartbreak for Ethiopian Genzebe Dibaba who narrowly missed out on breaking her older sister Tirunesh’s world record in the women’s 5000m.
Former 100m world record holder Powell held his nerve to power through the line in 9.81 seconds, Frenchman Jimmy Vicaut equalling the European record of 9.86sec in second ahead of American Michael Rodgers (9.99).
“It was a great race and I got a good start!” beamed Powell. “I need to keep my focus and run fast like that.
“I saw Jimmy was close and I thought ‘wow’.”
Defending two-time Olympic 100m champion Fraser-Pryce is not doubling up at the world championships in Beijing, saying her coach Stephen Francis wanted to regain her explosive start.
That certainly did not hinder her at the Stade de France as she blasted to an impressive victory in 10.75sec, ahead of Nigerian Blessing Okagbare-Ighoteguonor (10.80) and American English Gardner (10.97).
“When you have good runners you always run fast,” said Fraser-Pryce. “That’s the motivation for me.
“But I have room to improve in my technique and in the start.”
In a gripping 5000m, Dibaba and compatriot Almaz Ayana were glued together until the last lap when the former struck out.
But her efforts were to no avail as she fell an agonising 4.26sec short of her sister’s record of 14:11.15 set in Oslo in 2008.
There was the unusual sight in the women’s shot put of seeing double Olympic and four-time world champion Valerie Adams finishing off the podium in fifth, her first loss in almost five years breaking a 56-event winning streak.
The 30-year-old’s comeback from double surgery ended meekly with a foul, but she promised to be in shape for the Beijing worlds.
“I knew the winning streak was in danger and I lost it, but I do not feel that sorry. We can start again!” Adams said.
“With better execution, I will improve. There’s still a lot of time until Beijing.”
Another unlikely spectacle was watching American Evan Jager leading a strong field of Kenyans into the final bend of the men’s 3000m steeplechase, only to come a cropper on the final hurdle to allow Jairus Kipchoge Birech in in a world leading 7:58.83.
Jager still snagged an American record after scrambling back to his feet and finishing second (8:00.45), Kenya’s two-time Olympic champion Ezekiel Kemboi down in 11th.
“This is a wake-up call for Kenya,” hollered Birech. “We need to go back and train and be ready for Jager.”
Wayde Van Niekerk ran a fantastic men’s 400m, the 22-year-old South African shattering his personal best with an African record of 43.96sec to beat Grenada’s Olympic champion Kirani James (44.17) into second.
“Kirani is the guy who inspires me, so it’s something special that I was able to win,” said Van Niekerk. “I think it’s the start of something great for me.”
James, also 22, said he would go straight into full training for Beijing.
“This was my last race before the worlds,” he said. “It was a very competitive race and Wayde ran a very good one. But I’m satisfied with my season so far, I’m consistent enough.”
Reigning world, African and Commonwealth champion Eunice Sum continued her unbeaten year with a comprehensive victory in the women’s 800m in a world-leading 1:56.99.
And there was more Kenyan glory in the men’s 1500m, Silas Kiplagat kicking magnificently for home to win in 3:30.12, also the fastest time this season.
In the field, Qatari favourite Mutaz Essa Barshim could only finish fifth as Russian Daniil Tsyplakov (2.32m) beat off Bahamian Donald Thomas on countback.
Home hopes were then dashed when Renaud Lavillenie failed three times at 5.86m, Konstantinos Filippidis going on to win the pole vault in 5.91m.
And Lavillenie’s teammate Pascal Martinot-Lagarde flopped in the 100m hurdles, coming in fifth as Cuban Orlando Ortega stormed home in an impressive 12.94sec.