Perhaps Doha raised the bar a bit high, but I didn’t come away from Shanghai with the same WOW factor that I had following the Diamond League opener. A nice set of marks were turned in, but that special something was missing in most of the events on the track.
One running event that hit on all cylinders however, was the men’s 400 as both LaShawn Merritt and Kirani James showed up to compete. Both men took it out down the backstretch and add they headed around the second bend, James began to seriously work, emerging with a slight lead that he increased with each stride up the straight, and crossed the line powerfully in 44.02! Merritt finished second in 44.60 – a mark that on any other occasion this time of year would guarantee victory. Yet all Merritt got was a good look at James running up the track!
A bit early for WR predictions as I’ve seen some saying on Twitter this morning. But certainly we will see multiple 43s from James this year! I was struck by two things watching Kirani today. One is that he is no longer a " kid". He’s now a mature young man who’s grown into his body a la Usain Bolt a few years ago. The second was the length and majesty of his stride, as his race is very similar to one Alberto Juantorena – El Caballo.
James eaked out the win in Daegu with Merritt having only a couple races under his belt. He won in London with Merritt sidelined to injury. He won here in dominating fashion, with Merritt coming in sharp and running well. One can say what they want about the previous two seasons, but James is now emerging as "The Man" and Merritt is now where Wariner was when he emerged – in the position of having to not fend off, but get back ahead of! This matchup could be one of the best on the track this year.
A couple other key matchups were marred by injuries – and maybe that’s what put a damper on Shanghai for me. In the women’s 100 Shelly Ann Fraser Pryce nailed the start as usual. Forcing the field, lead by Carmelita Jeter, to play catch up. It didn’t happen today as SAFP took the win and WL from Jeter with her 10.93. The strain of playing catch up being a bit much, as Jeter (11.08) pulled up late race with Okagbare (11.00) also edging past. Jeter was taken off on a stretcher. Hopefully it’s not too serious.
The other matchup that never materialized was in the men’s 110 hurdles as Aries Merritt never cleared the first hurdle – running up to it and pushing it with his hands. Not sure what his issue was – hope to hear soon. Meanwhile, back in the race, Jason Richardson nailed the start, got out front, and held off a fast closing field to win in 13.23. Ryan Wilson closed best at 13.25. I’m still waiting to see if David Oliver (13.36) can get back to 2010 form – so far this year it’s not looking like it.
We also got an injury in the men’s deuce as Wallace Spearmon seemed to pull up coming off the turn. Another week have to wait on and see what the problem is. Jason Young lead of the turn but couldn’t hold of the closing rush of Warren Weir (20.18) and Justin Gatlin (20.21).
The women’s 400 hurdles looked to have a strong matchup on paper, but Zuzana Hejnova dominated the race while running a WL 53.79. And Asbel Kiprop " dominated" one of the weirdest 1500s I’ve ever seen. Kiprop don’t seem to be very interested in running this race from the start – and " went to sleep" on the third lap. He reengaged on the final lap however, and out kicked the field down the final stretch for the 3:32.39 victory.
Some of the day’s best action took place on the field. Unfortunately telecasts spend very little time on the field events, do much gets missed. Yelena Isinbayeva waited until late to join the pole vault competition, then casually won at 4.70m/15’5". Isi looks to be "back" from her sabbatical and ready to defend, Could be a long season for some pole vaulters.
Perhaps the most surprising result of the day was in the men’s long jump. An event that was already up in the air before the competition began was thrown another loop as Li Jinzhe took the WL at 8.34m/27’4.5". In the process he defeated the likes of Olympic champ Rutherford; former champions Saladino & Phillips; and major contenders Watt and Makusha. Right now this is anyone’s event.
All in all a solid meet. We get another shot at spectacular this week with the New York stop up next!