• Liu Xiang stuns with 12.87w victory in Eugene
    Liu Xiang stuns with 12.87w victory in Eugene © Victah Sailer
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Liu Xiang stuns with 12.87w victory in Eugene – Samsung Diamond League

Eugene, USA – China’s Liu Xiang ran to what initially seemed a World record equalling run of 12.87 seconds in the men’s 110m Hurdles at today’s 38th Prefontaine Classic - Samsung Diamond League, but soon discovered the wind was over the 2m/s allowable legal limit for records. Nevertheless the victory of the 2004 Olympic and 2007 World champion was the highlight of the main competition programme in Hayward’s Field and his path over the flights of barriers so smooth and assured that the World record seems likely to be back in his grasp before very long.

Overall Saturday’s programme saw seven world season leads improved and five meeting records tumble, bringing the totals of those achievements over the two days in Eugene respectively to 10 and 7, highlighting the top quality of the action.

London favourite... "its just a race"

In the process of his victory which was run with a 2.4m/s wind Liu Xiang beat all the main contenders for the Olympic title with the exception of World record holder and reigning champion Dayron Robles who could not make the planned trip due to travel visa problems.

Behind Liu Xiang, World Indoor champion Aries Merritt came second in 12.96, with outdoor World champion Jason Richardson, third in 13.11.

"I never think I can run that fast, but I think I'm ready for that. You never think about what time you can run," commented Liu Xiang who on being asked about his position as favourite for the Olympic title calmly replied, "its just a race."

Farah wins well and tries not to 'overcook it'

A year ago Mo Farah earned the respect of the crowd at Hayward Field with his then world leading 10,000m time. Today he soared to the top of the world 5000m lists with his meet record of 12:56.98 in front of 12,000 screaming spectators.

The race was certainly not gifted to him.

Isaiah Koech chased Farah to the finish in 12:57.63 while his training partner Galen Rupp a former University of Oregon runner, dipped under 13 minutes for the first time in his young career (12:58.90).

Quietly and almost anonymously the defending Olympic 5000m champion Kenenisa Bekele crossed the line in 13:01.48.

"I take a lot from this race," Farah said afterwards. "If you look at the field it was really loaded. The most important thing is to win in a class field like that. The second is to run a fast time. I am really happy with the result today."

"I do feel great. I just managed to hold him off and that’s the important thing. I don’t know how fast I ran the last lap. It was o.k." Asked if he is fully prepared to do battle at the London Olympics he smiled and chose his words carefully. "I am definitely there," he conceded.

"I’m winning races. I don’t want to overcook it. Alberto (Salazar) is the boss. He tells us what to do. He’s been there himself before so he understands what an athlete has to do. It’s nice to have a coach like that where you can rely on him rather than someone else who hasn’t been to a World championships or an Olympics."

"I am really happy that my training partner Galen (Rupp) went under 13 minutes for the first time. This track is pretty famous and no American has ever gone under 13 in Hayward Field. It’s nice for him to do that."

Richards-Ross is back in the driving seat

Sandra Richards-Ross also set a new meet record and world leading time winning the 400m in 49.39 vanquishing the defending World champion Amantle Montsho of Botswana in the process. Montsho recorded a time of 49.62 with third place runner Novlene Williams-Mills of Jamaica also going under 50 seconds with 49.78. The first seven runners all ran season best times.

"I felt really good," Richards- Ross declared, "I wanted to come out and execute really well. I felt that I didn’t really execute well in Jamaica. I did today and now I have the world leading time."

"I know I am in the best shape I have ever been in. My training has indicated that. I think I think I have the best coach in the world and we are able to maintain our peak for the entire season. Running 49.39 means I will keep getting better."

Merritt takes win over World champion who is DQd

The men’s 400m was also a terrific competition but not without drama. All three medallists from last year’s World championships lined up for the start with the champion, Kirani James of Grenada running in lane three just inside of the Olympic champion LaShawn Merritt, the current world season leader 44.19.

James was dq’ed for a false start and officials removed his starting blocks delaying the start but he asked to run under protest. At the second attempt he went out very hard and drew alongside Merritt at 200m but with thirty metres remaining Merritt squeezed by.

The winner discounted the affect the false start might have had on some of the competitors.

"You know everybody was dealing with the false start," Merritt said. "It wasn’t like it was just me. There’s grown men in this event.You go back and re-group, line up and when the gun goes off you handle your business."

"I didn’t even see (James) at 200m. I felt him at like 130m to go that’s when I first saw him. My coach told me that I ran my first 200m in 22 seconds which is bad for me. I usually come through in mid 21. I ran a pretty fast 200m this year, I ran a 20.16 It wasn’t a perfect race at all. I feel like I can go a lot faster. I am happy I won."

In the end James’s disqualification held up and Christopher Brown of the Bahamas was given 2nd place in 45.24 seconds. Angelo Taylor was third in 45.5 just two one hundredths in front of 2011 World Championship bronze medallist Kevin Borlee of Belgium. The 2004 Olympic champion Jeremy Wariner was a visibly disappointed 5th in 45.68.

Hoffa's world lead tops high class Shot

In the clash of world class shot putters Reese Hoffa came out ahead with a monster heave in the second round (21.81m) - a world season leading performance. It also takes him to the top of the Diamond Race.

His winning mark took the measure of Olympic champion Tomasz Majewski (21.60m) and Canada’s Dylan Armstrong (21.50m) last year’s Diamond Race winner, who also produced their season’s bests. American Ryan Whiting also bettered the 21m mark with 21.13m for fourth. The 25-year-old won the World Indoor championships in March which simply adds even more credence to Hoffa’s Hayward Field victory.

Kaki just holds off youngster Aman

Sudan’s Abubaker Kaki - who took the silver medal at the 2011 World Championships - won the men’s 800m in a thrilling sprint over the final 200 metres. His time was 1:43.71

18-year-old Mohamad Aman of Ethiopia, who is the only man to have beaten the world record holder David Rudisha in the last two years, was caught inside Nick Symmonds as they came down the home straight and just fell short of catching the Sudanese hero. His time was 1:43.74.

He was angry with himself for his tactical error. "It’s my fault. I was inside, I didn’t get the space to move out. But it’s a good race," said Aman. "It did much for my confidence It is my fault to lose but I will think about what I did wrong and improve."

For Kaki, who trained in Kenya for three months this past winter, this was an important gauge of how his programme is working. "It was the first race for me after Doha," he said. "It wasn’t very quick. Maybe next time I will run well. Of course it gives me confidence especially after some very hard training. Everything is good now. I will go to New York and race Rudisha."

"Rudisha is my friend. we started together in 2005. He is the favourite. I like that because sometimes you need that to keep training (hard)."

World lead for Chicherova

The women’s High Jump evolved into a battle between two Russian athletes Anna Chicherova and the consistent World championship finalist Svetlana Shkolina. The latter had first time clearances all the way to 2.00m which is a personal best for her while Chicherova needed two attempts to make it. Chicherova, the 2011 World champion, made 2.02m on her second go to set a new meet record. It was also a world season leading mark.

"I feel good really," said Chicherova. "After Istanbul at the Indoor World Championships I was injured and have had a tough time really. And I have had no time for preparing and I'm really surprised. I'm glad I can jump 2.02 but in truth I just don't want to be second."