Dutch sprint star lays down marker for Rio with a sub-11sec win in Monaco
Dafne Schippers sent out a further broadside to Olympic challengers by storming to victory in the 100 metres at Monaco's Diamond League meet, which went ahead yesterday morning (Singapore time) despite the deadly truck attack in neighbouring Nice.
Recently-crowned European champion Schippers, of Holland, was the only sprinter to go under the 11-sec mark to win the 100m, clocking 10.94sec.
Second place went to Jamaica's seven-time Olympic medallist Veronica Campbell-Brown in 11.12.
At the Stade Louis II, all festivities outside the sporting arena were cancelled out of respect for at least 84 people killed in Thursday's truck attack in Nice, just 20km away.
Flags flew at half-mast, athletes wore a square of black cloth pinned to their tops and the meet started with a minute's silence, with no music played on the stadium tannoys throughout the meet.
"Given the circumstances, it's good the meet has gone ahead," said Sebastian Coe, president of world athletics' governing body the IAAF.
New Zealand's four-time world and two-time Olympic gold medallist Valerie Adams won the shot put with a best of 20.05m, but was quick to put it into context.
"It's great to be able to show our support to the families of the victims in our small way," said Adams.
"It's a very sad moment. My thoughts and prayers are with them."
A high-quality men's 1,500m saw a surprise victor in Ronald Kwemoi, who trumped favourite and fellow Kenyan Asbel Kiprop. Briton Mo Farah came in fifth.
In a race featuring five of the 10 fastest over the distance of all time, the early pace was extremely fast, but eased off and it came down to a sprint over the last 80 metres.
Kwemoi showed a burst of speed to come through the line in a season's best of 3:30.49, with world silver medallist Elijah Manangoi of Kenya taking second and Olympic champion Taoufik Makhloufi third.
Farah, reigning Olympic gold medallist in the 5,000m and 10,000m and defending two-time world champion in both events, showed his finishing skills by nipping past Kiprop at the line.
"It was a tough race because of all the surges," Farah said. "I still go away with a positive feeling.
"I'm a 5km-10km guy and I just ran 3.31, so that's good, isn't it?"
South African Wayde van Niekerk, whose gold medal-winning 400m run at last year's World Championships in Beijing made him the fourth best performer over the distance, showed his one-lap form with victory in 44.12sec, the perfect way to celebrate his 24th birthday.
Van Niekerk has made sprint history by becoming the first athlete to dip under benchmark times in the 100m (9.98), 200m (19.94) and 400m (43.48), but he insists his focus this season is wholly on the one-lap race.
"It was a tough race, but I'm taking every small thing as it comes," he said.
"This is another opportunity I am given to fine-tune my racing. Hopefully, by the time the Olympics come, I'll be ready."
There was a second victory for South Africa in the shape of Caster Semenya, who set a new personal 800m best of 1:55.33, beating her previous best set back in 2009, when she was crowned world champion in Berlin.
Semenya put in a 28-sec final 200m in a performance that will send shivers down her rivals' backs and set her up as outright favourite for Olympic gold in Rio.
Cuban-born Spaniard Orlando Ortega set a season's best of 13.04sec to win the 110m hurdles, in-form Jamaican Omar McLeod taking a tumble at the 10th and final hurdle.
And in the likely absence of Russian Yelena Isinbayeva from the Rio Games, Greece's European champion Katerina Stefanidi put down another Rio marker with victory in the pole vault, her best of 4.81m pushing Cuba's world champion Yarisley Silva into second. - AFP.