World's track and field stars shine in NYC

By ELLIOTT DENMAN
   NEW YORK – There was glory in it for all at the adidas Grand Prix Track and Field Classic.
   At a location just a few miles up the East River from the United Nations, athletes from France, Jamaica, Kenya, Ethiopia, New Zealand, Norway, Trinidad and Tobago. Israel, Croatia, Botswana and Sweden – and of course, the USA home team - hit it big Saturday, in the highest stakes meet ever held in The Big Apple.
  This was the sixth edition of the Grand Prix, first staged at Icahn Stadium on Randall’s Island, in 2005, then under the sponsorship of Reebok, but now backed by title sponsor adidas, and it was by far the best.
   Under the aegis of the three-striped brand, the meet drew top talent from all corners of the globe, and they responded accordingly with five world-leading performances, and seven meet records.  Winners of each event collected $10,000 and even eighth-placers took $1,000 checks – along with the precious Diamond League points that will determine final standings after the 14-meet series, offering a $6.63 million total purse, concludes Aug. 27 in Brussels.
   Even with America transfixed on the USA-England World Cup match and with the meet’s two top gate attractions, Usain Bolt and Tyson Gay, sidelined with minor injuries (but on hand in ceremonial roles), the meet drew over 8,000 fans to a sold-out Icahn Stadium, where capacity was bolstered by temporary backstretch grandstands.
    The fans loved it and so did the athletes.

     The list of top stars, please:
      There's
USA’s Lori “Lolo” Jones, who continues proving herself the finest women’s hurdler on the planet.
  Jones, the Iowan and LSU alumna who will be a featured performer in the upcoming USA Track and Field Naionals in her hometown of Des Moines, won the women’s 100-meter hurdles in the world-leading time of 12. 55 seconds.
  “I stayed cool and collected today,” said Jones, the two-time (2008 and 2010) world indoor hurdles champion  and seventh-place finisher in the 2008 Beijing Olympic Games.

  "At (hurdle) seven or eight, I got a little sloppy, but I tightened up my finish and it's all good.  
I am definitely pleased with that time, and coming early in  the season it shows me I can run a lot faster.

   "This was a tough field. It's probably like the Olympic final (will be) in 2012."   

   Jones'
principal goals remain: have a run at the world record of 12.21 set by Yordanka Donkova of Bulgaria in 1988, and the American record of 12.33 by Gail Devers in 2000.

   It was
no breeze for Jones.  She had just enough to hold off  Canada’s Perdita Felicien (12.58)  with the 3-4 finishers, American Virginia "Ginny" Crawford (12.63) and Canadian Priscilla Lopes-Schliep (12.67) close, too.
   It was as good as the Bastille Day (July 14) for France in two spotlighted men’s field events.
   The crowd loved triple jumper Teddy Tamgho and Tamgho loved the crowd, which responded with the rhythmical clap-clap-claps that energized him into a personal-best and national-record hop, step and jump of 17.98 meters/ 59 feet even, that stretched his own lead (previously 17.63/ 57-10 ¼) atop the year list.

   "When the event began,  I was nervous," said Tamgho. "But after the first attempt, I told myself, 'you have to go.'

   "I know I can jump 17 (meters) all the time, which is most important. But I wanted to do more than 18 by my (21st) birthday, which is Tuesday, so I came close."  

 
 
No wonder he’s considered the best tripler to come along in years and an eventual candidate to better the world record of 18.29 / 60 feet and a quarter-inch, set by Britain’s Jonathan Edwards in 1995.
   Sweden’s Christian Olsson (17.62/ 57-9 3/4) and Britain’s Phillips Idowu (17.31 / 56, 9 1/2) were his principal challengers.
  Sending more good news back to France was pole vaulter Renaud Lavillenie.
A past star at Armory meets, Lavillenie cleared 5.85 meters/ 19- 2 ½, to set one more meet record.
   Not only that, he bested the Olympic champion, Steve Hooker of Australia.
Still nursing some nagging injuries, the high-flying Aussie settled for second place at 5.80 / 19 feet and half an inch.

   "I came here to fight with Steve and after 5.70 (18-8 1/4) we were the only two (left) and it starts to be very interesting," said the French star. "The win was not easy.  This is a revenge for last year (when Hooker beat him at the outdoor worlds.)"  

 
Then there was another phenomenal 20-year-old, Nicholas Kemboi of Kenya.
  Thirteen pursuers had no chance as Kemboi ran away from all in a PR and
 meet- record  3:33.28 1,500 meters.
    Placing  2-3 were Ethiopia’s Deresse Mekonnen (3:33.85) with USA Olympian/ ex-Texas Longhorn star Leonel Manzano third (3:33.92.)
After challenging the front-runners much of the way, new USA 5,000-meter record-holder Bernard Lagat dropped back to fifth (3:34.38.)
   Another crowd-pleasing champion from Kenya was 3,000-meter steeplechaser  Paul Kipsiele Koech, who won going away in 8:10.43 and paced a Kenyan 1-2-3 sweep.   

 
  With Bolt and Gay out of the men’s 100, the day’s best sprint race became the women’s 200.
  Who’d take it, Jamaica’s Veronica Campbell-Brown’s (the 2004 and 2008 Olympic gold medalist) or America’s Allyson Felix (the 2005, 2007 and 2009 world champion)?

   They'd raced each other all over the world the past five years - but never in the USA
   With Jamaican fans screaming encouragement, VCB bolted out to an early lead around the bend.  But with USA rooters getting into it, Felix responded with a scintillating stretch run.
   The race was decided in the final strides, the Jamaican (21.98) getting to the line just ahead of the American, 21.98 to 22.02.

   "I just ran out of ground," said Felix. "My (lackluster) start set me up to play catch-up."

   Then there was Kenyan Nancy Jebet Lanagat’s 4:01.60 women's 1,500-meter triumph, a 2010 best, too, as the 2008 Olympic champion fought off Ethiopia’s Meseret Defar (4:02.00) and Gelete Burka (4:03.35).
    Yet more meet-record performances came coming.

    World-class javelin throwing is a rare treat to New York fans, and the city fans reveled in it.

    N
orwegian spear-man Andreas Thorskildsen, the 2004 and 2008 Olympic king,  sent it flying 87.02 meters/ 285-6, in besting Czech Republic’s Petr Frydrych (85.04 / 279-0) and Finland's 2007 world champion, Tero Pitkamaki (82.57 / 270-10.)

   
South Africa’s Mbulaani Mulaudzi, the 2009 world champion, led the way in the men's 800 meters (1:44.38), over American Nick Symonds (1:45.05).

   Two-time
world champion Kerron Clement of the U.S., ran the 400-meter hurdles in a 2010 world-best 47.85 to edge countryman Bershawn Jackson (47.94.)
     The mighty Valerie Vili of New Zealand, the 2008 Olympic champion and 2007-2009 world titlist, stretched the meet record in the women's shot put to 19.93 meters/ 65-4 1/4.
  
  
  The men’s 100-meter dash, which lost much of its luster with the withdrawals of Jamaica’s  Bolt and America’s Gay (both with slight injuries), still deivered a dynamite race with Trinidad and Tobago’s Richard Thompson (9.89) nosing out Jamaica’s Yohan Blake (9.91) and Antigua’s Daniel Bailey (9.92.)

  "I didn't necessarily have a good start, but I managed to finish strong," said Thompson, a former Florida State standout.
  "Looking at the flags (bedecking the stadium), there's a Jamaican flag, a British flag, but no Trinidadian flag.

   "I did this one for the Trinidadians."   

     Bolt (who'd set a world record of 9.72 at Icahn Stadium in 2008)
and Gay were here as spectators, and cheerleaders. It's Asafa Powell of Jamaica who leads the world this year, with his 9.82 in Rome last Thursday night.
    The heralded women’s 5,000-meter race turned slow by global standards, but still produced an Ethiopian sweep, as
Tirunesh Dibaba (running 15:11.34, over a minute past her own world record), Sentayehu Ejigu (15:12.99) and Sule Utura  (15:16.61) went 1-2-3.
  Botswana's Amantie Montsho topped the women's 400-meter field in 50.79; Croatia's Sandra Perkovic overpowered the discus field with a whirl of 61.96 / 203-3, and Jillian Schwartz, the Duke grad who'd competed for the USA at the 2004 Olympics but now represents Israel, topped the pole vaulters with a clearance of 4.60 meters/ 15-1.

   Linus Thornblad of Sweden and Jesse Williams of USA high jumped 2.30 meters / 7-6 1/2, but the men's HJ win went to Thornblad, who'd cleared the previous height ,2.27/ 7-5 1/4. on his second attempt, while Williams needed three.

 
Not willing to challenge soccer's World Cup for global headlines over the next month, the Diamond League sits it out until the July 3 Steve Prefontaine Classic in Eugene, Oregon.

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