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LONDON: Renaud Lavillenie of France reacts during the pole vault event at the IAAF Diamond League meeting at London Stadium on Saturday.—AP
LONDON: Renaud Lavillenie of France reacts during the pole vault event at the IAAF Diamond League meeting at London Stadium on Saturday.—AP

LONDON: World Indoor 60-metre bronze medallist Ronnie Baker emerged victorious from a hotly-contested 100-metre on Saturday’s opening day of the London Diamond League after injury struck his US team-mate and rival Christian Coleman.

Baker might have expected to challenge the 9.88 seconds leading time in the world this year he holds with Noah Lyles — another American pushing for global prominence in the post-Usain Bolt era — when he won his heat in a blistering 9.90 seconds at the London Stadium.

Coleman, the world indoor 60-metre champion, withdrew from his heat because of a hamstring problem, but Baker had to work hard to simply claim victory in the final, clocking 9.90 seconds again, after losing ground with a sluggish start Britain’s Zharnel Hughes took second place in 9.93, with South Africa’s Commonwealth champion Akani Simbine third in 9.94 seconds.

Coleman has been struggling to overcome a hamstring problem all summer and, despite returning after a 44-day absence with a 100m victory in Rabat eight days ago, the 22-year-old American suffered a recurrence on the warm-up track before the heats.

Meanwhile, Jamaica’s two-time Olympic 100m champion Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce, on the comeback trail after giving birth to son Zyon in August last year, overhauled Dezerea Bryant of the United States to take the women’s 100 metres in 10.97 seconds — her first sub-11 seconds time for the distance for two years. Bryant took second in 11.04 ahead of Jamaica’s Jonielle Smith, who ran an 11.07 personal best.

Day one of this two-day meeting did not quite hit the stellar heights of the dazzling Diamond League meeting in Monaco on Friday but the 20,000 crowd dotted around the 2012 Olympic Stadium were treated to an outdoor world-best by Britain’s Tom Bosworth in the 3000-metre walk, with the former circus performer clocking a time of 10 minutes 43.84 seconds.

Competing in a French national football shirt, Renaud Lavillenie looked on course to celebrate his country’s World Cup football success as he nailed first-time clearances from 5.61 metres to 5.86 metres in the pole vault.

However, when the bar was raised to 5.92m the world record-holder was unable to clear and with two further failures at 5.97m, Lavillenie found himself trumped by world champion Sam Kendricks of the United States.

Kendricks nailed 5.92 metres at his first attempt and had two unsuccessful vaults at a potential US record height of 6.06 metres.

Like Kendricks, Norway’s Karsten Warholm also enjoyed a happy return to the track where he won world championship gold last year, the former decathlete setting a Norwegian record of 47.65 seconds in the men’s 400-metre hurdles.

He took full advantage of the rare absence of Abderrahman Samba, winner of all six of his Diamond League races in the event this season, who opted for a run over the flat where a personal best of 44.62 was good enough only for fifth in a rapid race.

Kirani James was a 19-year-old sensation when he won the Olympic 400-metre title on the London track in 2012. But six years on, the tall Grenadian is on the comeback trail after being diagnosed with Graves’s disease and, in his first Diamond League race for two years, he found himself overshadowed on Saturday by Qatar’s world championship bronze medallist Abdalah Haroun.

James had to settle for third place in 44.50 seconds as Haroun finished like a train to claim victory in a Qatari record of 44.07 seconds. Paul Dedwo of the US took second in 44.43 seconds.

Published in Dawn, July 23rd, 2018