By Neil Leverett

  • Dina-Asher Smith finishes third in the women’s 200m, as Blessing Okagbare notches back-to-back Diamond League sprint wins
  • Laura Muir takes second in women’s 1500m, behind Kenya’s Faith Kipyegon
  • Zharnel Hughes also grabs third in men’s 100m, as Christian Coleman clocks fastest time of season in 9.81
STANFORD, CA – After a mixed outing for the Brits in California, what did we learn from the Prefontaine Classic in Round seven of the 2019 Diamond League campaign?

 

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Asher-Smith setback

Britain’s Dina-Asher Smith hit a fork in the road of her 2019 season, finishing third in the women’s 200m metres at the Cobb Track and Angell Field in Stanford, at the Prefontaine Classic in California.

Looking to build a platform for the upcoming World Championships in Doha, Qatar in September and on the back last summer’s European sprint double in Berlin last summer, the Bromley Harrier crossed the tape behind winner Blessing Okagbare and rival Elaine Thompson.

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Already with wins in both Doha and Stockholm this term over Thompson and Daphne Schippers, the 23-year-old struggled into the bend but finished well in ideal conditions albeit over half a second off the Nigerian, who after successive sprints win after 200m victory in Morocco is beginning to look a force again.

Asher Smith after breaking the British record last season – becoming the first female Briton to go sub 22 seconds – announced herself on the world scene after beating the reigning World champion and Olympic silver medalist Schippers in Rio.

In an international field however, the Orpington athlete still needs a more explosive start off the blocks, but the evidence is there already that come Doha  – not least after winning at the Khalifa International Stadium earlier in the year – Asher Smith will be lining up to take on the best and can beat them. Lausanne later this week will tell more.

 

Muir must find extra

For Laura Muir in the 1500m, the Scot was again met with more frustration after being edged out of a win by world champion Kenya’s Faith Kipyegon, having again lacked the engine to meet fire with fire, with one of her many foes.

The winner of the Diamond League last year and in 2016 has all the tools needed to become the very best in the world, but over the final 200m is still coming up short this term.

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It is no slander on the Dundee Harrier in stating that, but the European and European Indoor champion is yet to win a major world medal and is bent on ending that statistic, after another agonising fourth place at the Worlds’ in London two years ago on home soil.

Across a season, Muir has already shown she has the steel to win but now having been beaten to season wins here to Kipyegon and Ethiopia’s world record holder Genzebe Dibaba in Italy, with London silver medalist Jenny Simpson also easing into the campaign, Muir may need to find that bit extra to challenge in the heat of Qatar.

 

Hughes building; Coleman form ominous

In the wake of Usain Bolt’s retirement, America’s almost blanket domination of the 1990s looks to be building an ominous new era, as Christian Coleman won his second Diamond League meet of the year, temporarily putting to one side the name Noah Lyles after a shock defeat to his compatriot and relative rookie in Shanghai.

After winning is Oslo, Coleman clocked the fastest time in the world this year of 9.81, to finish ahead of Justin Gatlin and Britain’s Zharnel Hughes on the Cobb Track in Stanford.

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Shaving four-one-hundredths of his season’s best. the Georgian is looking to go one better, after Gatlin stunned the sprint fraternity in winning at the London Stadium to a chorus of boos in 2017. When Lyles and Coleman go toe-to-again once more, we may get a better glimpse of the latter’s mentality, but for now Coleman is still the man to beat.

For Hughes, the 23-year-old is showing signs of progress this season after a 2018 of mixed fortunes saw a 200m Commonwealth Games victory snatched from him on the Gold Coast after being disqualified, before going under the ten second barrier for the first time at the flat sprint last June and then becoming European champion.

Much like Asher-Smith, the Anguillan adopted Briton is still exhibiting the rusts of winter, but as the Diamond League moves on, Hughes could yet become a major force.

 

Questions for Fraser-Pryce

In the women’s event, questions over the form of Jamaica’s Shelly-Anne Fraser-Pryce came under a brighter spotlight as the former double Olympic and seven-time World champion finished well down the field in eighth.

Winning her national championships less than a fortnight ago in Kingston, the 32-year-old competing in her first meet of the season in Stanford still looked well short of form crossing the line in eighth, finishing in a time of 11.39 – over six-tenths outside her season’s best time.

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Looking to regain top form since taking 2017 off due to the birth of the first child, Fraser-Pryce has much work to do regain big game form against the rest of the field including winner Marie-Josee Ta Lou, who took the win in California.

Nosing out rising talent American Aleia Hobbs by two-one-hundredths of a second, the Ivorian who is now fully focused on the 100m metres, backed up victory to go with a runner-up spot last time in Rabat and a fourth-placed finish in Rome.

As the field begins to come together ahead of the Worlds’ in Doha later this year, and having seen  if Fraser-Pryce intends to challenge for an eighth world title, and with both Hobbs and Okagbare claiming Diamond League wins in the event this season, the Jamaican will have to up her game in Lausanne next week.

 

Cheruiyot stokes Mile fires

Rounding off the meet, the men’s mile proved to be just the show-stopper as was advertised and the result in California further threw open the race for Diamond League honours.

As world silver-medalist Timothy Cheruiyot held off the charge of Djibouti’s Ayanleh Souleiman, 2017 bronze medal winner Filip Ingrebrigtsen and brother Jakob, to come home first in the traditional Bowerman Mile recording 3.50.49, almost two seconds faster than Marcin Lewandowski‘s time during the Pole’s win in Oslo.

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Cheruiyot’s second Diamond League win of the year after success in Sweden has for now stamped the 23-year-old as the dominant force over the middle distance, but as the field remains tightly bunched, they race again in Switzerland mere days from now. The sporting landscape could shift once more on European soil.

 

Round 8 of the 2019 IAAF Diamond League takes place in Lausanne, Switzerland on Thursday evening.

 

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