Two outstanding 21-year-old American sprinters pushed each other to outstanding performances over 200 metres tonight at the International Association of Athletics Federations Diamond League meeting in Rome, with Michael Norman winning narrowly in 19.70 seconds, the fastest time in the world this year, and Noah Lyles finishing just two hundredths of a second behind.
Given that Norman has been a 400m specialist thus far, having set a 2019 world best of 43.45sec last month, there was an element of surprise in his victory over an opponent who already has two Diamond League Trophy wins to his credit at the shorter distance.
That established Norman at 12th on the all-time 200m list, just a bit behind Lyles, who shares eighth place with compatriot Wallace Spearmon on 19.65.
Lyles himself put the nose of his compatriot Christian Coleman, the world 100m silver medallist and world indoor champion over 60m out of joint in last month’s Shanghai Diamond League meeting in beating him on a photo finish while clocking a personal best of 9.86.
The post-Bolt world of sprinting is getting more and more complex and interesting.
Britain’s European 100m and 200m champion Dina Asher-Smith has been making the headlines in women’s sprinting so far this season, having earned two Diamond League wins over 200m, but she suffered a rare defeat tonight despite clocking 10.94sec for the 100m.
Jamaica’s Rio 2016 100m and 200m champion Elaine Thompson indicated that she has a sharpness in World Championship year that she had been missing last season as she won in 10.89, the fastest time run this season.
Beyond the sprints, it was also an evening of high endeavour – and numerous seasonal best times.
It took a world 2019 lead for world 1,500m record holder Genzhebe Dibaba to beat Britain’s European champion Laura Muir, with the Ethiopian clocking 3:56.28, and the Scot finishing second in 3:56.96.
The nearest – high-class – opposition was Ethiopia’s Gudaf Tsegay, who was more than three seconds back
.There was a 2019 world lead too in the men’s 5,000m, where 20-year-old Telahun Haile Bekele set a personal best of 12:52.98sec to win the race of his career so far by a fraction from his 19-year-old compatriot Selemon Barega, who last season won the Diamond League Trophy by producing a time of 12:43.02 – fourth best of all time – in the Brussels final, a world under-20 record.
The women's long jump also featured the best performance witnessed so far this year as Germany's Malaika Mihambo won with 7.07m.
Local hero Gianmarco Tamberi, returning to Rome Olympic Stadium for the first time since 2016, shortly before he sustained the serious ankle injury that forced him out of the Rio Games, was lifted over his final effort in the high jump by a wave of support, clearing 2.28m, but could proceed no further and missed the podium on countback.
Victory, with 2.31m – which equalled the best seen this season – went to Ukraine’s former world champion Bohdan Bondarenko.
Just as it had three years earlier.
There was an immense performance in the shot from Poland’s Konrad Bukowiecki, who won with a meeting record and personal best of 21.97m.
Omar Craddock of the United States won a high quality men’s triple jump with a best of 17.50m, from Pedro Pablo Pichardo once of Cuba, now of Portugal, who managed 17.47.
On a night of 2019 world leads, Donovan Brazier of the United States contributed another as he won the 800m in 1:43.63, with Nijel Amos of Botswana a breath behind him in 1:43.65.