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It wasn’t the Weltklasse Zurich we know, but it was fun. Especially for Noah Lyles.
The American star, the 2019 World Champion at 200 m, ran all by himself at the IMG Academy in Bradenton, Florida. Battling a blast of wind at the start, he blew through the turn and showed his best-in-the-world finishing speed in the straight to finish in 18.90.
18.90? World record? Wind-aided? Timer malfunction? Actually, none of the above.
As it turns out, Lyles was lined up at the wrong start mark and ran only 185 m, accounting for the crazy time, into a 3.7 m/s headwind! But it was still impressive.
There’s no doubt Lyles was fastest on the day, but the actual winner became France’s Christophe Lemaitre, running 20.65 in Zurich, with Churandy Martina (NED) in 20.81 in Papendal (NED).
The meet was indeed inspiring, with a few great athletes tantalizing us with what we have missed due to the coronavirus pandemic. Despite being held in seven (!) different venues worldwide, the synchronized three pictures-on-one screen format worked pretty well and was a technical marvel produced by Swiss Timing and Swiss Television.
Americans won two of the four men’s events and the U.S. won all four of the women’s competitions, with Allyson Felix winning twice (results are here). The highlights:
● Men/100 yards: This was the one “normal” event, with all three competitors running in the same place at the same time, in Bradenton, Florida.
Canada’s Andre De Grasse came on in the final few strides to edge the fast-starting Jimmy Vicaut (FRA), with Jamaican Omar McLeod third in 9.87. The times were especially slow due to a headwind of 3.4 m/s.
● Men/200 m: Lyles showed that he is going to be hard to beat in any event, after running a windy 9.93 last week and a fast 185 m race today. His 18.90 time could be projected to about 20.45 for 200 m, but with a 3.7 m/s headwind that hindered him – according to the tables – by about 0.22. So he ran, by himself, the equivalent of a windless 20.23 at sea level?
Interestingly, he ran in lane five, instead of his favored lane seven in most Diamond League meets.
Lemaitre, running solo in Zurich, ran strongly on the straightaway to win in 20.65.
● Men/Pole Vault: France’s Valentin Lavillenie failed to clear his opening height of 5.36 m (17-7), replacing his superstar brother Renaud, out with an injured left thumb.
World Champion Sam Kendricks of the U.S. cleared four heights in a row, through 5.66 m (18-6 3/4), while Poland Piotr Lisek alternated misses and makes through the same height. The issue was decided at 5.76 m (18-10 3/4), with Kendricks making it on his third try (in Bradenton) and Lisek missing his three attempts, in Karlstad (SWE).
Kendricks kept going, clearing 5.81 m (19-0 3/4), then missing three times at 5.91 m (19-4 3/4).
● Men/Triple Jump: Portugal’s Pedro Pablo Pichardo was the only competitor in Lisbon and was in great form “at home,” with wind-aided jumps of 17.20 m (56-5 1/4) and 17.40 m (57-1) in the first two rounds.
Neither of the Americans – Omar Craddock at Mt. SAC and Olympic champ Christian Taylor, in Bradenton – really got going. Craddock managed a best of 17.04 m (55-11) in the second round and Taylor, looking rusty, got it together in the final round for a very wind-aided 17.27 m (56-8) to finish second.
Pichardo finally got a legal jump, logging 17.17 m (56-4) on his final try.
● Women/150 m: This race was run off the final turn and into the straightaway, with Felix powering strongly on the straight and “winning” in 16.81. Olympic 400 m champ Shaunae Miller-Uibo (BAH) took the turn slowly and then came on, clocking 17.15 for second and Swiss Mujinga Kambundji third in 17.28.
“It was very strange and I feel like sort of practice but not even because there’s really no teammates or anything,” said Felix afterwards. “It’s hard to challenge yourself, so I think that’s the big thing was running solo. This was fun. I can’t wait ‘til we do it in person.”
● Women/300 m hurdles: It was hoped that 400 m world-record holder Dalilah Muhammad might be able to challenge the best ever in this event, but was replaced at the last moment by fellow American Georganne Moline.
No problem! Moline – finally healthy after foot surgery last August – ran strongly from the start and “won” in a very good 39.08, trailed by Swiss Lea Sprunger (39.25 in Zurich) and Czech world-record holder Zuzana Hejnova (CZE: 40.97 in Papendal/NED).
● Women/Pole Vault: It took a grand total of one jump for American Sandi Morris to win this event, with a clearance at 4.56 m (14-11 1/2). Olympic and world champ Katerina Stefanidi (GRE) went out at her opening height of 4.46 m (14-7 1/2), jumping at Mt. SAC and Swede Angelica Bengtsson cleared 4.46 m (14-7 1/2) for second, but bowed out at 4.56 m.
Morris – in Bradenton – cleared 4.66 m (15-3 1/2) on her second try, but then missed all three trials at 4.76 m (15-7 1/2), made all the more difficult by a stiff crosswind.
Since this was “Zurich,” there had to be a women’s relay, in this case 3×100 m. The U.S. trio of Candace Hill, Tianna Bartoletta and Felix passed the stick nicely at Mt. SAC – with no practice – and finished in 32.25, with the Swiss in 32.50 (in Zurich) and the Dutch team in 32.94 (in Papendal).
Asked about any relay practice, Felix deadpanned, “We literally just did it.”
It was strange to see the empty stadiums, of course, but the renovated Hilmer Lodge Stadium at Mt. SAC looked inviting and should be a grand stage for future editions of the Mt. SAC Relays and many more events.
Besides Lyles, Felix and Moline were especially impressive, working their way back from pregnancy and surgery, respectively. It will be great to see them again, whenever.
NBC will have replays of the meet at 5:30 p.m. Eastern today (9th) on NBCSN, then on the NBC Olympic Channel at 6 p.m. Eastern on Friday (10th) and 6:30 p.m. on Monday (13th).