DOHA (Reuters) -American Kenneth Bednarek edged Canadian André De Grasse in a scintillating 200 metres race at the Doha Diamond League meeting on Friday as Kenyans dominated the middle-distance competitions.
Bednarek won in 19.88, one hundredth of a second ahead of De Grasse whose compatriot Aaron Brown was third (20.25) on a hot and humid night in the Qatari capital.
Bednarek was delighted with the win even though he said he was “a bit nervous. But I am excited that I got in the first place. I’ll try to be even better again the next time.”
Justin Gatlin, the 39-year old 2004 100m Olympic gold medallist, finished fifth in a season’s best 20.49.
Jamaica’s Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce, the double Olympic champion, won the 100m, putting behind her a disappointing fourth-place finish in Gateshead last Sunday.
Fraser-Pryce, 34, ran 10.84 seconds ahead of Nigeria’s Blessing Okagbare (10.90) with America’s Javianne Oliver finishing third (11.03).
Fraser-Pryce is hoping to become the first female athlete to win three Olympic 100m titles after taking gold in 2008 and 2012 in Beijing and London respectively after a silver at Rio 2016.
“I am happy that I won, because its far away from the fourth place that I did the last time,” she said.
“It’s going to be be the final Olympic appearance (for me) so I hope it will be good. The last three Olympics I went to I was able to stand on the podium and I’m hoping to be able to make it there again God willing.”
Kenyans dominated the middle-distance races on a night when athletes competed without a crowd due to COVID-19 restrictions, although music from the loudspeakers provided some atmosphere.
Men’s 1,500m world and three-time Diamond League champion Timothy Cheruiyot ran a patient race to win in a world leading time of 3:30.48 to kick-start his season.
In the women’s 800m, Kenya’s Faith Kipyegon nudged through on the inside to secure an impressive win in a time of 1:58.26 for the 1,500m Olympic champion and world silver medallist.
“I did my personal best here in Doha, so it’s really, really great to be here,” Kipyegon said. “I am training so hard and hoping to do my best, so I am putting all my mind on it. The pandemic wasn’t easy but we always try to be great.”
Another Kenyan, 21-year-old Beatrice Chebet, won the 3,000m with a world leading time of 8:27.49 sprinting ahead of Hellen Obiri, the twice world 5,000m champion, who faded towards the end of the race and finished a disappointing fourth.
“It’s my first time winning in the Diamond League and here in Doha,” Chebet said. “I didn’t expect to win. I did well today and now I am preparing for the Olympics.”
Chebet said she hoped to run the 5,000m in Tokyo.
In the men’s 400m, Michael Norman ran a world leading 44.27 to continue his winning 2021, while in the women’s pole vault American Katie Nageotte won on the countback by clearing 4.84m.
She defeated compatriot and Olympic silver medallist Sandi Morris, who finished second and Greek Olympic champion Katerina Stefanidi (4.74) who was fourth.
Another standout performance came from Venezuela’s Olympic triple jump silver medallist Yulimar Rojas who won with 15.15m.
“I am happy to leave a footprint here in Doha,” she said. “I enjoy this path, when it will be Tokyo’s turn I’ll be prepared and I’ll try to win the gold medal.”
(Reporting by Omar Mohammed; Editing by Ken Ferris)