Bolt, Van Niekerk shine in Monaco

MONACO: Sprint king Usain Bolt and his self-proclaimed successor Wayde van Niekerk stole the limelight at Friday’s Diamond League meet in Monaco.
Bolt produced a strong second half in the 100m, easing up over the line in a welcome season’s best of 9.95 seconds.
Bolt, winner of eight Olympic and 11 world gold medals, will bring down the curtain on his glittering career at next month’s world championships in London, where he will compete in the 100m and 4x100m relay.
But for the moment, it remains entertainment, and Bolt, as he has done consistently throughout his career, played to the sell-out 17,000-capacity crowd at the Louis II Stadium when introduced in warm, balmy weather.
Starting in lane four, Bolt was second slowest out of the blocks, the 100 and 200m world record holder easily matched by American Isiah Young in lane two.
But the afterburners were switched on in his drive phase to see Bolt home safely ahead of Young. “It was good,” Bolt said of his 53rd sub-10sec 100m. “I’m going in the right direction, although there is still a lot of work to do. Sub-10 is always good.”
“There are always mixed emotions, I’m happy for my career but sad that it is ending.”
Van Niekerk was also made to work in the 400m, fighting off a late surge from Botswanan rival Isaac Makwala.
The world and Olympic champion, also the world record holder in the event, hared off down the back stretch in lane five and looked dead set for another straightforward victory.
But Makwala, in the lane outside, battled back around the final bend into the home strait.
Van Niekerk, however, dug deep and surged home in a meeting record of 43.73sec, Makwala setting a personal best of 43.84 in second. “It was a great performance,” said the South African.
“I’m feeling positive about it. My body feels to be in great shape and this win from behind gives me confidence.
“We still are not peaking, we trained hard last week and all should be okay for London and my double (200, 400m). I’m ready for the big plan!”
Strong Semenya
Van Niekerk’s team-mate Caster Semenya put in another fine performance in the women’s 800m, timing a personal, meet and Diamond League record of 1:55.27 in a race where four national records were set.
Semenya, the current Olympic champion and a two-time world gold medallist, turned the screws in the final 50m to beat out Burundi’s Francine Niyonsaba by 0.20sec, with American Ajee Wilson rounding out the podium.
“I showed my strength, it was a hard fight until the end,” said Semenya, whose world golds came in Berlin in 2009 and Daegu in 2011. “The girls surprised me how good they ran.
“I think I can run really fast, we are training for that. Now we must decide, maybe tonight, what I’ll do in London, if it’s only the 800m, or also the 400m or 1,500m. The main thing is to stay healthy and a top result will come.”
Kenyan Emmanuel Korir, on his professional debut, set another season’s leading best in the men’s 800m, scorching around in temperatures of 26 degrees Celsius (79F) in 1:43.10.
That best was matched by female team-mate Hellen Obiri, who set a season’s leading time of 8:23.14 in the 3,000m as a startling eight of the top 11 racers set personal bests on the fast Monaco track.
Kenya’s reigning world silver medallist Elijah Manangoi surprised the field to win the men’s 1,500m, out-sprinting Timothy Cheruiyot to win in a season’s fastest of 3:28.80. Triple 1,500m world champion Asbel Kiprop finished more than 6sec off the pace in 11th position.
Rio 3,000m steeplechase gold medallist Conseslus Kipruto was a late withdrawal, however, saying he did not want to risk anything before London.
US women continued their domination of the 100m hurdles, world record holder Kendra Harrison (12.51sec) leading home Sharika Nelvis, with Australia’s 2012 Olympic gold winner Sally Pearson in fourth. — AFP