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Triumphant Gatlin grabs spotlight in 100-meter race

by Kaz Nagatsuka

Staff Writer

Former Olympic champion Justin Gatlin cruised to the finish line with a winning time of 10.02 seconds, while Japanese teenage phenom Yoshihide Kiryu sank to fifth place in the men’s 100-meter dash race in the Golden Grand Prix Tokyo meet at National Stadium on Sunday.

The race was clearly the track and field meet’s main event as it featured international powerhouses like Gatlin, Mike Rodgers and Christophe Lemaitre, and Kiryu was expected to notch a sub-10 second mark. But unfortunately, they had to settle for lukewarm times, dealing with the strong wind (gusts of 3.5 meters per second).

“It felt windy,” said Gatlin, who has a personal-best of 9.79 seconds, after the race. “After I got past 50, I just wanted to stay relaxed. My coach told me to stay relaxed. Keep putting my arms (up).”

Although the sprinters ended up with mediocre marks, Gatlin, the gold medalist in the 100 in the 2004 Athens Olympics, appeared to be satisfied that the competition entertained the 21,000 spectators on a beautiful, sunny day.

“They came out to see a good show,” Gatlin, 32, said with a smile. “I think the wind took a little bit of the dazzle away. But I think there was a good run, there was a good easy run, and hopefully I’ll be back next year again.”

Rodgers came in the runner-up position in 10.11, and Lemaitre was third in 10.31.

Kiryu, 18, was the top finisher among three Japanese sprinters in it, but his time was 10.46, far off his personal-best 10.01 that he posted last year.

Despite the insufficient mark, Kiryu stayed positive, having been able to compete with top global stars like Gatlin and Lemaitre.

“If I had run close to my personal best, I would have put up a better competition with them,” said Kiryu, who had his second-career best time of 10.10 a few weeks before. “I take it positively. I want to stay positive. It was certainly a good experience for me to run with guys like Gatlin and Lemaitre.”

Even though the audience wasn’t able to witness world-class marks in the men’s 100, they at least had a chance to expect something special could happen earlier in the day.

In the men’s high jump, Bohdan Bondarenko had an attempt to break the world record. The Ukrainian had won the competition against his Russian rival Ivan Ukhov when he cleared 2.40 meters, which is 1 cm short of his personal best. And then he set the bar at 2.46, 1 cm over the long-standing world record established by Cuba’s Javier Sotomayor in 1993.

But Bondarenko failed on his first attempt. He chose to not make another attempt.

“I was so exhausted and thought that (2.46 attempt) would be my last jump,” said the reigning world champion. “But I wasn’t expecting a result like this, so I’m pleased about it.”

In other notable events, Tianna Bartoletta of the United States won the women’s 100 in 11.18 and Russia’s Darya Klishina finished in first place in the women’s long jump with a 6.88-meter leap. Defending world champ Brianna Rollins of the U.S. was the winner in the women’s 100 hurdles in 12.62.

In the men’s 200, Grenada’s Kirani James, the world record-holder in the 400, edged Bahamas’ Michael Mathieu to win in 20.63. Kei Takase was third in 20.75. Shota Iizuka, Japan’s ace in the event, struggled in a seventh-place finish (21.24).

In the men’s 800, Sho Kawamoto clocked 1:45.75 for a national record in the victory.

In the women’s 4×100 relay, the Japan A team (Saori Kitakaze, Anna Doi, Mayumi Watanabe and Kana Ichikawa) crossed the finish line first in 43.74, meeting a standard mark for the inaugural World Relays in Nassau, Bahamas, later this month.

“I had some pressure, but we came in the race to definitely make (the World Relays),” said Ichikawa, who substituted for Japan’s injured ace runner Chisato Fukushima at the last minute. “I’m so happy we came up with the good mark.”