DOHA (Reuters) - Jamaica’s Asafa Powell recovered from a poor start to take the plaudits in the men’s 100 meters at the opening Diamond League meet in steamy Qatar on Friday.
The former world record holder, who will face Olympic and world champion Usain Bolt and American rival Tyson Gay later in the season on the 14-meet circuit, won in 9.81 seconds.
Powell’s compatriot Nesta Carter was second in 9.88 with American Travis Padgett finishing third in 9.92 seconds. Powell had run 9.75 in his semi-final heat, which would have been a world leading time if it had not been wind-assisted.
Michael Frater, the third member of Jamaica’s triumphant Olympic 4x100 team, ran 9.94 behind Padgett who won here last year. Bolt had led the gold medal-winning team in Beijing.
“What happened tonight was pretty exciting, a real fight with so many guys running under 10 seconds,” said Powell.
The Diamond League has replaced the Golden League as the governing IAAF’s top non-championship event. A diamond-studded trophy awaits all 32 season leaders in the various events.
“Carter was very fast. Frater was fast as well. It wasn’t as easy as people might think,” Powell told reporters. “I am obviously chasing the diamond. We’ll see in the end.”
Powell and others got a boost from the warm Arabian Gulf wind at the sprinters’ backs. “Normally the wind doesn’t help me that much. I don’t really focus on the wind,” he said.
He added that his next race will be in Ostrava, then Rome and “probably the Jamaican championships.”
The winners of each event earn four points with two points for second place and one for finishing third.
American Allyson Felix won the women’s 400 meters in 50.15 seconds ahead of Amantle Montsho of Botswana (50.34) with Britain’s Olympic champion Christine Ohuruogu back in fifth.
“I ran a comfortable first 200 meters, relaxed until 250 meters and kicked home from there. The time was not anything amazing for my standards,” Felix told reporters.
“Now I just need some speed work. Hopefully, I’ll be ready to go come New York.”
Felix, a three time world 200 champion, has won the 400 in Doha three times in the last four years and is considering adding the longer distance to her world and Olympic schedules.
Jamaican Kerron Stewart, also helped by the wind, won the women’s 200 in 22.34 seconds ahead of compatriot Sherone Simpson (22.64). Cydie Mothersill of the Cayman Islands was third. American Lolo Jones took the women’s 100 hurdles in 12.63 seconds, despite hitting the first two barriers, finishing ahead of Canadian Priscilla Lopes-Schliep (12.67).
“I had a really bad start,” said Jones. “The wind was pushing me too close to the hurdles and I was off balance. But I pulled it off in the end,” she told Reuters.
Olympic bronze medalist Bershawn Jackson gave an impressive performance in the men’s 400 hurdles, winning in 48.66 seconds ahead of fellow American Kerron Clement (48.82).
“I had excellent training recently, very consistent,” Jackson said. “It’s nice to beat the Olympic champion (Angelo Taylor) and the world champion (Clement) in one race.”
Beijing gold medalist Taylor was fourth in 49.66.
Several leading athletes were absent from the first meet of a series in which total prize money for the 14 meetings will top $6.6 million with millions more on offer in promotional fees.
Ethiopia’s Kenenisa Bekele, the world’s dominant distance runner, and American Sanya Richards-Ross, the 400 meters world champion, are injured while Russian Olympic pole vault gold medalist Yelena Isinbayeva is taking a break from sport.
Editing by Ken Ferris