Lyles claims key win amid Diamond League desert storm

·3-min read
Noah Lyles won the 200m at the Doha Diamond meet (AFP/KARIM JAAFAR) (KARIM JAAFAR)

World 200 metre champion Noah Lyles won the first big sprint clash of the season on Friday at a wind-battered Doha Diamond League meeting when Olympic champion Andre de Grasse finished outside the top three.

The fierce desert gusts made it too dangerous for Sweden's Armand Duplantis to bid for a new world pole vault record.

Britain's world champion Dina Asher-Smith managed only third place in her first 200 metres of the year as Olympic bronze medalist Gabrielle Thomas stormed to victory.

The 24-year-old Lyles, aiming to bounce back from a disappointing 2021 when he managed only bronze medal at the Tokyo Olympics, led from start to finish.

Fellow-American Fred Kerley crept up late on but could not stop Lyles winning in 19.72 seconds, though none of the meeting times will count because of the wind. Jereem Richards of Trinidad came third squeezing out de Grasse.

"I came here to get my energy for the season. I perform under pressure, it helps me to get excited about the season," said Lyles who expressed optimism for the season but added that rivals should expect "trouble" if he does not reclaim his world title in Eugene in July.

"When I lose I come for blood," he joked.

De Grasse said he was not concerned but admitted that he will have to go home and "work on some things".

Britain's sprint heroine Asher-Smith trailed Thomas and Jamaica's Shericka Jackson in the women's 200 metres. "It was my first race and I have to get some more under my belt," she said after.

Thomas was elated at her victory. "This was a big one to start the season, there was a lot of competition," she said. "I have a will to win, I fight to the end."

- Kibet surprise -

Duplantis' appearance had been much-awaited in Doha but the wind forced organisers to delay the contest until Saturday when it will be staged indoors.

High jumpers Mutaz Essa Barshim of Qatar and Italian Gianmarco Tamberi also appeared nervous about competing together for the first time since they shared gold in Tokyo. But both were overshadowed by South Korea's Woo Sanghyeok who cleared 2.33 metres.

Barshim was second and Tamberi only seventh.

Eighteen year-old Kenyan, Noah Kibet, who burst into the spotlight by taking a silver medal at the world indoor championships in Belgrade in March, won the men's 800 metres against Australian Peter Bol and Canadian Marco Arop in 1:49.08. It was Kibet's first Diamond League race.

Alison dos Santos of Brazil (47.24) beat American rival Rai Benjamin for the first time in the men's 400 metres hurdles. "I feel so proud. We came here to prove this, now I want the next race," said the Brazilian who took bronze in Tokyo when Benjamin won silver.

US world record holder Kendra Harrison took the women's 100 metres hurdles (12.43) in a photo finish decision over Nigerian Tobi Amusan and Jamaica's Britany Anderson.

Dominican Republic's Maurileidy Paulino, silver medalist in Tokyo, won the women's 400 metres in 51.20sec, as Olympic champion Shaunae Miller-Uibo of the Bahamas struggled to make third (51.84sec), behind Stephenie Ann McPherson of Jamaica.

Francine Niyonsaba of Burundi, who can only run longer distances because of high testosterone levels, took the women's 3,000 metres (8:37.70) ahead of Kenya's Olympic 1,500m champion Faith Kiyegon and Australian Jessica Hull.

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