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LaShawn Merritt beats world champion Wayde van Niekerk to win 400 at the Weltklasse Zurich

By Daniella Matar


ZURICH _ LaShawn Merritt edged a thrilling finish in the 400 metres at the Weltklasse Zurich on Thursday, earning partial revenge for losing to Wayde van Niekerk at the world championships last month.

Merritt won in 44.18 seconds, 0.10 ahead of Grenada‘s Kirani James _ who claimed bronze in Beijing _ and 0.17 ahead of Van Niekerk, the South African who left his kick too late.

Merritt, world champ in 2009 and 2013 and Olympic champ in 2008, made a great start, and powered past James after 150 metres on a track still wet from earlier rains at Letzigrund Stadium.

“I just wanted to win,” the American said. “You just have to go to work in any kind of weather.”

James’ second spot was enough to hand him the Diamond Race season title in front of a sell-out crowd of around 25,000 vociferous fans.

“I’m very tired now but I’m nothing but thankful to these guys,” James said. “Merritt was great tonight. The prize itself doesn’t mean much to me, these fans are a diamond trophy themselves.”

World champion Shelley-Ann Fraser-Pryce was one of 15 others who secured Diamond Race titles after the Jamaican won the 100 in 10.93.

Fraser-Pryce was sporting another new hairstyle after clinching a third world championship with her plaits dyed green and a headband of daisies around her forehead. She was back in long braids, and the result was the same for the sprint supremo, who is unbeaten since May.

She finished half a second ahead of Blessing Okagbare after the Nigerian put on a fantastic performance following the disappointment of her last place in Beijing. American Tori Bowie was again third, 0.13 behind Fraser-Pryce.

“There is no more to ask for: I won the world championships and the Diamond Race,” Fraser-Pryce said. “I’m glad I finished first here.

“It’s not easy to race again in such a close time. I needed to adjust again but we are used to it, we are professional athletes.”

There were 18 other individual world champions from Beijing competing in Zurich, although the all-star cast didn’t include Usain Bolt or Justin Gatlin.

Without that duo, whose intriguing battle dominated the sprints at the worlds, Alonso Edward of Panama won the 200 in 20.03 to take the Diamond Race title. Edward, who was fourth in Beijing, was 0.17 ahead of Rasheed Dwyer. Anaso Jobodwana was third _ just as he was at the worlds _ 0.21 behind Edward.

Greg Rutherford added the Diamond League trophy to his Olympic, world, and European titles in the long jump. The Briton jumped 8.32 metres to beat America’s Marquis Dendy. Fabrice LaPierre of Australia, runner-up in Beijing, cleared a season’s best of 8.27 to finish third.

“This victory means a hell of a lot to me,” said Rutherford, who also holds the Commonwealth title. “It is the last crown for me. I am pleased.”

In another highly competitive event, world champion and double European champion Sergey Shubenkov of Russia won the 110 hurdles in 12.98 seconds. Former world champ David Oliver of the U.S. beat Cuban Orlando Ortega to second place and the Diamond Race title, with both finishing 0.16 behind Shubenkov. Jason Richardson, the 2011 world champion, was sixth.

Ivana Spanovic set a new Serbia record of 7.02 metres to win the long jump. She broke her own record, which she set on her way to claiming bronze in Beijing.

“I felt great and much more relaxed than in Beijing,” Spanovic said. “There, I had a lot of pressure with people expecting me to get gold.”

Spanovic again shared the podium with American world champion Tianna Bartoletta and Britain’s Shara Proctor. Bartoletta leapt 6.97 to secure the Diamond Race title, despite admitting she was still in a lot of pain after spraining her ankle at the worlds.

Others to claim Diamond Race trophies were Piotr Malachowski (discus), Mutaz Essa Barshim (high jump), Asbel Kiprop (1,500), Jairus Kipchoge Birech (3,000 steeplechase), Eunice Jepkoech Sum (800), Zuzana Hejnova (400 hurdles), Nikoleta Kiriakopoulou (pole vault), Christina Schwanitz (shot put), Barbora Spotakova (javelin) and Genzebe Dibaba (3,000).

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