BEIJING (Reuters) - Justin Gatlin may have flown home but at least the Bird’s Nest Stadium could thrill instead to another 33-year-old American speedster, David Oliver, running the fastest 110 meters hurdles this year at Beijing’s World Challenge meeting on Wednesday.
Gatlin’s fall-out with the organizers had led to him departing on the eve of the meeting in a huff but the smiling world champion Oliver proved a popular top of the bill with his second win in China in four days.
Oliver clocked a world-leading 13.15sec to record a much more clear-cut victory than in Sunday’s Diamond League meeting in Shanghai, when he pipped Orlando Ortega by just 0.02sec. This time, the margin over the Cuban runner-up was 0.22sec.
“That’s cool man, I’m very happy to be a star here. Everybody loves me here and it feels good to give a performance to the crowd,” Oliver told reporters after being feted by 35,000 fans.
Oliver reckoned he had run poorly but was adamant the only thing that mattered was getting it right 98 days from now in the heats of the world championships in the same stadium when he starts the defense of his title.
Ironically, it could have been Oliver’s own experience last year at this same Beijing meeting that may have caused the problem this year with Gatlin.
In 2014, Oliver had pulled out on the day of his race with injury and the speculation was that organizers had asked Gatlin to leave because they feared a similar late withdrawal because he had his own minor injury concerns.
Jamaican Veronica Campbell-Brown celebrated a return to the scene of her second Olympic 200 meters triumph by dominating the half-lap event.
The seven-times Olympic medalist turned 33 last week but still believes she can run faster than ever after being cleared of a doping offence last year by the Court of Arbitration for Sport. She was in a different league to modest opposition, enjoying three meters to spare over American Kaylin Whitney when winning in 22.68sec.
There was an encouraging comeback from Olympic high jump champion Anna Chicherova, who missed the end of last season with an injury to her right ankle.
The Russian, deprived of the chance of competing in the European Championships, won with a final attempt clearance at 1.94 meters, before failing in her bid to top two meters.
(Editing by Pritha Sarkar)