Spencer, McPherson deliver in Birmingham
TWO WOMEN familiar with British conditions led the way for Jamaica at the Birmingham Diamond League meeting yesterday.
Glasgow 2014 Commonwealth Games gold medallists, Kaliese Spencer and Stephenie Ann McPherson, were the only two Jamaican winners on the day in the 400m hurdles and 400m, respectively.
For some of the Jamaican athletes, it was a return 'home'.
Just prior to the London 2012 Olympic Games, the University of Birmingham hosted the Jamaican track and field team to campus for their pre-Olympic training camp.
The team of 50 athletes, as well as around 25 other staff, spent a fortnight in Birmingham in the lead-up to the greatest show on earth, making use of the outstanding facilities available, including the track and gym.
Spencer was in imperious form as she took the 400m hurdles in a season-best time of 54.45 seconds.
In her wake were Cassandra Tate of the USA (54.73) and Czech Zuzana Hejnova (55.00), both of whom recorded season-best times themselves.
"I got away well, but it was a bit windy down the back straight. But I came through victorious, which is the most important thing," said Spencer.
"I have been doing well here (in Birmingham) for years and I always love returning here to compete."
She added: "I'm doing well at the moment and I'm grateful for that.
"This is a World Championships year and I'm working towards getting a medal in Beijing."
While compatriot Christine Day trailed home in fifth place, McPherson was cementing her reputation with another fine win, coming home in 52.14.
Like most of the athletes taking part in the invitational series of meetings, McPherson has one eye on the season's showpiece occasion.
"The World Championships in Beijing is my main aim, I want to get in amongst the Americans and compete," she said.
The Birmingham crowd were disappointed not to have seen the legendary Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce in action. Injury put pay to her participation.
sixth for facey
Simone Facey was the only female sprinter on show. However, Facey was never at the races in the 200m and came home sixth in 22.92.
She was unhappy with being drawn in lane two, but in all honesty, she would have struggled no matter which lane she was in, against a class field.
Jeneba Tarmoh won in 22.29, just seeing off Olympic champion Allyson Felix, who recorded the same time.
A humble Facey said after the race: "I am still grateful that I was able to come out and compete."
In the absence of sprint luminaries such as Usain Bolt, Yohan Blake, Asafa Powell and Warren Weir, it was left to Nesta Carter and young Julian Forte to represent Jamaica in the 100m.
Both were unimpressive in their heats and concluded that there was much work to do in order to get their respective season on track.
Despite that, they qualified for the final. Forte's solace after a poor start to his heat was a season-best time of 10.06.
Carter recorded 10.09 and it appeared that both would raise their game in the sprint finale. It wasn't to be as America's Marvin Bracy took the honours in a personal-best 9.93.
Great Britain's Adam Gemili also nocthed a PB, with 9.97, while veteran Mike Rodgers took third with the same time as the Briton.
Carter registered 10.00, while coming home fourth. Forte was seventh with a time of 10.15.
While he might not have been happy with his time, Carter was delighted with the rapturous applause that he received in the Alexander Stadium.
"England has a lot of Jamaicans who always come out and support us," Carter said.
Forte said: "I'm not too worried about today's display. Things will get better."
Things can only get better for Damar Forbes. The long jumper could only finish sixth in his discipline, which was won by Olympic champion Greg Rutherford from Britain.
Forbes' best leap was 8.06m. His first jump of 7.74m did not generate too much optimism and that was the case for most of the competition.
The Diamond League now moves on to the Exxon Mobil Bislett Games in Oslo, Norway, on June 11.