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Thompson, Russell sparkle in Morocco - Jamaican darlings deliver during Africa's Diamond League debut

Published:Monday | May 23, 2016 | 5:00 AM
Thompson ... broke meet record with 11.02-second clocking.

RABAT, Morocco:

It was a highly successful day for Jamaican athletes at Africa's inaugural Diamond League meeting yesterday.

African track and field took a massive step as the Moroccan capital of Rabat hosted some of the world's best athletes - and there is the rich promise of so much more from the continent in terms of this prestigious invitational series.

A three-quarters full Prince Moulay Abdellah Stadium was the venue for the occasion and as this historic meeting got under way, there was an unforgettable din that greeted the participants.

As ever, Jamaican athletes shone during the increasingly popular Diamond League.

Sprint queen-in-waiting Elaine Thompson took the 100m in a meeting best time of 11.02 seconds.

The 200m World Championships silver medallist got out of the blocks smartly and dominated her opponents from there.

"It's my first time in Morocco. It feels good to be here. I did my best and it paid off. I broke the meeting record," Thompson, of whom so much is expected, said after her impressive victory.

"I am aspiring to make it to the gold medal at the Olympic Games," she added.

Of the microscope that she is now under, Thompson confessed: "When you are performing and delivering, certainly people will look at you and expect certain things.

"But I want to just go out there and do my best to please myself and others."

 

STEWART THIRD

 

Thompson's experienced compatriot Kerron Stewart came home third (11.19). Separating the two Jamaicans was Nigerian Blessing Okagbare-Ighotegu (11.11), who is still in the formative stages of her campaign.

The long journey to the continent clearly did Stewart no favours and she said afterwards: "To come over here with jet lag and line up with the girls and compete was OK."

The event was the ninth edition of the Meeting International Mohammed VI d'Athletisme, the third leg of the 2016 Diamond League tour. The series provided athletes with the top-level competition required in Olympic year.

Making inroads with Diamond points is Jamaican Janieve Russell, who took the 400m hurdles race with ease.

The Jamaican saw off the highly regarded American, Cassandra Tate, to well and truly get her season up and running.

Russell is clearly an improving athlete. She caught the eye at the 2014 Commonwealth Games in Glasgow when she claimed 400m hurdles bronze and a 4x400m relay gold. She was to impress again in Rabat.

Russell, while not totally happy with her effort, indicated that her win was another useful stepping stone to the Olympic Games to be staged in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.

"I was not concentrating on running a fast time today (personal-best 54.16). I just wanted to get on top of this race. This didn't feel like windy conditions at all to me.

"This is the kind of weather that we know in Jamaica. I want to continue lowering my times in the next races. "

Rome will be the next occasion to do so.

"It's great to compete with my countrymen, but it's also hard to try and get on the team for the Olympics," she confessed.

While Thompson, Stewart and Russell all had a reasonably good day, that was not the case for Rusheen McDonald.

 

NOT SO GOOD FOR MCDONALD

 

McDonald trailed in seventh (46.79 seconds) in the men's 400m race won by American class act LaShawn Merritt, who notched a meeting record of 44.66.

Second was Belgium's Kevin Borlee (45.26), while Isaac Makwala of Botswana (45.38) came in third.

The Diamond League has grown in importance over the years and Africa hosting an event is confirmation of the League's growing status.

The competition gathers the best athletes from around the world to compete in a series of rounds, from May-September, divided over four continents.

Morocco was rewarded for its efforts with a local winner. Abdelaati Iguider won the 3000m to get the crowd to fever pitch, while rising to their feet and applauding the middle-distance runner for a stunning effort.

With Africa staging its very first Diamond League meeting, there is scope for other countries from the continent to do the same.

The meeting in Morocco also serves notice that the Caribbean, and Jamaica in particular, cannot be too far away themselves from replicating what took place in Africa.