Oliver wins hurdles in Shanghai; retired Liu Xiang honored
SHANGHAI (AP) Retired Chinese star Liu Xiang watched from the crowd as his American rival David Oliver won the men's 110-meter hurdles in 13.17 seconds at the Shanghai Diamond League meet on Sunday.
Liu still got the loudest ovation from the hometown fans. He got the victory lap, too.
Liu, who became one of China's most celebrated athletes after winning the hurdles gold at the 2004 Athens Olympics, retired a month ago at the age of 31 due to recurring injuries, depriving Chinese fans of farewell races in Shanghai and at the world championships in Beijing in August.
With Liu not in the race, Oliver edged Cuban hurdler Orlando Ortega by 0.02 seconds. World record holder Aries Merritt of the United States was third.
After the race, a tearful Liu was honored in a ceremony on the track and then jogged around the stadium with Merritt and Oliver.
''I have been moved by your concern for me, your understanding and your encouragement,'' Liu told the crowd. ''I am grateful and very honored.''
Oliver recalled racing against Liu in front of a raucous crowd in Shanghai.
''He had to go out (before the race) and quiet down the crowd, and it was like, `Man, he's got a lot of support here.' That's very cool. You know as an American, we don't really see that type of stuff for us,'' Oliver said.
Also Sunday, Nigeria's Blessing Okagbare signaled she may be the woman to beat in the women's 100 meters at the world championships, capturing the gold against a strong field that included two-time world and Olympic champion Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce of Jamaica.
Almaz Ayana won the women's 5,000 with the third fastest time ever of 14 minutes, 14.32 seconds. The 23-year-old Ethiopian was just three seconds shy of breaking countrywoman Tirunesh Dibaba's world record.
Okagbare got a strong start in the 100 and held off a fast-closing Tori Bowie of the United States to win in 10.98. Bowie was second in 11.07, just ahead of Trinidad and Tobago's Michelle-Lee Ahye.
''I focused on my start and it went well,'' Okagbare said. ''Normally I haven't the best start but now I was leading from the beginning.''
Fraser-Pryce faded over the last 50 meters to finish fifth in 11.25, well off her personal best of 10.70.
Coming off a season of injuries and inconsistent results, the Jamaican is hoping to recapture her top sprinting form before the worlds, where she's the defending champion in the 100 and 200. She said before the Shanghai meet that she may only run the 100 if the season takes a toll on her body.
''I always have my work cut out. Nobody hands anything to me,'' Fraser-Pryce said after the race, still smiling despite the result. ''I think it's just one of those races - you go back, you have faith and you just move on from here. It's not the first time I'm losing.''
Ayana took the lead about halfway through the women's 5,000 and built a huge advantage, beating silver medalist Viola Jelagat Kibiwot of Kenya by 26 seconds and smashing her own personal best by 11 seconds.
''I didn't know I was so close to the world record. I started with a pace for 14:20. During the race, I went faster and faster,'' she said. ''I was surprised that my body could do that.''
The much-anticipated duel in the men's high jump between Mutaz Essa Barshim of Qatar, the 2014 world indoor champion, and Bohdan Bondarenko of Ukraine, the 2013 world outdoor champion, never really materialized as Barshim easily cleared 2.38 meters on his first attempt to win gold, while Bondarenko could do no better than 2.32 for silver.
Even though he still had two attempts left, Barshim opted not to attempt to match Javier Sotomayor's 22-year-old world record of 2.45 meters. Both Barshim and Bondarenko have inched closer to the record in the past year, with the Qatari coming within 2 centimeters at a meet in Belgium last September.
''I'm saving my body. It's the first meet and I don't want to get injured,'' Barshim said. ''The target was the win and we made it.''
Olympic champion Kirani James of Grenada dominated the field in the men's 400, winning in 44.66 - nearly a full second ahead of Tony McQuay of the United States in second. Defending world champion LaShawn Merritt was third.