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ATHLETICS

Bolt sprints to victory in Stockholm

World and Olympic champion sprinter Usain Bolt of Jamaica sprinted to victory in the 200m during Friday's Diamond League competition in Stockholm while American 400m runner LaShawn Merritt debuted with a second place after a 21-month doping ban, insisting he's a clean athlete.

Bolt sprints to victory in Stockholm

Bolt won in a time of 20.03sec in an unfavourable headwind in his last outing before he defends his sprint titles at the world championships in Daegu, South Korea, from August 27.

The Jamaican superstar came into the straight comfortably ahead to celebrate his first career victory in the Swedish capital after two previous failures over 100m.

“It’s fantastic to record my first win here,” said Bolt, who admitted he had felt a twinge in his back.

“Technically it wasn’t a good race because the bends are a little right and I wanted to take care of my injury before the world championships.”

Olympic champion Merritt marked his return to the track with a second place

in the 400m and insisted he is now clean.

The 25-year-old clocked 44.74 sec with Jamaica’s Jermaine Gonzales claiming victory in 44.69 sec, a season best. Chris Brown of the Bahamas was third in

44.79 sec.

“I wanted to come out and get a race, knock off the cobwebs. I feel good physically and I now want to get ready for the world championships,” said Merritt.

“I am clean. My mother and my team believed in me and they will keep believing in me. Now I will go home and work on a few things and get ready for the worlds.

“At the worlds, I will be a contender, I always thought that and with a time today of 44.7, I can’t complain.”

Olympic and world champion Merritt tested positive for the anabolic steroid DHEA in three tests between October 2009 and January 2010.

Last October an American Arbitration Association (AAA) panel declared that his ban would end on July 27, less than the usual 24-month ban, thereby making Merritt eligible to compete prior to the world championships.

The arbitrators stated they believed his positive test stemmed from an inadvertent action and was not intended to produce a competitive advantage.

Merritt, who was not able to take part in the US national championships, was named in the US team last month for the world championships.

South Africa’s 800m world champion Caster Semenya endured a miserable night on Friday, finishing eighth in her event in a time of 2min 01.28sec, with Jamaica’s Kenia Sinclair claiming victory in 1min 58.21sec.

The 20-year-old Semenya, who clocked a personal best of 1:55.45 in storming to victory at the 2009 Berlin worlds but was then cast into limbo for almost a year because of allegations over her true gender, admitted she had been off colour.

“It was one of those days. I am quite happy with my performance even if I didn’t run the race that I wanted to. I expected to run faster. I felt a little heavy,” said Semenya.

“But I keep going. I never quit. Next time I hope to do better.”

Olympic 110m hurdles champion Dayron Robles pulled out of his eagerly-awaited head-to-head with this year’s world leader, the American David Oliver.

Robles injured his ankle last week in Barcelona and with the world championships in mind, he preferred not to risk running in Stockholm.

The Cuban is the world record holder (12.87secs) while Oliver has produced the best time this season of 12.91secs.

Jason Richardson of the US took victory in 13.17sec with Oliver in second spot in 13.28sec.

Kenya’s Vivian Cheruiyot, the women’s world 5000m champion, clocked the best time of the season of 14 min 20.87sec.

Olympic champion Yelena Isinbayeva, who hurt her hand in training last week and pulled out of the Lucerne meeting, won the women’s polevault with 4.76m.

The 29-year-old Russian golden girl has set 27 world records in her career, but Friday’s effort was way below her best ever mark of 5.06m.

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ATHLETICS

Sweden’s Bahta denies Hassan to claim gold

Sweden's Meraf Bahta held off a late challenge from hot favourite Sifan Hassan of the Netherlands to win the 5,000m final at the European Athletic Championships in Zurich on Saturday.

Sweden's Bahta denies Hassan to claim gold
Photo: TT

The promise of Dutch delight turned to despair – and ultimately silver and bronze consolation – in the dramatic closing stages of the women's 5,000m final on the penultimate day of the European Athletics Championships in Zurich.

"With 100m to go I knew that nobody could beat me," said Bahta.

"I was never afraid to lose the duel with Hassan. This is my first time running for Sweden. It is great for me to hear the anthem for the first time."

Less than 24 hours after winning the 1500m final (on a night when Dafne Schippers completed a 100m sprint double), Sifan Hassan was closing on what would have been a famous double of her own and a record-equalling fourth for the Netherlands as she surged from seventh at the bell to the shoulder of Sweden's Meraf Bahta coming into the home straight.

A similar tactic had won the 21-year-old Ethiopian-born woman her metric mile crown in convincing fashion but this time she came up against an unyielding rival in Bahta.

The Eritrean refugee had pushed the pace from two laps out and dug deep to hold on for victory in 15min 31.39sec.

Hassan had to be content with silver, finishing 0.40sec, with her Dutch team-mate Susan Kuijken coming through for bronze and Jo Pavey, the 40-year-old 10,000m winner from Great Britain, down in sevent

The battle for first place in the medal table edged marginally in favour of France after wins for Renaud Lavillenie in the men's pole vault and Christelle Daunay in the women's marathon.

They have seven golds now, the same tally as Britain, but with 18 medals in all, three more than their rivals.

Lavillenie has been untouchable in 2014 and the Olympic champion extended his winning streak to a 20th competition with just two vaults.

After entering at 5.65m and clearing that at the first attempt, the Frenchman just needed a second time success at 5.90 to claim the gold.

He did, however, attempt to achieve his first 6m-plus vault of the outdoor season but registered three failures at  6.01m – 15cm shy of the world record he set indoors in Donetsk in February.

Daunay is not quite a member of the Fortysomething club – she turns 40 in December – but the French marathon runner maintained the gold standard for the older guard in Zurich, pulling clear after halfway to win the 26.2 mile event in 2 hr 25min 14sec – 13 seconds ahead of the 38-year-old Italian Valeria Straneo.

Farther down the field, there was a race within the race to become the first finisher between 28-year-old triplets from Estonia. It was won by Liina Luik, 29th in 2:41:18. Leila Luik was 43rd and Lily Luik 47th.

The seventh British gold came in the women's 400m hurdles. Favourite Eilidh Child held on for victory in 54.48sec, 0.08sec ahead of the fast-finishing Ukrainian Anna Titimets.

However, Child's fellow Scottish Commonwealth Games silver medallist Lynsey Sharp was unable to hang on after going our hard and fast in a bold defence of her 800m title.

She was caught and passed 80m from the line by Maryna Arzamasova, the Belarus athlete prevailing in 1 min 58.15sec. The consolation for Sharp was not just the silver but also a Scottish record: 1:58.80.

In the women's discus Croatia's Sandra Perkovic, the reigning world and Olympic champion, claimed gold with a 71.08m world lead and national record in the fifth round.

The men's hammer was a dramatic affair, Olympic champion Krisztian Parrs requiring a world leading throw of 82.69m in the final round to retain his title.

In the women's triple jump Ukraine's Olha Saladukha completed a hat-trick of titles, a second round effort of 14.73m edging out Russian Yekaterina Koneva by just 4cm.

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