Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce produced one of the astonishing kick as she beat the Olympic sprint queen Elaine Thompson-Herah in the women’s 100 metres on Thursday at the Athletissima Wanda Diamond League meeting in the Stade Olympique de la Pontaise, Switzerland.
The 29-year-old had run the second-fastest 100m of all-time last Saturday in blistering 10.54 seconds to win at the Prefontaine Classic in Eugene, but found herself beaten by her 34-year-old fellow Jamaican in one of the night’s many surprises.
Happily, the wind gauge was within the legal limit, allowing Fraser-Pryce to improve her lifetime best she set on home ground in Kingston in June by 0.03 and add some gloss to the third spot she holds on the world all-time list – behind the 10.49 Florence Griffith-Joyner recorded at the 1988 US Olympic trials in Indianapolis.
Having finished a distant second in both races, Fraser-Pryce – the four-time world and two-time Olympic 100m champion – now finds herself firmly in the frame as the Jamaican rivals look to update the record books.
“Believe it or not, I still have not run my best race,” the veteran sprint queen maintained afterwards. “I know there is more to give because I still need to work further on improving my technique.
“There will be more from me this season, and certainly my goal is to break into the 10.5 range.”
It was Fraser-Pryce’s 21st sub-10.8 clocking and her first win against her Jamaican teammate since the Jamaican Olympic trials in late June, when she emerged victorious from both the 100m and 200m.
The two are due to continue their rivalry, plus their bid to break Florence Griffith Joyner’s 33-year-old world record of 10.49, at the next Diamond League meeting in Paris on Saturday.
Athletics chiefs are under pressure to outlaw controversial ‘super-shoes’ after the sport’s top scientist admitted the rules governing them need to be revamped.
Olympic records are expected to tumble at Tokyo 2020, with competitors using hi-tech footwear that has led to record books being rewritten at an astonishing rate.
Usain Bolt last week joined the outcry against the governing body for permitting the shoe technology, with the sprint legend describing the situation as ‘laughable’.
Now Stephane Bermon, director of health and science at World Athletics, has admitted that the global ruling body needs to update its rules to keep up with developments.
Bermon suggested that the current regulations, which simply limit the depth of the sole and the number of hi-tech stiff ‘plates’ within it, are not sophisticated enough.
Figures within World Athletics have previously avoided giving any indication as to whether the rules will need to be changed once a moratorium on doing so ends after the Games. ‘After the moratorium we will very likely have new rules governing these shoes,’ said Bermon. ‘In the longer term, we will probably have new rules based on different characteristics other than a simple measurement.
‘It seems what is mediating the highest performance-enhancing effect is likely the stiff plate. Regulating this would mean — and this is something we are likely going to move — just regulating on measuring the shoes and the number of plates is not enough. We should move to a system that is based on energy return.’
Elite road running has been transformed since Nike released its VaporFly shoe four years ago, with athletes producing a slew of remarkable performances.
They included the Kenyan Eliud Kipchoge breaking the fabled two-hour marathon barrier wearing a pair, while his compatriot Brigid Kosgei beat Paula Radcliffe’s 16-year-old marathon world record by 81 seconds a day later.
The introduction of track spikes using similar technology has had a similarly transformative effect and will be widely used in Tokyo. Uganda’s Joshua Cheptegei set world records over 5,000m and 10,000m wearing a pair, while in June Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce clocked 10.63 seconds in the 100m, second only to Florence Griffith-Joyner.
Fraser-Pryce last week argued that too much signifance has been assigned to the shoe, saying: ‘You can give the spike to everyone in the world and it doesn’t mean they will run the same time as you or even better. It requires work.’
But Bolt believes they are unfairly enhancing performance, saying: ‘It’s weird and unfair for a lot of athletes because I know that in the past shoe companies actually tried and the governing body said ‘No, you can’t change the spikes’, so to know that now they are actually doing it, it’s laughable.’
Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce argued that too much significance has been assigned to the shoe
Scientists are uncertain why the shoes bestow such enormous benefits but it is understood the key technology is the stiff plate, often made of carbon, and the ultra-light, springy foam.
Along with an upper in the road shoe that is more curved than previous designs, it is felt that these qualities significantly reduce the amount of energy the runner expends.
World Athletics has capped the depth of the sole at 40mm to limit the effect of the foam and insisted on a maximum of one plate per shoe. Critics have said those rules do not go far enough. Especially when some athletes find much less benefit from the shoes compared to others and some enjoy no improvement at all. The reasons for that phenomenon has also so far baffled the scientists.
‘The same shoe gives you a massive variability among different athletes — even greater than 10 per cent [improvement in performance] in some cases,’ says Professor Yannis Pitsiladis, who sits on the science and medical commission of the International Olympic Committee.
‘How you respond to the shoe can determine if you’re going to be an Olympian or watch it on TV. You know who is going to win and who can qualify [for the Games]. Athletes have qualified because they had access to a super shoe. And many who were not running in these shoes didn’t qualify.’
Pitsiladis compares the shoes to a form of ‘technological doping’ and wants the regulations to be changed so that the shoes cannot determine the outcome of a race.
‘One solution is to minimise the stack [sole] height, while allowing the shoe companies to innovate in a smaller area, minimising the impact of any performance-enhancing mechanisms such as the carbon-fibre plate,’ he says.
‘Let the best companies come up with half a per cent [improvement in performance], say, or one per cent. But not a situation where you have improvements in running economy of even greater than seven per cent.’
Experts fear that the working group World Athletics has put together to advise the ruling body on the regulations post-Tokyo will not go far enough, especially when representatives of six sports brands are sitting on it.
‘The moratorium was also because we had to discuss with the manufacturers,’ said Bermon. ‘It’s very important that you respect the manufacturers. They have spent a lot of time and money designing these shoes. We have to take decisions that do not put them into difficult economic circumstances.’
The working group also includes representatives from the governing body itself, its athletes commission, the ‘sporting goods industry’ and a scientist. World Athletics said: ‘The group is examining the research around shoe technology in order to set parameters, with the aim of achieving the right balance between innovation, competitive advantage, universality and availability.’
Thomas Baines – National 800m runner – I tried the shoes for size, and flew!
I raced in the Nike Air Zoom Victory spikes for the first time on Saturday and broke my 800metres personal best by more than a second.
I reached 600m and thought ‘Wow, I have a lot left in the tank’. I felt like I saved more energy with each contact with the ground.
They are so springy. I put my foot down and felt a burst of energy, a lovely bounce, when I came up. They really work with you, you get a spring up and it is a lot more efficient, as it absorbs the energy when you go down and pushes you back up, so you fatigue less.
National 800 metre runner Thomas Baines raced in the Nike Air Zoom Victory spikes
You just don’t have to work as hard so it is helping with the basic biomechanics of running. It allows you to get a longer stride without putting any extra effort in. It is not that the spikes make you run quicker, just that you have so much more left at the end. That’s the key.
I finished in 1min 49.6sec at the Loughborough Grand Prix, which is 1.1sec off my previous best. I was second behind a 1500m European junior champion also wearing the spikes.
My aim now is to get to GB under-23 level, to compete at the European Championships. If I can keep improving the spikes will definitely help too. I trained in the Vaporfly trainers on a 10km run last week.
Running at an easy pace I would normally be clocking 4min 40sec pace per kilometre. Putting in the same amount of effort, I got a few kilometres in, glanced at my watch and was ‘Oh my God!’ I’m running 4.20 per kilometre. It felt very easy. The same route took two minutes quicker in the end.
You can see why the professionals are using them. You can see the difference they make in the times. In 2019 there were two runners who ran under 1min 45sec. This season already there are six, with Elliot Giles now No4 on the UK all-time list behind Seb Coe, Steve Cram and Peter Elliott, with Oliver Dustin No6.
We haven’t had these sort of times run before from so many in the same season. It is making a big difference but at the Olympics all the elite athletes will be wearing spikes that use this technology, so it is a fair test.
Women’s 3,000m race in the season-opening Doha Diamond League will see reigning world champion and Olympic silver medalist Hellen Obiri lead a strong Kenyan fields that includes 2013 World Youth Champion and 2014 World Junior 3000m silver medalist Lilian Kasait and fifth-place finisher at the 2017 World championships, Margaret Chelimo.
Reigning 1,500m world silver medalist and Olympic bronze medalist, Jenny Simpson of the USA, will move up to the longer distance in Doha and will provide a strong challenge for the Kenyans.
Obiri enjoyed an outstanding 2017 season, claiming the overall 5,000m Diamond League title in Brussels following victories in Shanghai and Rome, as well as winning the 3,000m race in Monaco. She also set a new meeting record over one mile at the Muller Anniversary Games in London.
However, 20-year-old team-mate, Rengeruk, has shown strong form already this season, winning team gold at the 2017 World Cross Country Championships in Uganda and taking individual bronze, proving the youngster is one-to-watch and setting up an exciting head-to-head in May. The race promises to be a real treat for Qatar’s large Kenyan community, who always come out in force to support their athletes.
Doha first staged a major athletics event in 1997 with the Doha Grand Prix, which was elevated to the Super Grand Prix in 2005. In 2010, Doha hosted the first-ever IAAF Diamond League fixture which has continued to grow in strength every year and provides an ideal opening to the outdoor season. The 2018 meeting will be the ninth consecutive edition.
The women’s 100m promises to be one of the highlights of the evening as reigning 100m Olympic champion Elaine Thompson of Jamaica will go head to head with reigning 200m World champion and Olympic silver medallist Dafne Schippers of The Netherlands, 2017 world silver medallist in the 100m and 200m, Marie-Josée Tao Lou of the Ivory Coast and fellow country-woman, 2018 World Indoor champion over 60m, Murielle Ahouré.
Elaine Thompson proved unbeatable in last year’s Diamond League series as she won every single race to be crowned 2017 Diamond League Champion.
She also became the first woman since Florence Griffith-Joyner at Seoul 1988 to do the sprint double at the Rio 2016 Olympic Games.
However, Thompson finished in a surprise fifth place at the London 2017 IAAF World Championships with Ta Lou, Schippers and Ahouré finishing ahead of her in silver, bronze and fourth positions respectively, ensuring a fascinating showdown at this year’s Doha Diamond League.
The Doha event will be followed by the Shangai round where World record-holder David Rudisha will hope to make it third time lucky in the men’s 800m after finishing fifth on his Shanghai debut in 2016 and third last year, while fellow Kenyan Timothy Cheruiyot begins the defence of his Diamond League trophy in the 1500m.
Other reigning IAAF Diamond League champions who will be looking for early points include Dalilah Muhammad in the women’s 400m hurdles and Maria Lasitskene, the world indoor and outdoor high jump champion.
Colombia’s Olympic champion Caterine Ibarguen is targeting a winning return to Shanghai after she won the women’s triple jump here in 2013 and 2015, as will Luvo Manyonga, the South African who leapt to an IAAF Diamond League and African record of 8.61m to take maximum points in the long jump last May before going to win the world title and Diamond trophy in August.
Manyonga will face China’s newly minted Asian indoor champion, Shi Yuhao.
Sam Kendricks, another of last year’s world and IAAF Diamond League champions, takes on the host nation’s World Championships fourth-place finisher, Xue Changrui, in the men’s pole vault. Like McLeod, Kendricks is seeking a Shanghai hat-trick after beating world record-holder Renaud Lavillenie with a vault of 5.88m 12 months ago.