MARRAKESH:  Jamaica’s Shericka Jackson celebrates winning the Women’s 200M during the IAAF Diamond League competition at the Grand Stadium in Marrakesh. – AFP
MARRAKESH: Jamaica’s Shericka Jackson celebrates winning the Women’s 200M during the IAAF Diamond League competition at the Grand Stadium in Marrakesh. – AFP

Jackson wins season opener in Marrakesh with all eyes on Paris

MARRAKESH: Jamaica’s two-time world champion Shericka Jackson sealed victory in the women’s 200m at the Diamond League meet in Marrakesh on Sunday as she set her focus on this summer’s Paris Olympics.

Jackson the fastest woman alive over the distance had twice delayed her return to her favored half-lap event this season. She clocked 22.82 seconds in lane six for the win. The Jamaican, the first athlete in world champs history to win medals in the 100, 200 and 400 metres - including the 4x100 and 4x400 metres relays - had to graft for her victory, however. She then grimaced as she watched the replay on the big screen.

“I think it was a pretty good race for the first race of my season,” Jackson insisted after what was her first appearance in track and field’s elite one-day series this year. “The time is what it is. I tried to focus on my technique and execution. I think I did good.

“Next? I don’t know. For me it is only the start of the season, I don’t know about the next race. And it is too early to talk about the events I will do at the Paris Olympics,” said Jackson, a six-time Olympic medallist including gold in the 4x100m relay at the Covid-delayed Tokyo Games in 2021.

With the Paris Games just 11 weeks away, Canada’s Andre De Grasse, the reigning Olympic 200m champion, was edged at the line in the 100m by African champion Emmanuel Eseme of Cameroon. Eseme clocked 10.11sec into a headwind, De Grasse timing 10.19sec in second ahead of Briton Jeremiah Azu. Home favorite Soufiane El Bakkali, the Fez-born Olympic champion and reigning two-time world gold medallist, sealed victory in the men’s 3,000m steeplechase in 8:09.40 ahead of Ethiopia’s Getnet Wale.

El Bakkali wins on home soil

It was El Bakkali’s third successive victory at Diamond League events in Morocco to bring the curtain down perfectly on the meet in Marrakesh. He timed his last 600 metres to perfection, passing Getnet and gritting his teeth through to the line for a victory that sent the crowd at the Grand Stadium wild.

Ethiopian Lamecha Girma, who won steeplechase silvers in the last three global competitions when El Bakkali took gold, opted to avoid a showdown with the Moroccan and instead ran against a loaded field in the men’s 1,500m. But there was a shock win in 3:32.86 for Moroccan-born Frenchman Azeddine Habz, only cleared to represent his adopted country in 2018, ahead of Britons George Mills and Elliot Giles, with Girma fourth.

Two 18-year-old women had earlier impressed, Angelina Topic winning the high jump in a Serbian national record of 1.98m, while Medina Eisa of Ethiopia sprinted to victory in the 5,000m in 12:34.16. In the field, Cuban Lazaro Martinez won the men’s triple jump in a meeting record of 17.10m ahead of Portugal’s Pedro Pichardo (16.92).

Lithuania’s Mykolas Alekna, the new world record holder, was the only man to go past the 70-metre mark, by 70 centimetres, to win the men’s discus, Australia’s Commonwealth champion Matthew Denny in second (67/74). Belgium’s Alexander Doom, winner of the world indoor title in Glasgow in February, claimed victory in the men’s 400m in a personal best of 44.51sec, just three-hundredths ahead of Zambia’s Muzala Samukonga.

“I’m supper happy for winning this race,” said Doom. “I was not expecting to win it and achieve my PB. Especially, this is my first outdoor race this season as I just came out from injury.” The 800m races went to Kenya’s Emmanuel Wanyonyi in 1:43.84 and South Africa’s Prudence Sekgodiso in a personal best of 1:57.26 in the women’s race, the fastest in the world this year. — AFP

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