OSTRAVA, Czech Republic (AP) — Olympic champion Kirani James of Grenanda extended his dominance in the 400 meters on Thursday, setting a meeting record at the Golden Spike.
James moved ahead on the final bend and eased to victory in 44.49 seconds, holding off Wayde van Niekerk of South Africa, who finished second, 0.6 seconds behind. Pavel Maslak of the Czech Republic was third in 45.22.
"To break a record that has been valid for so many years feels very good because it means it was a good record," James said. "I want to improve myself every year and I did not set any specific goal for the season."
The previous record in Ostrava was set by Cuba's Alberto Juantorena in 44.70 in 1976. James wasn't the only Olympic champion, former or reigning, to impress, however. The meet still lost much of its luster after the late minute withdrawal of Olympic sprint champion Usain Bolt, a regular in Ostrava in recent years who opted to stay in Jamaica ahead of the world championships in Moscow, starting Aug. 10.
Three-time Olympic champion Tirunesh Dibaba of Ethiopia was in great shape, less than a year after winning the 10,000 at the London Games. Dibaba produced a strong finish win her race in 30 minutes 26.67 seconds, the fastest time in the world this season.
"I could say I could run much faster but it was little bit windy and the pacemaker didn't run the way I wanted," Dibaba said. "In Moscow, I will run my best and look for one of the medals." Gladys Cherono of Kenya came in second in 30:29.23 and another Ethiopian runner, Belaynesh Oljira, was third in 30:31.44.
Olympic champion Renaud Lavillenie of France cleared 5.92 to claim the men's pole vault, despite an equipment hiccup. Otto Bjoern of Germany was second with 5.72. "It was hard for me to jump high today," Lavillenie said. "I didn't have my poles because they stayed at the airport."
Two-time Olympic champion Valerie Adams of New Zealand outclassed the rest of the field in the women's shot put with the season-leading throw of 20.88. That was 0.18 more than she needed to win the gold in London.
"I improved attempt by attempt and hopefully, the 21-meter mark will be reached soon," Adams said. "This is a good sign for the world championship." Olympic and world 100-meter hurdles champion Sally Pearson of Australia returned victorious from injury in her first major meet since her victory at the London Games. She clocked 12.67 to comfortably beat Czech Lucie Skrobakova by 0.35 seconds.
Jamaica's Andrea Bliss was one hundredth of a second back in third. "The time — 12.67 — is a good sign for the world championships," Pearson said. "I haven't competed for 11 months, therefore I'm satisfied with the result. Still, I have to enter more competitions and absorb the atmosphere."
The Australian, who is coming back from a series of hamstring injuries, also plans to compete at the IAAF Diamond League meet in Birmingham, England, on June 30 as she her hurdles title defense at the worlds.
Pole vault world record holder Yelena Isinbayeva cleared 4.78 to win in her first competition in Europe this season, beating Yarisley Silva of Cuba with 4.72. Isinbayeva, the two-time Olympic and world champion, said she was considering getting married and having a baby after the season — but planned to return for the 2016 Olympics in Rio de Janeiro.
Asafa Powell of Jamaica was the fastest in the 100, clocking 10.06 seconds to edge Kim Collins of St. Kitts and Nevis at the line. Collins timed 10.08 and Mike Rodgers of the United States was third in 10.16.
"Happy to win but not satisfied with the time," Powell said.