Allyson Felix won the 150 metres showdown against Olympic 400m champion Shaunae Miller-Uibo tonight in a live link-up, seven-venue Inspiration Games that appeared briefly – but erroneously – to have produced an unfeasible world 200m best from Felix’s fellow American Noah Lyles.
Lyles, despite running into a 3.7 metres-per-second headwind at his base in Bradenton, Florida, stopped the clock at 18.91 secs, with the time rounding down to 18.90 – almost three tenths of a second faster than Usain Bolt’s world record of 19.19 – before it transpired that the world champion had mistaken his start point and had only run 185 metres.
Commentator Steve Cram called it correctly as soon as the time came up – "that can’t be right"- and within a couple of minutes the explanation became clear.
It was nevertheless a startlingly good performance by Lyles in a race where he looked a different class to his two opponents - France’s 2010 European champion Christophe Lemaitre, who clocked 20.65 running at the meeting epicentre in Zurich, and the 2016 European champion Churandy Martina, who was timed at 20.81 running in blustery wind and 18C at Papendal in The Netherlands.
"I’ve been working really hard on running the bend and that felt fast," said Lyles, whose 200m personal best is 19.50 and who wants to double with the 100m at next year’s rearranged Tokyo 2020 Olympics.
Portugal’s double world triple jump silver medallist Pedro Pablo Pichardo, competing on his own in Lisbon, defeated the world and Olympic champion Christian Taylor with an effort of 17.40 metres that would have led the world’s listings this year but for a following wind marginally over the legal limit for records, at 2.3mps.
Taylor, as so often, produced his best with his last effort, but could only manage 17.27 with a following wind of 4.2mps in Bradenton.
Meanwhile in Walnut, California, fellow American Omar Craddock managed 17.04.
Felix, also competing in Walnut, stopped the clock at 16.81 to beat the effort of 17.15 laid down in Bradenton by her Bahamian rival, who may be forced to forego the defence of her Olympic 400m title if the Games go ahead as planned in Tokyo as the schedule would not permit her to double with her main target of the 200m.
The third runner involved in the race, Switzerland’s Mujinga Kambundji, clocked 17.28 in Zurich’s Letzigrund Stadium.
The 34-year-old multiple Olympic and world champion, who returned to racing last year after giving birth to a daughter, said: "That was weird!
"It’s hard to challenge yourself.
"I missed the normal atmosphere, but I love this sport and so any chance to get out here and run and I’ll take it – it’s been a long time.
"We see what a hardship everyone is going through, and we wanted to bring a little joy.
"This was fun – I can’t wait until we do it in person."
Felix rounded off her day by helping the North America 3x100m relay team – also comprising Candace Hill and Olympic long jump champion Tianna Bartoletta – win the eighth and final event in 32.25 ahead of a Swiss trio in Zurich who clocked 32.50 and a Dutch trio including double world 200m champion Dafne Schippers, who clocked 32.94 in Papendal.
There was another outstanding performance in Walnut as US 400m hurdler Georganne Moline, running in her first race in 18 months following foot surgery, won the 300m hurdles in 39.08, with Switzerland’s European champion Lea Sprunger, running in Zurich, clocking 39.25 and the Czech Republic’s double world champion Zuzana Hejnová clocking 40.97 in the chill of Papendal.
Double world pole vault champion Sam Kendricks of the United States showed himself to be in superb shape as he held off competition from Poland’s Piotr Lisek, who managed a best of 5.66m to clear 5.81 at his first attempt before having three decent shots at 5.91.
The women’s pole vault went, easily, to the US world indoor champion Sandi Morris, who had a best of 4.66 after Greece’s Olympic champion Katerina Stefanidi had failed at her first height of 4.46 and Sweden’s Angelica Bengtsson, competing in a chilly Karlstad, had bowed out at 4.56 after clearing 4.46.
The men’s 100 yards dash involved three competitors on the same track in Bradenton – albeit separated by empty lanes – and victory went to Canada’s Rio 2016 silver and bronze medallist Andre De Grasse, who clocked 9.68 ahead of training partners Jimmy Vicaut of France, who was timed at 9.72, and Rio 2016 110m hurdles champion Omar McLeod, who ran 9.87.
It was another encouraging night for the sport in this latest high profile COVID-19 lockdown-busting initiative following last month’s Impossible Games in Oslo.