For Brianna McNeal, it’s a way of making up for lost time: in her second international competition since taking gold at the Olympic Games Rio 2016, the 26-year-old led an American sweep of the top three spots in the women’s 100-meter hurdles in Diamond League action Saturday in Shanghai.
Rainy conditions did not deter McNeal (née Rollins), who compared them favorably to the dry heat of Rio after her 12.50 seconds set a meet record in the event.
McNeal is making up for lost time after a different type of hurdle — a one-year suspension from the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency following three missed tests in 2016, which amounts to a failed test.
“I feel great and it was an intense competition,” she told IAAF.org after the Shanghai win. “Other athletes are very strong. It is a big motivation to me to win the gold medal in Shanghai after gaining the silver one in Doha.”
Sharika Nelvis was right behind McNeal at 12.52 seconds.
After an excellent start, world record holder Keni Harrison was in position to win but slowed after clipping the eighth hurdle. Her 12.56 was still good enough to complete the U.S. podium sweep, ahead of Jasmin Stowers, who ran 12.71.
“It just goes to show I have to clean up my race,” said Harrison, who defeated McNeal to win the event at the Diamond League opener in Doha earlier this month. “The 100 meters is really anyone’s race. This run has been an awakening.”
In Doha, it was Harrison followed by McNeal and Nelvis, with Stowers again in fourth.
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2016 Olympic champion Dalilah Muhammad served up the winning time of 53.77 seconds in the women’s 400-meter hurdles in a photo finish that surprised even herself. Muhammad held off Jamaica’s Janieve Russell by a mere hundredth of a second and initially believed she had lost.
“To be honest, I wouldn’t have minded either way. I just wanted to go out and run well,” Muhammad said. “I am pleased to have run so quickly early in the season. I have lacked a little motivation during training this season because there is no major championship. For the rest of the season I just want to focus on the Diamond League.”
In the women’s shot put, 2016 Olympian Raven “Hulk” Saunders took bronze for a throw that measured 18.63 meters. China’s Gong Lijiao, the reigning world and Diamond League champion in the event, catapulted a mammoth 19.99 meters to easily earn the win, followed by Jamaica’s Danniel Thomas-Todd (18.70).
“I knew I had more and I hate losing,” Saunders told IAAF.org, noting that her technique had suffered after missing some practices. “I just have to fix some things. You can expect a lot coming soon.”
In two surprising performances for Team USA, Sam Kendricks finished ninth in pole vault after an undefeated 2017 season, while 2017 world champion Justin Gatlin was seventh in the 100-meter.
Two-time Olympic gold medalist Christian Taylor, who is taking time away from the triple jump in a year without a world championships, placed fifth in the 400-meter, surrounded by fellow Americans Fred Kerley, Michael Cherry and Vernon Norwood in fourth, sixth and seventh.
Diamond League action continues with the Prefontaine Classic May 25-26 in Eugene, Oregon.
Blythe Lawrence is a journalist based in Seattle. She has covered two Olympic Games and is a freelance contributor to TeamUSA.org on behalf of Red Line Editorial, Inc.