Michael Norman and Rai Benjamin compete at the USATF Grand Prix on April 24, 2021 in Eugene, Ore.
After a much abbreviated 2020 season, the 2021 Diamond League is off to a fast start — and U.S. track and field athletes were leading the charge with a handful of world-leading and meet-record results on Friday in Doha, Qatar.
Five days after Americans won four events and reached the podium two more times in Gateshead, England, the U.S. added four more wins and eight total podiums in the series’ second stop.
The women’s pole vault came down to a contest between two Americans, and both Katie Nageotte and 2016 Olympic silver medalist Sandi Morris ended up with the same world-leading height of 4.84 meters — which also tied a meet record. However, Nageotte earned the win due to tiebreakers.
“You can expect anything in pole vault,” said Nageotte, who is seeking her first Olympic berth this summer in Tokyo. “I was ready to come in and jump. I wasn’t sure I was gonna win, but I knew I was ready. I’m happy for that. I think I did pretty good tonight.”
Another meet record went down in the day’s first track event when Team USA’s Rai Benjamin bolted to a time of 47.38 seconds in the men’s 400-meter hurdles. Despite the result, Benjamin, the 2019 world silver medalist in the event, called it “good and decent, but not the best for me.”
Michael Norman led a 1-3-5 American finish in the men’s 400-meter, doing so with a world-leading time of 44.27 seconds. Colombia’s Anthony Jose Zambrano was next at 44.57, followed by Fred Kerley at 44.60. Vernon Norwood took fifth in 44.87.
Kenneth Bednarek posted a second impressive victory in as many meets, edging the reigning Olympic silver medalist Andre de Grasse of Canada by .01 of a second in the men’s 200-meter. Bednarek, who also won on Sunday, again with de Grasse in the field, ran a season-best time of 19.88. Just off the podium in fifth was Justin Gatlin. At 39 years old and aiming for his fourth Olympic team, Gatlin ran a season-best 20.49.
Valarie Allman finished second in the women’s discus. Although she actually had the best throw of the day, hitting 65.57 meters on the fourth attempt, Cuba’s Yaimé Pérez took the win due to a new format in which the top three athletes compete in a one-throw final.
In the women’s 100-meter, Jamaica’s two-time Olympic gold medalist Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce won with a season-best time of 10.84. Blessing Okagbare of Nigeria was just behind her at 10.90, followed by Team USA’s Javianne Oliver at 11.03.
Just off the podium was former world champion and Olympic bronze medalist Emma Coburn, who took fifth in the women’s 3,000-meter steeplechase, just under eight seconds off the leader.