Allyson Felix reacts after winning the gold medal in the women's 4x400-meter relay final at the Olympic Games Tokyo 2020 on Aug. 7, 2021 in Tokyo.
While Allyson Felix continued to ease into her final season, several top American stars from the next generation showed they’re already in top form at Thursday’s Diamond League meeting in Rome.
JuVaughn Harrison, Joe Kovacs, Sandi Morris and Athing Mu were all victorious, while Fred Kerley led an American sweep in the men’s 100-meter dash, as U.S. athletes reached the podium 11 times across the 14 events in the Italian capital.
Though Felix wasn’t one of them, her return to the Diamond League marked the ramping up of her final season. The most decorated woman in track and field history came back for one last season after winning her 10th and 11th Olympic medals last year in Tokyo with the hope of ending her career on home soil at the world championships next month in Eugene, Oregon.
Racing in a loaded 200-meter field Thursday, the 36-year-old Felix clocked in at 22.97 seconds for seventh place. Shericka Jackson, last year’s Olympic bronze medalist in the 100, won in a meet-record time of 21.91, while fellow Jamaican Elaine Thompson-Herah was second in 22.25. Thompson-Herah is the two-time reigning Olympic champ in both the 100 and 200.
For Felix, Thursday’s race was seen mostly as a tune-up for the USATF Outdoor Championships coming up June 23-26 in Eugene, where she’s expected to focus on the 400.
While Felix is nearing the end of her career, Mu is just starting hers.
The 20-year-old from New Jersey is already the American record holder in the 800, and last year she became the first U.S. woman to win Olympic gold in the event in 53 years.
She showed she’s ready for more with a scorching run Thursday, crossing the line in a world-leading 1:57.01. Second-place Renelle Lamote of France was nearly a second and a half back.
“I am super excited about this result,” Mu said, according to quotes released by the organizers. “I just wanted to come out here and see where I was at.”
In the women’s pole vault, Morris posted her second win in five days. After winning with a height of 4.65 meters at Sunday’s Diamond League contest in Rabat, Morocco, the 2016 Olympic silver medalist cleared a world-leading 4.81 meters to win Rome.
Holly Bradshaw of Great Britain, the 2020 Olympic bronze medalist, was second at 4.60. Fellow American Katie Nageotte, the reigning Olympic champ, was fourth, also at 4.60, after failing to clear a height in Rabat.
Kovacs, the men’s shot put silver medalist at the last two Olympics, won that event with a best throw of 21.85 meters, going .67 farther than second-place Filip Mihaljevic of Croatia.
Harrison competed in the men’s long jump in Rabat, finishing second. This time the 2020 Olympian switched to his other event, high jump, where he won with a season-best jump of 2.27 meters. Norbert Kobielski of Poland cleared the same height but finished second due to more misses.
In the day’s final event, Kerley, the reigning Olympic silver medalist, led a 1-2-3 sweep in the men’s 100. Crossing the line in 9.92 seconds, he finished under the 10-second barrier for the fourth time this season. Kyree King was second in 10.14 seconds, followed by Cravont Charleston in 10.17.
Fellow Americans Michael Rodgers and Isiah Young were seventh and eighth, respectively.
Two U.S. runners got onto the podium in the men’s 400, with 2020 Olympic relay gold medalists Vernon Norwood taking second in 44.81 seconds and Michael Cherry third in 45.24. Grenada’s Kirani James, a three-time Olympic medalist in the event, won in 44.54.
Quanesha Burks took second in the women’s long jump, posting a season-best distance of 6.77 meters. Reigning world champion and Olympic silver medalist Nia Ali was third in the women’s 100-meter hurdles in 12.71 seconds. Meanwhile, in a race that was not part of the Diamond League program, reigning Olympic silver medalist Kenny Bednarek won the men’s 200-meter in a season-best 20.01 second.
The Diamond League schedule continues June 16 in Oslo, which comes a week before the U.S. championships, where athletes will also earn berths to the world championships.