“The Prefontaine Classic is to track as the Masters is to golf.”
This was an insight shared by one of the hosts of the first and only press conference on Friday ahead of the first return of the Prefontaine Classic to Eugene in three years. If last weekend’s turnout was any indication, this insight rings true.
The newly renovated Hayward Field welcomed the biggest crowd since its new opening. It was the first meet after the Tokyo Olympics and had a plethora of star-studded athletes making their return to the Diamond League circuit post the Olympics.
Along with the return of Sha’Carri Richardson to the women’s 100m race after being left off the USA Olympic roster, Noah Lyles returned in the men’s 200m looking to bounce back after a tough Olympics.
The most dominant man in shotput right now, Ryan Crouser, kept rolling on Saturday.
“I felt really good coming out here today and it’s always a challenge coming off a major championship. Like we just had Tokyo to travel and take a big sigh of relief then to refocus in,” said Crouser. “So, I was really happy with my execution coming off a major championship.”
Crouser had another casual first-place finish as he threw for a Diamond League record and a meet record of 23.15 meters (75.95 feet). The next closest was Brazilian Darlan Romani with 21.69 meters (71.16 feet).
Noah Lyles did not have the run at the Olympics he had hoped for but he convinced himself to come to Eugene and try to end his season on a high note before looking ahead to next year’s World Championships.
Andre de Grasse, who was in the men’s 100m field, did not compete in the 200m, but the silver medalist from this past Olympics Kenneth Bednarek was setting his sights on finishing first ahead of Lyles. In his time as a professional Lyles had only lost two 200m races in his career. Lyles returned to his winning form as he set the fastest time in the world this year and a meet record with a time of 19.52 pulling away from Bednarek during the final meters.
“As we came out I looked up and saw everybody and thought we didn’t even get this at the Olympic trials. It was exciting to see, I don’t think you understand how lifeless it was at Tokyo with no crowd there; like it would be dead silent,” Lyles said. “Then to come here and see so many people who love track it was amazing to see.”
Athing Mu, who won the gold medal in Tokyo, mentioned on Friday that her race on Saturday would be her last for a while as she wanted to take a break from running.
Similar to the women’s 100m field, the women’s 800m featured the top three finishers from Tokyo. Mu came out razor-focused, with her eyes set on creating a lasting impression before her break. She did that when she broke the American record for the 800m during Saturday’s race.
Looking at the field she raced against, it was competitive and it was astonishing when she finished with a 1.55.04 with a lengthy lead on second place.
“The coolest thing about being here at Hayward this is my third time here starting off with NCAA season than going into the Olympic trials and now the Diamond league,” Mu said. “The Hayward magic as they call it has grown every time I’ve been here and this is the greatest field of people ever and just to experience it was really nice so I’m just happy I got that chance to do it.”
Even though Mu is unsure of her return, she has really established herself as a force to be reckoned with in the women’s 800m.
Tokyo’s Gold medalist for the Men’s 100m was not present for this race, but the second, third, and fourth place finishers were ready to run in Eugene.
Fred Kerley of the United States and Andre de Grasse of Canada, who finished second and third, were ready to square off for the first time since the Olympics.
As the race unfolded, de Grasse was able to overtake the field and earn himself a win with a time of 9.74.
“It felt good to finally compete in front of fans,” said de Grasse. “Tokyo was so tough to not have any fans there so it was good to come back here and race in front of fans. That got my adrenaline going so I knew it was going to be a good race. So, I went out there and had some fun and I was happy I was able to run a good time.”
The energy in the press conference on Friday as the three Jamaican women came to the stage along with the return of Sha’Carri Richardson felt noticeably different than the other athletes prior.
The podium at Tokyo was a sweep for team Jamacia as Elane Thompson-Herah, Shelly-Ann Fraser-Price and Shericka Jackson finished as the top three.
Thompson-Herah is one of two people to win both the 100m and 200m in back-to-back Olympics the other being fellow Jamaican Usain Bolt.
She set an Olympic record with her time of 10.61 and set her sights on being able to finish atop the podium again.
Sha’Carri Richardson found herself in between all three of the medalists from Tokyo and only lost one race all year leading up to this weekend.
“The world might think this is Richardson versus the Tokyo podium,” mentioned an NBC broadcast just before the race got underway.
No one expected Richardson to finish last of the nine women in the field, while the trio of Jamaican women stole the show again.
As could be expected for those following track, the same three who finished in Tokyo repeated the exact same finish at the Prefontaine Classic.
Elane Thompson-Herah flirted with Florence Griffith Joyners (FloJo) world record time of 10.49 and finished her race with a time of 10.54. That ranks her second all-time and now owning the Diamond League record and Jamaican national record.
After the events had concluded, a few athletes decided this would be their last competition for a while, but the Diamond League competition will continue with plenty of stars persisting to chase more records. The next events will take place in Lausanne, Switzerland on Aug. 26, then a very quick turnaround coming Aug. 28 in Paris, France.
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