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De Grasse storms to victory in 200m

RABAT (Morocco)

Canadian sprinter Andre De Grasse claimed the victory he needed in the 200 metres to book a place in the end-of-season IAAF Diamond League finals during the latest stop in the series in Rabat, Morocco on Sunday.

The Olympic silver medallist stormed home in 20.03 seconds ahead of American Ameer Webb (20.18) and Britain’s Zharnel Hughes (20.22).

Like many of the athletes on show, De Grasse, seen as the heir to Bolt when the Jamaican great calls it quits after London, was using the event as a warm-up for the world championships in London from August 4-13. He was pleased with his run, but has yet to go under 20 seconds this season.

“It was a good race and a good performance,” De Grasse said. “I was pushed in the bend, but I wanted to finish strong today and to stay relaxed. This was a race to tune-up for the world championships and it went pretty well.”

The 22-year-old made history in Rio last year when he became the first Canadian sprinter to win three medals at a single Olympics — silver in the 200m, behind Bolt, and bronze from the 100m and 4x100m relay. Jamaican sprinter Elaine Thompson picked up her 14th victory in a row in the 100 metres, edging Ivorian Marie-Josee Ta Lou.

Thompson’s time of 10.87 was an improvement on her run in London last weekend by 0.07, and more success for the double Olympic champion, who has focused only on this distance in 2017.

“I’m pleased with my race,” Thompson said. “I’m in the shape that I want to be in and I’m looking forward to the world championships in London.”

With Jamaica’s Yohan Blake having pulled out of the men’s 100 metres competition, Britain’s Chijindu Ujah claimed victory in 9.98 seconds, 0.02 off his personal best.

Ivorian Ben Youssef Meite was second in 10.01, while another Britain, Nethaneel Mitchell-Blake, was some way off the pace in third in a time of 10.18.

“I hope I can do something very special in London,” ventured Ujah ahead of his clash with Jamaican sprint legend Usain Bolt next month.

Morocco’s 21-year-old rising star Soufiane El Bakkali saw off Kenyan rival Jairus Kipchoge Birech in the men’s 3,000m steeplechase in a personal best of 8min 05.12sec. Kenya’s Olympic champion Conseslus Kipruto did not finish the race. Another Moroccan Abdelaati Iguider won the men’s 3,000m.

The eagerly-anticipated women’s 400 metres battle between Olympic champion Shaunae Miller-Uibo of the Bahamas and South Africa’s 800 metres Olympic champion Caster Semenya was a non-event.

Miller Uib coasted home in 49.80, but Semenya was well back in seventh in a time of 51.53, though that was her best run of the Diamond League series.

American Ryan Crouser claimed a 10th straight win in the shot put with 22.47 metres, while Colombia’s Olympic champion Caterine Ibarguen returned to winning ways in the triple jump with 14.51 metres to beat Jamaican Kimberly Williams (14.31m) after defeat by Yulimar Rojas in Rome.

“I’m hoping to arrive at the worlds at my top level,” said Ibarguen.

The Moroccan fans were served up a home 1-2-3 in the men’s 1,500m won by Brahim Akachab, while Botswana’s Nijel Amos, who has the fastest time in the world this year, won the 800m in 1min 43.91. Kenyan Kipyegon Bett (1:44.28) came in second, with absent Olympic champion David Rudisha waiting for them in London.

The next Diamond League meeting is in Monaco on July 21.

The two finals meets are in Zurich and Brussels, with half of the 32 events contested in each. The Diamond League title in each event is determined solely by results at the finals.