It was not quite the highest profile sprinting duel ever fought in this neck of the track and field woods. Back in 1993 Carl Lewis jetted across the Pond on Concorde to face Linford Christie on the same 100m stretch on which Tyson Gay saw off Asafa Powell in the Aviva British Grand Prix yesterday.
On that earlier occasion the Tyneside arena was filled to 3,000 beyond its official capacity with 14,779 in attendance, a temporary stand having been imported from Silverstone to meet the demand. Christie emerged victorious in 10.08sec, with Lewis only third - behind his American compatriot Jon Drummond, who just happens to be one of Gay's coaches.
It was a sign of these changed times for the pulling power of top class athletics on these shores that, 17 years on, only 7,000 souls turned up at the International Stadium for the first meeting between two of the big three of the 21st Century sprint game on the International Association of Athletic Federation's new Diamond League circuit. Still, they were treated to a cracker of a contest by the speed merchants who happen to be the second and third fastest men of all-time, behind the untouchable Usain Bolt. Powell arrived on Tyneside unbeaten in the 100m this summer and joint top of the world rankings for 2010 with Bolt, the two Jamaicans having both posted 9.82sec times. Gay, the American who finished in between the Caribbean pair as the silver medal winner in the World Championship final in Berlin last summer, was testing himself over 100m for the first time this season.
In the heats there was no hint of the hamstring problem that had troubled Gay since the Manchester street race in May, the native Kentuckian winning the first race in 9.96sec and Powell the second in 10.11sec. When it came to the final, Powell got off to by far the better start but Gay gradually closed him down, edging past in the last 20m and snatching victory by 0.02sec in 9.94sec.
"I didn't even know who had won," Gay said. "I just dipped for the finish line. The hamstring is still tight and that's something I'll have to work on. I'm still rusty." To which Powell responded: "He might say he's rusty but he's ready. I got out well but I eased up too much. I didn't see him coming and couldn't pick it up again."
For the big Jamaican, his time as runner-up, 9.96sec, took his record haul of sub 10-second clockings to 64 – this the day after Christophe Lemaitre became the first white sprinter to achieve the feat, running 9.98sec at the French Championships in Valence. It was not quite Gateshead revisited for Powell, who equalled his old 100m record of 9.77sec when he first ran here in 2006 – and who faces Bolt for the first time this season in Paris on Friday night.
At least he was in Gateshead, though – unlike his training partner, Shelly-Ann Fraser, who was withdrawn from the women's 100m after news broke that she had tested positive for a banned painkiller. In the absence of the Olympic and world champion, the American Carmelita Jeter emerging victorious in 10.95sec.
There were just the two British winners, a fortnight out from the European Championships in Barcelona. Phillips Idowu won the triple jump with 17.38m, while Lisa Dobriskey judged her tactics to perfection in the 1500m, overtaking Steph Twell with 200m remaining and resisting the challenge of Morgan Uncey of the US to win by 0.57sec in 4 min 03.69sec.
Plagued by back problems for the second successive summer, Dorbsiksey appears to be rounding into medal winning form at the right time once again. Last year she took the silver medal at the World Championships and the 26-year-old will travel to Barcelona at the top of the European rankings, having clocked 4:01.83 in Lausanne on Thursday night.
Mo Farah heads the continental order at 10,000m and the Twickenham man produced the time of his life at half the distance in the final event on the programme yesterday. Though the East African opposition proved too hot for the European indoor 3,000m champion in the final 600m, his reward in seventh place was a personal best of 13min 05.66sec. Chris Thompson, who partners Farah in both the 10,000m and 5,000m in Barcelona, knocked a whopping 14 seconds off his lifetime best, finishing 11th in 13:11.51.
There was a season's best of 46.15m for Jessica Ennis in the javelin but the world heptathlon champion – who missed the trials meeting because of a virus – showed minor signs of rust in the 200m, clocking 23.55sec. "I've missed a bit of work and I need to catch up," she said. "By the time I get to Barcelona, I should be ready to go."Reuse content