Athletics: Bolt fires Gay broadside as Dibaba shines

PARIS (AFP) - Usain Bolt fired out a warning to American arch-rival Tyson Gay by scorching to a world-leading time of 19.73 seconds in the 200m at the Paris Diamond League meet on Saturday.

The 26-year-old Jamaican, a two-time Olympic and world champion over the distance, held off the attentions of compatriot Warren Weir to streak past the field in emphatic style.

Edging Gay's season best by one-hundredth of a second was the perfect broadside in the run-up to what promises to be a keenly contested World Athletics Championships in Moscow between August 10-18.

In perfect conditions with temperatures of 27 deg C, Bolt led a host of impressive performances from a stellar line-up on the track and in the field.

Grenada's Olympic and world 400m champion Kirani James ran a seemingly effortless world leading time of 43.96sec, holding off a late surge from American LaShawn Merritt, the man who previously held both titles.

James, who became Grenada's first Olympic medallist in any sport in London, said it was impossible to nail down one thing as essential for winning gold in Moscow.

"Weather, shape, conditions, all that will play a role and there will be seven other guys in the final," he said.

"You always need to pay attention to runners like LaShawn - if he were far too ahead, it'd be tough to catch and beat him." Ethiopian long-distance superstar Tirunesh Dibaba flew to a meeting record of 14:23.68 in the women's 5000m - the seventh fastest of all time behind her own world record.

Dibaba, twice Olympic 10,000m champion and twice world champion at both 5,000 and 10,000m, had compatriot Almaz Ayana for company as she broke with 800m to go, but she was never in danger as she sprinted home.

"With more pacemaking, I could have run even faster," Dibaba said, adding that her Moscow goals were clear: "I want to double at 5 and 10km. And next year to make my marathon debut."

Jamaica's Olympic women's 100m gold medallist Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce almost suffered a setback, a savage dip just seeing her edge Nigerian Blessing Okagbare by a hundredth of a second with victory in a season's best of 10.92sec.

Francine Niyonsaba of Burundi, 20, underlined her early-season form in winning the women's 800m in 1:57.26.

France's Mahiedine Mekhissi Benabbad set a new European record of 8:00.09 in the 3000m steeplechase, beating the previous record set by compatriot Bouabdellah Tahri when winning bronze at the Berlin worlds in 2009.

Mekhissi took the lead as the bell rang, but Kenyan Olympic and two-time world champ Ezekiel Kemboi took charge and led the Frenchman home.

"The European record was my goal, so I'm happy I did it," said Mekhissi.

"But I also wanted to win - I was close." Olympic champion Renaud Lavillenie bounced back from his no-mark show in Lausanne on Thursday with a comprehensive win in the pole vault, his best at 5.92m.

Russian Ana Chicherova won the women's high jump, her 2.01m outdoing American Brigetta Barrett and Croat Blanka Vlasic, while world record holder Aries Merritt got his season back on track with victory in 13.09sec in the 110m hurdles.

Kenyan-born American veteran Bernard Lagat could only manage 13th in a 1500m won by Djibouti's Ayanleh Souleiman in 3:32.55.

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