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Richards races to year's fastest time in Zurich

Sanya Richards celebrates victory in the women's 400-metres race in the new Letzigrund stadium. Keystone

American 400-metre runner Sanya Richards set a year's best time in winning the Weltklasse Golden League meet in the Swiss city of Zurich on Friday.

This content was published on September 7, 2007 - 23:21

It was the first major sports event at the Letzigrund stadium, which saw 11 recent world champions taking part in the competitions.

Richards, who failed to qualify for her premiere event at the world championships in Osaka, Japan, last month, won in 49.36 seconds on the new track, which organisers billed as “the fastest in the world”.

She stays in the race for the million-dollar Golden League Jackpot alongside Russia’s Yelena Isinbayeva. She won her fourth pole vault competition with a clearance of 4.80 metres.

The million-dollar jackpot is split between athletes who win their selected event in all six Golden League meets.

"That's my number one goal of the season,” Richards said. “Two more to go. It was fantastic to win in this stadium.”

However, Michelle Perry’s hopes of a share of the prize money ended when she finished only third in the women’s 100m hurdles behind Sweden’s Susanna Kallur and Delloreen Ennis-London of Jamaica.

Spectators chose Croatia’s Blanka as the best athlete of the event. She dominated the women’s high jump with 2.04 metres but failed three times when the bar was set at a world record height of 2.10m.

Without Gay

Francis Obikwelu of Portugal won a depleted 100m race in 10.17 seconds, ahead of Britain's Marlon Devonish, who finished in 10.20 seconds. Jaysuma Saidy Ndure of Norway was third in 10.20 seconds.

The new world champion, Tyson Gay, and silver medallist Derrick Atkins withdrew from the race citing tiredness after the championships in Osaka.

The evening began with French athletes winning the first two major races after Osaka, where France failed to win a single event.

Two-time European champion Mehdi Baala won the 1,500 metres just ahead of Christine Arron's triumph in the women’s 100 metres.

“It was especially nice to win this inaugural race,” Arron said of the new stadium. “The track is good but it's tough to say if it's fast, because everyone is tired from the Worlds and not necessarily on form.”

Swiss highlight

The Swiss 4x100m relay team clinched fourth place with 39.24 seconds clocking a season’s best time.

They were beaten by the US team with Gay, Dixon, Spearmon and Patton, who finished in 38.40 seconds, followed by Jamaica and Germany.

Swiss triple jumper Alexander Martinez came seventh, while Felix Loretz threw the javelin 75.62 metres and finished eighth.

He beat his fellow-countryman Stefan Müller, who came ninth, just like Andreas Kundert in the 110m hurdles event.

swissinfo with agencies

In brief

The Zurich Weltklasse meeting was first held in 1928.

23 world records have been broken at the Zurich event, the last three taking place in 1997.

This year’s meeting comes hot on the heels of the World Athletics Championship in Osaka, Japan.

Friday’s Golden League meeting is the first major event in the new 29,000-capacity Letzigrund Stadium in Zurich which was rebuilt for SFr125 million ($105 million).

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Golden League Meeting

The Golden League is a series of the six most important athletics meetings in Europe.

Zurich is the fourth event after Oslo, Paris and Rome which took place in June and July.

The final two meetings of the year will be held in Brussels on September 14 and Berlin on September 16.

Athletes who win all six meetings take a share of $1 million while those who win five get a slice of $500,000.

After four competitions, only two athletes are still in the race to win the jackpot. American Sanya Richards over 400m and Russia’s Yelena Isinbayeva in the pole vault event.

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