DOHA (Reuters) - Justin Gatlin blasted out a warning that he is ready to challenge Usain Bolt's 100 metres hegemony when he stormed to a lifetime best 9.74 seconds to win the event in the opening Diamond League meeting of the season on Friday.
In a sizzling night’s action Mo Farah suffered a rare loss, to Ethiopian Hagos Gebrhiwet over 3,000m, Pedro Pichardo and Christian Taylor joined triple jump's exclusive 18-metre club and Jasmin Stowers continued her heady rise in the 100m hurdles.
As always, however, the 100m was the race everyone wanted to watch, with the big question being whether 33-year-old Gatlin would start this season in the form he finished the last where he posted six of the year's seven fastest times.
The twice-banned doper wasted no time in answering as he was first out of the blocks and clear by halfway, punching the air after clocking the world leading time and leaving second-place American Mike Rodgers trailing by more than two metres in 9.96.
Jamaican Bolt remains the favourite to retain his world title in Beijing later this year but knows he will have to be right at the top of his game and fully fit to hold off the challenge of the 2004 Olympic champion.
"It was a magical night for me," Gatlin said. "Doha is a great place for me and with that performance I put out a statement."
Double world and Olympic distance champion Farah was hoping to do the same in the 3,000m and looked in control until just after the bell.
However, the Briton, who broke the world indoor two-mile record earlier this year, struggled over the equivalent distance in Doha.
When Ethiopian duo Gebrhiwet and Yomif Kejelcha burst past him, Farah was unable to hold them off and, although he clawed his way back into contention on the home straight, he finished second to clear winner Gebrhiwet.
Fans alongside the triple jump pit were treated to a memorable night as Cuba's Pichardo soared to 18.06 metres with his third jump, making him the third-best triple-jumper ever behind Kenny Harrison and Jonathan Edwards.
There was more to come, however, as Taylor flew to 18.04 with his final jump of the night -- becoming only the fourth man to clear 18 metres.
Fellow American Stowers hammered a stacked field with her third personal best of the year and a Diamond League record 12.35 seconds in the 100 hurdles as Olympic champion Sally Pearson came fourth and Dawn Harper-Nelson finished last.
The Diamond League continues in Shanghai, China on Sunday.
Writing by Mitch Phillips in London, Editing by Pritha Sarkar and Ken Ferris