Tyson Gay of US stands first in 100 m race in Rome

ROME: Tyson Gay has scorched to victory in the 100m here in 9.77sec, leaving fierce rival Asafa Powell in his wake as he set the fastest time of the year at the Rome Golden League meeting.

Gay''s run was his first over the distance this season and proved that the 2007 world champion over 100m and 200m is in scintillating form ahead of the defence of his titles next month.

Powell, who had been suffering from an ankle problem recently, ran his best time of the year to come home second in 9.88sec.

But it was Gay''s race that really set the pulses racing, equalling his own personal best and American record and running 0.09sec faster than Olympic champion Usain Bolt''s best time this year.

But with just a month to go to the World Championships in Berlin, this race proved that there should be a mouth-watering clash between the three fastest men on the planet.

Set alongside Bolt''s 9.86sec in Kingston, Jamaica, last month, the times ran by both Gay and Powell here suggest that Bolt''s 9.69sec world record could come under serious threat in Germany.

Gay''s time came despite Daniel Bailey false starting, but he said he wasn''t reading too much into it.

"I''ve been learning how to refocus at the start (after false starts) and that''s what I''ve done," said the American.

"I don''t know if it is a message to Bolt, it''s not 9.69, but I''m pretty sure he knows I''m training and working hard."

The men''s 100m didn''t provide the only fireworks of the night as Jamaican Kerron Stewart also set a world leading time in the women''s event, beating Olympic champion Shelly-Ann Fraser into second.

Stewart''s 10.75sec run was not only a personal best but was only 0.01sec off the Jamaican record and equalled the meeting record set by Marion Jones back in 1998.

Fraser finished second in 10.91sec, just outside her previous best of the season of 10.88sec at the Jamaican trials.

Stewart''s victory kept her on course for a share of the Golden League jackpot of one million dollars.

American Sanya Richards is another athlete still in jackpot contention having equalled the record of 36 sub-50sec 400m runs in winning her event in a time of 49.46sec.

That matched the achievement set by former East German athlete Marita Koch, although Richards took just five years to reach the mark compared to Koch''s nine.

Ethiopian Kenenisa Bekele also stayed on course for a share of the jackpot after a third successive Golden League victory as he strolled home in the men''s 5,000m in a world leading time of 12min 56.23sec.

What was so impressive about Bekele''s run, a full 19sec off his own world record, was that the next six finishers all set personal bests.

Russian golden girl Yelena Isinbayeva was another to keep her jackpot hopes alive, easily winning the women''s pole vault.

She cleared her first height of 4.75m, which proved enough to claim the victory. She also cleared 4.85m but then failed with her three attempts at 4.95m.

Olympic champion Andreas Thorkildsen of Norway put an end to world champion Tero Pitkamaki of Finland''s jackpot hopes with a huge last throw in the javelin of 87.46m to snatch victory.

Another notable performance was set by Bahrain''s Maryam Yusuf Jamal, formerly Zenebech Tola of Ethiopia, who set a world leading 3min 56.55sec in the women''s 1,500m.