American sprinter Justin Gatlin (centre) crossing the finish line first in the 200m event at the Monaco Diamond League athletics meet on Friday. - AFP
MONTE CARLO (AFP): Justin Gatlin stormed to the fastest 200m of the year at the Monaco Diamond League meeting on Friday as the American recorded the eighth fastest time ever in the distance.
The 32-year-old won in a time of 19.68sec, just two weeks after he clocked a season-leading 9.80sec in the 100m at Lausanne. Only six men have run faster in the blue riband event.
Gatlin was the 2004 Olympic gold medallist in the 100m and 200m world champion in 2005 before he served a four-year doping ban.
But in the injury-enforced absence of world record holder Usain Bolt this season, the American veteran has seized his opportunity to dominate global sprinting in 2014.
Gatlin finished ahead of Jamaica's Nickel Ashmeade (19.99sec) and Christophe Lemaitre of France (20.08).
Friday's performance was the eighth fastest of all time although Bolt remains the king of the sport with his world record 19.19.
America's Tyson Gay, who only returned to action recently after a doping ban, was fourth.
"I started like it was a 100m race and I continued to push off the bend. I am surprised because it was my first time under 20 seconds," said Gatlin.
In perfect conditions in Monaco, there were a host of other season bests.
In the men's 800m, Botswana's Nijel Amos, the Olympic silver medallist, won in 1min 42.45sec, improving the previous best mark of the year of Kenya's Asbel Kiprop by over a second.
Olympic champion and world-record holder David Rudisha, who won last time out in the Glasgow Diamond League meet, was fifth despite leading early on.
Kenya's Silas Kiplagat took victory in the 1500m, winning in 3min 27.64sec, the fourth quickest in history, although Hicham El Guerrouj's world record of 3min 26.00sec, set 16 years ago, remained safely intact.
Kiprop, who had been expected to attack the Moroccan's long-standing record, was second Friday in 3:28.45 with Ronald Kwemoi, another Kenyan, in third in 3:28.81.
France's Pascal Martinot-Lagarde won his fourth 110m hurdles of the year in 12.95sec but Olympic champion and world record holder Aries Merritt of the United States was only seventh in 13.47.
In the men's 400m, world champion Lashawn Merritt won in 44.30.
Tori Bowie of the United States set the world's best women's 100m time of 10.80, finishing ahead of Jamaica's Veronica Campbell-Brown (10.96sec) and Ivory Coast's Murielle Ahoure (10.97).
Olympic champion Alysson Felix was down in fifth while 100m world and Olympic champion Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce was a poor sixth place finisher.
Colombia's Caterine Ibarguen recorded a season best in the women's triple jump with 15.31m.
The world champion and Olympic silver medallist succeded with her sixth and final attempt improving her personal best of 14.99m.
It was the fifth best performance of all time in the event.