By BRENT STUBBS
Senior Sports Reporter
STEVEN Gardiner kicked off the IAAF Diamond League on Friday at the Doha 2017 meet in Qatar with another victory.
Gardiner, joined by high jumper Donald Thomas at the meet, pulled away from Americans LaShawn Merritt and Tony McQuay to easily take the tape in 44.60 seconds in the men’s 400 metres.
Fresh from his opening leg on Team Bahamas' historic win at the IAAF World Relays in Nassau two weeks ago, Gardiner was just shy of his 2017 world-leading and personal best time of 44.26 seconds that he ran at the inaugural Grenada Invitational in the B final last month.
“It was really hard, but I expected to win,” said Gardiner in a brief interview as he collected $10,000 and eight points for his efforts.
Merritt, the 2008 Olympic and 2009 world champion, crossed the line behind Gardiner in 44.76, followed by McQuay in 44.92, both season's best performances.
Grenada’s Kirani James, the 2011 world champion and 2012 Olympic gold medallist, was also scheduled to compete in the meet but withdrew.
Thomas, the 2007 world champion, picked up a third place finish in the men’s high jump with a season’s best of 2.29 metres (7ft 6in). He earned $10,000 and seven points for his effort.
Mutaz Essa Barshim, Qatar’s Olympic 2016 silver and 2012 bronze medallist, won the event before the home crowd with a height of 2.36m (7ft 83/4in), holding off a strong challenge from Great Britain’s Robbie Grabarz, who cleared 2.31m (7ft 7in) for second place. Grabarz won the 2012 Olympic bronze medal.
The next event in the 14-round Diamond League series will be the Shanghai Diamond League in China on May 13. It will end at the AG Memorial Van Damme on September 1 in Brussels.