Canada’s Andre De Grasse, left, crosses the finish line to win a men’s 200m ahead of France’s Christophe Lemaitre during the Golden Gala Pietro Mennea athletics meeting, in Rome’s Olympic stadium, Thursday, June 8, 2017. (AP Photo/Andrew Medichini)

De Grasse dominates 200, Merritt 1st DL win since kidney op

ROME — Canadian sprinter Andre De Grasse blew past the field to post a dominating win in the 200 metres Thursday at the Golden Gala Pietro Mennea meet.

At 20.01 seconds, De Grasse established a personal season best, keeping him on track to take over the world title from Usain Bolt, who does not plan to compete in the 200 at the world championships in London in August.

De Grasse already took silver behind Bolt at last year’s Rio de Janeiro Olympics, pushing the Jamaican great to his limit in the semifinals.

This time, De Grasse’s chief competition came from Olympic bronze medallist Christophe Lemaitre of France, who was the runner-up in 20.29 — several strides behind.

“This was a relaxed race for me. I wanted to come home and stay relaxed,” De Grasse said. “My coach told me to just hit it and to bring it home well.”

Ameer Webb of the United States finished third in 20.33 and 18-year-old Italian Filippo Tortu crossed fourth just one hundredth off the podium.

Aaron Brown of Toronto was fifth while Brendon Rodney of Brampton, Ont., was sixth.

This was De Grasse’s final 200 before the Canadian trials and worlds.

“My aim is to get three medals, like in Rio, definitely,” De Grasse said. “We have a strong relay team and I also hope to win a final in London.

“Bolt is a big target for me,” De Grasse added. “It’s very exciting to be part of the young generation coming after Usain.”

For Aries Merritt, victory in the 110 hurdles marked his first Diamond League victory since a kidney transplant two years ago.

Meanwhile, reigning Olympic and world champion Caterine Ibarguen of Colombia was handed only her second loss in the triple jump since 2012.

Merritt, the 2012 Olympic champion from the United States, clocked 13.13 to edge Orlando Ortega of Spain by five hundredths in the hurdles sprint.

“It was a bit sloppy,” Merritt said. “I made many mistakes, hit a lot of hurdles but my speed is getting better. After 2015 it was tough but I am here and I am healthy, so I just need to stay focused and the results will come.”

Olympic silver medallist Yulimar Rojas of Venezuela won the triple jump with a leap of 14.84 metres while Ibarguen finished second at 14.78.

Ibarguen’s only other loss in five years came in Birmingham, England, a year ago.

Hellen Obiri of Kenya flirted with the world record in the 5,000, clocking a world-leading 14:18.37 while Ethiopian rival Genzebe Dibaba finished a disappointing sixth — more than 20 seconds behind.

Dibaba’s older sister, Tirunesh, set the world record of 14:11.15 in 2008.

There was also a world-leading time in the women’s 1,500, with Sifan Hassan of the Netherlands running 3:56.22.

“I did not push and I did not start too fast,” Hassan said. “It was not so hard for me. On the last 20 metres I was pushing myself.”

Dutch sprinter Dafne Schippers won the women’s 100 in 10.99.

“The more starts I have the faster I get,” said Schippers, the Olympic silver medallist in the 200. “I’m preparing myself for both distances, 100 and 200.”

It went down to the final throw for Thomas Rohler to win the javelin competition at 90.06, slightly off the 93.90 he achieved in Doha, Qatar, last month — which was the longest throw in 20 years. Fellow German Johannes Vetter finished second at 88.15.

“This team is really strong and anyone of us can win these competitions,” Rohler said.

Also, Olympic champion Consesius Kipruto of Kenya established a new world leading time in the 3,000 steeplechase at 8:04.63 — 1.35 seconds off his winning time in Rio.

In other Canadian results, Brittany Crew of Toronto was eighth in the women’s shot put, Alyxandria Treasure of Prince George, B.C., was sixth in the women’s high jump, Brandon McBride of Windsor, Ont., was sixth in the men’s 800 metres, Jonathan Cabral of Peribonka, Que., was seventh in the men’s 110-metre hurdles, Toronto’s Gabriela Stafford was 11th in the women’s 1,500 and Andrea Seccafien of Guelph, Ont., was 16th in the women’s 5,000.

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