IF the Diamond League’s raison d’etre is to provide more attention-grabbing contests between the world’s top athletes, a sparkling head-to-head between Tyson Gay and Asafa Powell in the blue riband race ensured its British debut was a success.
The men’s 100m more than lived up to its great expectations as, running into a headwind, both broke the ten-second barrier – something no one had done here until Powell equalled his own world record in 2006.
There was intrigue to go with the speed, Gay snatching victory without even realising after Powell had led until the last two strides.
It was a dazzling return by the second fastest man on the planet, whose season has been delayed by niggles but who was also quicker in the heats than Powell, Usain Bolt’s equal in 2010.
He claimed afterwards to be “still rusty,” but Powell did not believe him as he headed off to contemplate Friday’s Paris showdown with Bolt.
There were plenty of other world-class athletes on show, Vincent Chepkok and Piotr Malachowski producing Gateshead’s best ever 5,000m and discus performances and Phillips Idowu and Lisa Dobriskey the home winners.
It only added to the disappointment of so many empty seats.
With Gateshead’s contract expiring this year, it could have been a use-it-or-lose it opportunity – we cannot complain about being treated as second-class citizens by the sporting authorities if we do not turn up in force when a show of this scale comes to town.
Away from the glamour of competing for four-carat gems and five-figure cheques there were other battles going on, just as important in their own way.
Since bursting on to the scene in 2005, Nick McCormick’s has been a losing one.
Having gone out so hard from the gun, his career had hit the wall.
The last two years have been miserable for the Hexham man – losing his lottery funding, missing out on Olympic selection and unsure of his best distance.
On Saturday he was bright and bubbly despite coming tenth in the 1,500m. He did so in a season’s best time – another season’s best time – of 3:37.97.
It is amazing what a clear mind can do for you.
Having made up his mind and returned to the North East and coach Lindsay Dunn, the 28-year-old is already seeing the results of getting back to basics.
He said: “I am kind of going through a process of getting better by a second every race.
“I am moving in the right direction and running much better.
“It just seems I am getting better – a bit – every time rather than like when you break through and hammer a five or six-second PB (personal best). That is what I did a few years ago.
“You have to keep thinking positively and keep improving and that is what seems to be happening.
“I don’t like being beaten by Tom (Lancashire), Badders (Andrew Baddeley) and Colin (McCourt, his compatriots), but if you look at them on paper they are world-class runners and I am as well.
“I feel in a similar position to (women’s 1,500m runner) Hannah England in the last two years in that I am not running badly, I just have three great guys in front of me.
“It inspires me to want to be as good as they are – or better.
“There was a lot of pressure on particularly Badders, Michael East and I in 2005 going into 2006 and then Beijing.
“I did not honestly cope with it that well. I was quite young, and I had gone from 3:39 to 3:33 in one year.”
Having run the 5,000m last year, McCormick now has a clear target – the 1,500m at October’s Commonwealth Games in Delhi.
He added: “I am good at endurance, I love the mile.
“It was something I had missed over the last year through not doing it and not being on a circuit like this.
“My work with Lindsay is more getting back to the basic training.
“I was trying to get more technical and thinking a bit too much about the peripheral training, you might call it.
“The way I am, I like to have the basics right and the rest will follow.
“You just have go back to the things which made you run well in the first place. If that means not doing drills and not doing altitude training or whatever, that is what you have to do.
“I know what I am doing and I am moving forward all the time.”