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Akani Simbine gave himself a perfect early birthday present by producing a superb run to win the 100m at the Diamond League meeting in Rome on Thursday night.

The Commonwealth Games champion, who turns 27 on Monday, completed his European season with a fourth consecutive victory by clocking an excellent time of 9.96 seconds to hold off fellow African athlete Arthur Cissé, of Ivory Coast.

Cissé stormed out of the blocks and was well in the lead going into the final 50 metres, but Simbine put his foot down and caught up with his rival, eventually winning fairly comfortably in the end, as the Ivorian took second spot in 10.04.

The South African couldn’t emulate his season’s best of 9.91, but considering the disrupted season due to the coronavirus, he will be delighted with his 9.96 performance at the Olympic Stadium – a considerable improvement on his 10.02 in Switzerland earlier this week – and showed that he could be the man to beat in Tokyo next year.

It wasn’t a memorable night for 110m hurdler Antonio Alkana, though. The African champion ran 13.40 a few nights ago in Switzerland, but got off to a shaky start this time around and wasn’t able to recover. The 30-year-old finished seventh in a time of 13.66, while Britain’s Andrew Pozzi won in 13.15.

In the shot put, South African Zane Weir will be pleased to have participated in his maiden Diamond League event, although he will be a bit disappointed that he couldn’t breach the 20-metre mark – something he has done regularly over the last month.