Ana Guevara won the women’s 400 meters at the Prefontaine Classic on Saturday in a meet-record 49.34 seconds.
Cathy Freeman, the 2000 Olympic gold medalist at the distance, appeared to lose steam and finished fifth.
In the other premier event at the meet, Kim Collins of St. Kitts won the men’s 100. World record holder Tim Montgomery withdrew earlier in the week because of a foot injury.
Freeman was running in her first international 400 since the Sydney Olympics, when she became the first aboriginal Australian to win a gold medal. The victory made her a national hero, but she took an extended break from running and recently has started her comeback in preparation for the 2004 Athens Games.
“It’s one of those days where I wasn’t quite on it,” Freeman said. “I definitely have to have more self-confidence and start believing in myself again.”
Guevara, from Mexico, set a world record in the 300 earlier this month in Mexico City. She pumped her arms into a strongman pose after she crossed the finish line, then paused to give Freeman a hug.
“I have to say I feel very good,” Guevara said. “With all the history of the Prefontaine Classic, this was a great race to win. Forty-nine is fantastic.”
Tonique Williams of the Bahamas finished second at 50.39 seconds and Ronetta Smith of Jamaica was third at 51.44.
Montgomery ran 9.78 in the 100 meters last September in Paris, breaking Maurice Greene’s record by one-hundredth of a second. But he withdrew from the Prefontaine after injuring his foot earlier this week.
Collins, who outran Greene last week at the Oregon Track Classic with a time of 10.21 seconds, won again Saturday in 10 seconds even, tying the meet record set by Coby Miller in 2000.
“I haven’t done anything yet to earn respect,” said Collins, who didn’t arrive in Eugene until late Friday night after his plane was delayed. “You have to win something like the World Championships to earn that. But this is a good start.”
The Prefontaine is named after Oregon distance-running great Steve Prefontaine, who died in a car accident in Eugene in 1975.
The meet is one of three international Grand Prix events scheduled for the United States this season. It’s also the second event this season on USA Track & Field’s Outdoor Golden Spike Tour.
The tour stops in Carson for a meet at the Home Depot Training Center next Sunday.
Montgomery’s girlfriend, star sprinter Marion Jones, is taking time off to have the couple’s baby, meaning the top ranking in the women’s 100 is up for grabs.
Among those jockeying for position is Kelli White, who had the best time in the world this season when she topped the field Saturday in 10.96 seconds. Chryste Gaines was second in 11.03 seconds.
In the women’s 100-meter hurdles, American record holder Gail Devers stumbled after a fast start, and Jamaican Brigitte Foster won with a meet record of 12.45 seconds -- also a Jamaican national record. She topped Devers’ Prefontaine Classic mark of 12.64, set two years ago.
Devers is coming off a right hamstring injury. “I needed this race to give me the OK to race and start training hard again,” she said.
In the women’s 1,500 meters, Suzy Favor Hamilton led most of the way until Jolanda Ceplak of Slovenia took over on the final straightaway to win with a time of 4:02.44 -- fastest in the world this season by seven seconds. Favor Hamilton, a three-time Olympian, finished second at 4:03.47.
In the women’s 800, Maria Mutola of Mozambique won in 1:57.98, her 12th consecutive victory at the Prefontaine.
Tyree Washington, the reigning world indoor champion in the 400, posted the best outdoor time in the event this season at 44.70 seconds. Finishing second was Michael Blackwood of Jamaica at 45.03.
Bernard Lagat of Kenya won the Bowerman Mile in 3:50.21.