China's Gong Lijiao in action in the shot put (© AFP / Getty Images)
World leads by Lijiao Gong and Gudaf Tsegay were among the highlight performances at the inaugural Nanjing World Challenge on Tuesday (21).
Competing before an appreciative crowd of more than 12,000 at the Nanjing Olympic Sports Centre Stadium, Gong, who suffered a rare defeat on home turf in Shanghai on Saturday, avenged that loss with a flourish as the attention of the athletics world moved 300 kilometres to the west.
Shaking out the rust with an 18.90m throw in the first round, the world champion took command with a 19.42m toss in the second before blasting a 19.84m effort in the third to effectively put the competition out of reach. Underscoring her evening form, she closed off with a 19.77m effort.
"I'm pretty happy for what I achieved today," Gong said. "I'm training for late in the season so it's nice to win early season at home. Next time I'll try to reach 20 metres."
Jamaican Danniel Thomas-Dodd and Shanghai winner Chase Ealey of the US each reached 19.21m, with the former taking second on countback.
Tsegay, who was edged out at the line by just a tenth of a second in Shanghai three days ago, learned from that and left no room for her pursuers here, holding her position over the final 30 metres en route to a 3:59.57 clocking, the fifth fastest performance of her career.
The 22-year-old Ethiopian held off compatriot Axumawit Embaye, who clocked a 4:00.17 lifetime best, and Dutchwoman Sifan Hassan, who improved her season’s best to 4:00.53.
Infield victories for Wang and Wang
There were two more victories on the infield for China, courtesy of Wang Yu in the high jump and Wang Zheng in the women’s hammer.
Wang Zheng, who captured the Asian title last month, pulled off a minor upset here, throwing 75.27m for her second Hammer Throw Challenge victory in just over 48 hours. Astonishingly, her best performance here equalled her winning effort in Osaka on Sunday.
DeAnna Price of the US was second with 74.21m with world record-holder Anita Wlodarczyk, who was making her 2019 debut, third, with a 73.64m best.
Wang Yu, meanwhile, topped 2.31m on his first attempt, a season’s best, before bowing out with three tries at 2.33m. The Shanghai winner was pleased but at the post-meeting press conference asked local journalists to temper their expectations.
“I'm not in a hurry (to break records),” he said. “I need to improve step by step.”
Sprint hurdles wins for Ortega and McNeal
The sprint hurdles are popular events in China, and both of the loaded men’s and women’s fields delivered thrillers.
In the men’s 110m race, Olympic gold and silver medallists Omar McLeod and Orlando Ortega were nearly stride-for-stride over the first nine barriers before the Spaniard marginally pulled ahead on the lean to take the win by 0.01 in 13.27.
The women’s 100m hurdles was even closer with the first four crossing the line within just 0.02. Here, Olympic champion Brianna McNeal closed well to out-dip Nia Ali, both credited with 12.78. Christina Clemons, who led early on, was third in 12.79 with Queen Harrison fourth, another 0.01 back.
One of the best finishes of the night came courtesy of Japan’s Takatoshi Abe, who ran down five competitors over the final straight of the 400m hurdles to collect his first victory of the season. The 27-year-old clocked 49.16, holding off Pole Patryk Dobek and David Kendziera of the US, who clocked 49.23 and 49.27, respectively.
Nijel Amos took another decisive 800m victory, his second in as many outings this season. Similarly to his world leading win in Doha 18 days ago, Amos was dominant down the homestretch en route to a 1:44.38 clocking, .09 shy of his world lead. Kenyan Cornelius Tuwei was a distant second in 1:44.91 with Jonathan Kitilit third (1:45.58).
In the women’s race, Shanghai 1500m winner Rababe Arafi put on another strong homestretch performance to nearly pull off another victory on her Chinese tour but was ultimately denied by Nelly Jepkosgei. The Kenyan won by a scant 0.04 in 1:59.98 to notch the biggest international victory of he career.
Benjamin Kigen won the men’s 3000m steeplechase in 8:08.94, his second fastest time ever, pulling away from Abraham Kibiwot over the last 200 metres. Kibiwot clocked 8:10.27.
Another clutch performance for Taylor
With Pedro Pablo Pichardo kept away by visa issues, the triple jump competition came down to a face-off between world champion Christian Taylor and world leader Omar Craddock. Again it was Taylor who prevailed after delivering a clutch performance in the final round, reaching 17.47m to pull ahead of Craddock, who bounded out to 17.40m in round two. Craddock dug deep in the competition’s final round but came up just short, improving to 17.42m.
Briton Jazmin Sawyers celebrated her 25th birthday with a victory in the long jump, reaching a season’s best of 6.56m in the fifth round to overtake Australian Naa Anang, who reached 6.52m in both rounds two and six.
Olympic champion Thomas Rohler of Germany and Czech Jakub Vadlejch finished 1-2 in the men’s javelin - using the same spear.
Rohler produced the best two throws of the competition, reaching 86.39m in the second round and 85.79m in the fifth to secure his first win of the season. Rohler used the Czech’s spears both here and in Shanghai after his arrived in China last week battered and broken.
Vadlejch threw 85.34m.
Sprint wins for Thompson and Rodgers
Olympic champion Elaine Thompson chiseled together a solid victory in the 200m, running well over the final 70 metres to win in 22.40. Behind her, world 400m silver medallist Salwa Naser was pleased after finishing strong and overtaking Nigerian Blessing Okagbare to take second by 0.02 in 22.56, her third PB over the distance in as many races and a Bahraini record.
The meet was capped by the men’s 100m, the closest race of the night. Olympic bronze medallist Andre De Grasse of Canada produced a strong late-race surge, but ran out of room to catch Michael Rodgers who was given the edge. Both clocked 10.09.
Bob Ramsak for the IAAF