Australian race walker Jemima Montag celebrates her victory (© Getty Images)
An Australian wave was expected to swamp these Oceania Championships. It still may, but Rellie Kaputin showed that it will not swamp everything in its path.
The 26-year-old from Papua New Guinea provided the shock of day one and – a further prediction: make of it what you will – is likely to stand up as the shock of the championships when she defeated Australians Brooke Stratton and Naa Anang to take the gold medal in the women’s long jump.
The huge upset came after Jemima Montag and Rhydian Cowley had banked two gold medals for Australia in the race walks.
The 10,000m track events were also part of the IAAF Race Walking Challenge and, like all events at these area championships, came with the bonus of additional area championship points under the IAAF ranking system to be used for qualification for the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games.
Additionally, the warm and humid conditions in Townsville were something of a test run for the conditions athletes can expect both at the IAAF World Athletics Championships Doha 2019 later this year and in Tokyo.
Both Commonwealth 20km champion Montag and Cowley, Olympic and World Championships representative, are coached by Brent Vallance, who guided the career of Jared Tallent through to the gold medal in the 2012 Olympic 50km.
Montag, 21, faced strong opposition from even-younger teammate Katie Hayward, fifth in the 10,000m at last year’s World U20 Championships in Tampere and second to Montag’s third in Adelaide earlier this year.
The pair matched strides early before Montag upped the pressure.
“The focus was on getting points and winning the race,” Montag said. “Then, if I got to 15 laps (6km) feeling good, push on.”
At the finish, Montag’s personal best 43:50.84 saw her almost two minutes clear of Hayward with Claire Woods well back in third.
Montag said Vallance had told her the Oceania race was a good learning opportunity.
“With Naples (World University Games) and Doha, we thought maybe this is a good development opportunity, a chance to get one up on those who may not get a hot-weather race in the lead-up,” said Montag.
Cowley also used a strong second half to break away from world U20 fourth-place finisher Declan Tingay. His 41:57.57 put him 45 seconds ahead at the line.
Cowley said he was well-prepared. “Jemima and I have both been doing sessions in a heat tent.”
Cowley said he was also benefitting from moving into full-time work. “The routine of going to work and training after work seems to be paying dividends,” he said.
Last jump does it for Kaputin
Kaputin waited for the last jump to clinch her surprise win. Her 6.50m effort pushed her a mere centimetre clear of Stratton’s 6.49m, and a hand-span ahead of Anang’s 6.44m.
With two other jumps measuring 6.41m, it was the third time in the competition Kaputin had exceeded her previous national record of 6.39m (she also has a marginally wind-aided 6.53m to her credit from 2017).
None of these distances seemed likely to trouble the Australians coming into the championships. The pair faced up several times through the not-long-concluded domestic season and were regularly jumping distances in the 6.70-range. But neither could find a winning jump when it mattered. Stratton’s next best in the competition was 6.47m. For her part, Anang had a second-best of 6.40m, again well down on previous form.
Kaputin will be chasing a second gold medal in the triple jump later in the championships.
A more expected shut-out of the hosts came in the women’s shot put where New Zealand pair Maddison-Lee Wesche and Victoria Owers took first and second place with Tonga’s Atamaata Tu’utafaiva taking the bronze. Wesche, the world U20 champion, was beyond 18 metres with her best put of 18.04m.
Another 1-2 for New Zealand in the 5000m
New Zealand took another gold and silver brace in the men’s 5000m, Oli Chignall prevailing over Matthew Baxter, 14:07.17 to 14:08.87, in a close finish to a slow race. Australia’s Andrew Buchanan was a distant third.
The warm daylight conditions were not ideal for endurance events, but Australia took a medal sweep in the women’s 5000m through Melissa Duncan, Paige Campbell and Tara Palm. Duncan and Campbell, Australia’s top two finishers at the World Cross Country Championships in Aarhus, ran 15:41.44 and 15:46.25 respectively, with Palm recording 16:35.16.
Lowis making successful transition to senior ranks
World U20 javelin champion Nash Lowis is showing little apparent difficulty in making the transition to the senior ranks.
The 19-year-old has already thrown beyond 80 metres with the senior implement. He did not need that distance here, but his 79.10m was close and almost two metres to the good of Australian teammate Liam O’Brien’s best of 77.32m. O’Brien has also gone past 80 metres this year, but he could not find that sort of form here.
Australia had another win in the men’s pole vault, which was taken out by Angus Armstrong at 5.40m, from teammate Steven Clough and New Zealand’s Nick Southgate.
Decathletes Moloney and Dubler chasing World Championship qualifiers
World U20 champion Ashley Moloney and Cedric Dubler are both on track for a score in excess of 8000 points after the first day of the decathlon.
The pair both competed in Götzis five weeks ago. On that occasion, Moloney was second overall on the first day with 4436, but ultimately it was Dubler who finished ahead of his younger Australian teammate, 8185 to 8038.
Dubler was just 41 points shy of his Götzis first-day score here with 4210 after the first five events. He opened with a 10.85 in the 100m, long-jumped 7.32m, threw the shot 12.09m and then, in his best first-day event, cleared 2.13m in the high jump. He closed with a 48.43 in the 400m.
Moloney tallied 4293 through the first five events. He had an edge in the 100m, where he ran 10.59, the long jump – 7.52m, and the shot put – 13.48m. But a sub-par high jump – just 1.92m – left him needing something special in the 400m to close the day on a good note. He produced it, too, a 46.75 to slice 0.11 off his personal best, set in his gold medal competition at the World U20 Championships last year.
With Dubler having the stronger second day, the decathlon could come down to the last event. The question is whether either athlete can push past the 8200 World Championships qualifier.
Len Johnson for the IAAF