Sandra Perkovic celebrates her win at the World Athletics Continental Tour Gold meeting in Zagreb (© Zagreb Meeting)
Discus star Sandra Perkovic delighted her home crowd with a winning season’s best performance to end her year on a high at the Boris Hanzekovic Memorial, the final World Athletics Continental Tour Gold meeting of 2022, in Zagreb, Croatia, on Sunday (11).
A number of world medallists were in action at the Sports Park Mladost and joining Perkovic in securing success on an evening of heavy showers were men’s discus champion Kristjan Ceh, 110m hurdles winner Grant Holloway, 3000m steeplechase gold medallist Soufiane El Bakkali and 100m silver medallist Marvin Bracy-Williams.
Just before the celebratory fireworks started off the field of play, Perkovic provided her own flash of brilliance on it, bringing the meeting to a close with a 68.46m throw to beat USA’s Olympic champion Valarie Allman, turning the tables after her defeat at the Wanda Diamond League Final in Zurich three days earlier.
Adding a centimetre to her previous season’s best, set when securing silver at the World Championships in Oregon in July, multiple global gold medallist Perkovic won by almost a metre ahead of Allman, who also achieved her best of the contest in the final round. This time, after winning their head-to-heads in Zurich, Paris, Eugene and Birmingham this season, world bronze medallist Allman had to settle for second with 67.55m, while her US compatriot Laulauga Tausaga, the NACAC champion, was third with 63.59m.
“I knew that I had this hit in me,” said Perkovic, who celebrated her final throw with a cartwheel. “At the end, I just said: ‘It is the last throw of the season, it is now or never’. Valarie was great and the competition was great, the weather was the only problem.”
Ceh was again a clear winner in the men’s discus, the 23-year-old throwing 68.60m to claim his 19th victory of the year and triumph by 1.41m ahead of USA’s Sam Mattis and Sweden’s Olympic silver medallist Simon Pettersson, who respectively threw 67.19m and 66.93m.
Victory for Holloway, meeting record for Clayton
US 110m hurdles star Holloway brought a highly successful year to a close with another win, clocking 13.19 (0.1m/s) in the wet conditions to lead a US top three ahead of NACAC champion Freddie Crittenden in 13.31 and 2021 NCAA champion Robert Dunning in 13.36.
Holloway, the world indoor 60m hurdles record-holder, won the world indoor title in March before retaining his world 110m hurdles title on home soil in Oregon and taking the Diamond Trophy in Zurich.
“This was a great season. It is an amazing feeling to have a triple crown,” he said. “A lot of people wrote me off just because I was not quick enough at some points, but it is all about showing where and when, and winning.”
The women’s 100m hurdles was held just as heavy rain started to fall but USA’s Tonea Marshall maintained her composure to win in 12.74 (-0.1m/s) ahead of Bahamas’ world indoor 60m hurdles silver medallist Devynne Charlton in 12.86 and Jamaica’s Olympic bronze medallist Megan Tapper in 13.03.
USA’s Bracy-Williams went into the men’s 100m targeting Usain Bolt's meting record of 9.85 and although that aim wasn’t achieved, a strong second half of his race saw him claim back-to-back wins in Zagreb. Running 9.97 (0.0m/s), the world silver medallist powered over the line ahead of Britain’s European bronze medallist Jeremiah Azu (10.14) and Kenya’s Commonwealth champion Ferdinand Omanyala (10.19).
Liberia’s double NCAA champion Joseph Fahnbulleh was contesting both the 100m and 200m in Zagreb and after his 10.20 run for fourth place in the shorter event, he returned to the track to celebrate his 21st birthday with a 200m win. Demonstrating his trademark strong finish, he stormed past his rivals down the home straight to win in 20.07 ahead of Cuba's Reynier Mena in 20.17 and Britain’s Charles Dobson in 20.21.
As the rain fell earlier in the meeting, Jamaica’s 2019 world bronze medallist Rushell Clayton broke the meeting record in the women’s 400m hurdles, clocking 53.89 ahead of the fast-finishing European silver medallist Viktoriya Tkachuk of Ukraine. In a close race, Tkachuk ran 54.97 to narrowly pip Clayton’s compatriot, two-time Commonwealth Games champion Janieve Russell, in 55.04 and Panama’s Gianna Woodruff in 55.14.
The men’s race was won by USA’s CJ Allen, who followed his third-place finish in the Diamond League final with a time of 49.10 to hold off France’s Ludvy Vaillant in 49.21.
Fresh from her runner-up place in the Diamond League final, Dominican Republic’s world finalist Fiordaliza Cofil claimed a dominant 400m win, a strong start and an even stronger finish seeing her triumph in 50.73. Jamaica’s Olympic and world 4x400m medallist Candice McLeod was second in 51.52, while world bronze medallist Sada Williams of Barbados finished third ahead of Jamaica’s Stephenie Ann McPherson, 51.76 to 51.91.
Kincaid wins 3000m thriller
After 3000m it was a win that was decided by the smallest of margins, a late burst by USA’s NACAC 5000m champion William Kincaid rewarded with victory in 7:38.83, just 0.001 ahead of Kenya’s 18-year-old world U20 1500m champion Reynold Kipkorir Cheruiyot, his mark a PB.
In a thrilling finish, Australia’s 2019 NCAA champion Morgan McDonald came through for third, also running a PB of 7:39.05. Making an outdoor 3000m debut, Ethiopia's world and Olympic 3000m steeplechase fourth-place finisher Getnet Wale claimed another fourth place, running 7:39.31. Andreas Almgren improved the Swedish record to 7:39.44 in fifth, while Dutch 17-year-old Niels Laros, the two-time European U18 gold medallist, took eight seconds off the European U18 best with 7:48.25 in 10th.
A busy women’s mile was won by Australia’s Olympic sixth-place finisher Linden Hall, who set two meeting records in one race. It was the first time the mile had been contested at the meeting, but Hall also broke the 1500m meeting record en route, clocking 4:03.35.
Hall had been the only athlete to go with the pacemakers and after following them through 800m in 2:07.91, the 31-year-old went on to triumph by two seconds in a PB of 4:21.10, finishing ahead of Germany’s European indoor medallist Hanna Klein in 4:23.52 and Uganda’s Winnie Nanyondo in 4:23.94.
El Bakkali was out to attack the world 2000m steeplechase best of 5:10.68 and although he eventually fell short, his time was the third-fastest in history and his dominant victory was a fine way to sign off a season that has included world gold to go with his Olympic title and a Diamond Trophy win. Crossing the line with 5:14.06 on the clock, he won by nine seconds from Italy’s Leonardo Feleto in 5:23.15.
There was a return to the top for Burkina Faso’s Hugues Fabrice Zango in the men's triple jump, the world and Olympic medallist leaping 17.07m in the final round to strengthen his advantage. With four other jumps over 16.70m, he won ahead of USA’s two-time Olympic and four-time world gold medallist Christian Taylor, who jumped 16.63m, and France’s Jean-Marc Pontvianne with 16.59m.
In the pre-programme women’s javelin, this year’s NACAC silver medallist Ariana Ince of USA improved her PB to 64.38m to win ahead of Serbia’s Marija Vucenovic and Adriana Vilagos, the two-time world U20 champion.
Continental Tour Gold action began in Zagreb's city centre on Friday, when Slovenia’s Tina Sutej set a meeting record to win the women’s pole vault and Australia’s 2012 world indoor silver medallist Henry Frayne leapt a season’s best to win the men’s long jump.
On Saturday, at a temporary arena by the city fountains, Ryan Crouser won the men’s shot put clash in a repeat of the World Athletics Championships podium.
Jess Whittington for World Athletics