Daniel Stahl, winner of the discus in Turku (© Decabild)
More than 10,000 Finnish fans turned up in Turku on Tuesday (14), most of whom wanted to see big throws at the Paavo Nurmi Games. Thanks to the exploits of Daniel Stahl, Oliver Helander and Neeraj Chopra, the World Athletics Continental Tour Gold meeting did not disappoint.
Stahl, the world and Olympic champion, found a way to end Kristjan Ceh’s winning streak in the discus, uncorking a season’s best and meeting record of 70.62m in the first round to pile some early pressure on the giant Slovenian.
It took Ceh until round three to land a valid throw, his 64.69m still almost six metres adrift of the Swede’s lead. Stahl backed up his big throw with a 67.75m effort in round four to maintain the pressure on his opponents. After two more fouls, things finally clicked for Ceh in the final round and he landed a 67.76m throw to move into second place. But that position was short-lived as 2017 world champion Andrius Gudzius threw 68.09m with his final effort to displace Ceh as runner-up.
With four men throwing beyond 67 metres, it was one of the highest-quality discus competitions of the past decade.
“I felt like I was jumping,” said Stahl, who held the previous meeting record at 69.23m. “My first throw was rhythmic and explosive. And it was fun to do my victory lap after that.”
Not long after the conclusion of the discus, it was the turn of the javelin throwers to take centre stage and the competition got off to a strong start when Olympic champion Neeraj Chopra sent his spear out to 86.92m in round one.
But his lead did not last long as Finland’s Oliver Helander produced the throw of his life with 89.83m. Chopra responded with 89.30m, breaking his own Indian record, but it was still only good enough for second place. World leader and world champion Anderson Peters, meanwhile, threw 86.45m in that same round for third place.
Oliver Helander celebrates his javelin performance at the Continental Tour Gold meeting in Turku (© Snou Creative)
Little changed in the second half of the competition. Anderson improved slightly to 86.60m in round five but the Grenadian was unable to surpass Helander and Chopra, meaning the world champion’s winning streak was finally put to an end. Chopra recorded three fouls before ending his series with 85.85m. Despite missing out on victory, he was still delighted with his national record.
No one was happier, though, than Helander, whose 89.83m remained the best mark of the night.
“That was close to a perfect throw,” said the 25-year-old, who is coached by 2007 world champion Tero Pitkamaki. Helander’s previous best of 88.02m was set in 2018, but shoulder injuries have hampered his progress in recent years. “I felt good during warm-up. My shoulder is healthy now, and I am grateful for all the work my coach has done.”
Record books rewritten
It wasn’t just the throwing events where athletes excelled; of the nine meeting records broken on Tuesday, seven of them came in track events.
One of the more surprising performances came in the men’s 400m hurdles where Estonia’s Rasmus Magi – a journeyman of the event, having made his first senior major international championships final a decade ago – finally smashed through the 48-second barrier.
The two-time Olympic finalist was away and clear by the time he entered the home straight and he powered home to win in 47.82, smashing his own national record of 48.11 and moving up to equal sixth on the European all-time list. France’s Wilfried Happio was a distant runner-up in 49.12.
“I was very confident, but I just wanted to make a smooth race,” said Magi, whose next race will be at the Wanda Diamond League meeting in Oslo on Thursday.
Before today, no one had broken 1:45.00 for 800m in Turku. But five men ended up beating that mark and race winner Max Burgin smashed through 1:44.00, winning in a world-leading 1:43.52.
The pacemaker led the field through the first lap in a swift 49.22, but Burgin was tucked close behind and ready to take on the lead duties. The 20-year-old Briton forged ahead on the second lap as the rest of the field started to fade behind him.
He held on to the end and crossed the line in 1:43.52, his legs finally giving way just seconds later as he tripped and fell to the ground, completely spent. His run makes him the fourth-fastest Briton in history behind Sebastian Coe, Steve Cram and Peter Elliott.
Tony van Diepen came through to take second place in a PB of 1:44.24, closely followed by France’s Gabriel Tual (1:44.30).
“I suffered today, but I’m happy to set a PB,” said Burgin. “This was only my second race of the season, but I’m now feeling very confident for the British Championships and the World Championships after that.”
The meeting record was also broken in the women’s 800m, Italy’s Elena Bello running with the confidence from her recent PB in Rome to win in 1:59.84, finishing 0.82 ahead of Britain’s Ellie Baker.
The women’s 100m hurdles produced one of the closest finishes of the day. Nigeria’s Tobi Amusan, Jamaica’s Britany Anderson, Nadine Visser and Liz Clay were all roughly level at half way. Anderson’s run wasn’t quite as clean as her race in Rome, nor did she have as good a start, so Amusan capitalised on that to come through and win in a season’s best of 12.57 (0.2m/s), shaving 0.01 off the meeting record. Anderson was 0.02 behind while Visser was third (12.72).
Daryll Neita’s victory in the 100m flat was more decisive. The Olympic finalist broke the meeting record in the heats, clocking a season’s best of 11.09 (-0.8m/s), and she came close to replicating that in the final with 11.10 (-0.6m/s), winning by 0.26 from fellow Briton Imani Lansiquot.
Meeting records were also set by Italy’s Ayomide Folorunso, who won the women’s 400m hurdles in 54.73; Ethiopia’s Abraham Seme, who won the men’s 3000m steeplechase convincingly in 8:14.87 from Germany’s Frederick Ruppert (8:15.58); and Nina Kennedy, who was a clear winner of the women’s pole vault with 4.65m.
Tervo turns the tables
The evening started well for the Finnish fans as Krista Tervo unleashed a last-round winner of 74.34m to take the women’s hammer.
Krista Tervo celebrates her hammer win at the Continental Tour Gold meeting in Turku (© Snou Creative)
Poland’s Olympic bronze medallist Malwina Kopron took an early lead with 71.93m, only for Azerbaijan’s Hanna Skydan to respond with 73.11m in round four. Tervo matched that distance in round five, but it was only good enough for second place on countback. With her final throw of the competition, however, Tervo sent her hammer out to 74.34m – just six centimetres shy of her Finnish record – to take one of the biggest wins of her career.
Olympic silver medallist Nicola Olyslagers cleared a season’s best of 1.96m to win a competitive high jump contest. Italy’s Elena Vallortigara briefly took the lead with a first-time clearance at 1.94m, but Olyslagers was the only one to get over 1.96m. The Australian went on to attempt 1.99m but was unsuccessful.
World silver medallist Shanieka Ricketts of Jamaica led the triple jump throughout, opening with 14.10m and improving to 14.35m in round two. It held on as the leading mark, but was challenged in the final round by Slovenia’s Neja Filipic, who jumped 14.26m.
Brazil’s 2018 world indoor silver medallist Almir Dos Santos took the men’s triple jump with 16.90m to win comfortably from Italy’s Tobia Bocchi. Multiple world and Olympic champion Christian Taylor, returning from the injury that derailed his Olympic ambitions in 2021, was fifth with 16.04m.
Elsewhere, USA’s Aaron Mallett won the men’s 110m hurdles in a season’s best of 13.22 and Nigeria’s Raymond Ekevwo took the men’s 100m in 10.23.
Jon Mulkeen for World Athletics