Yulimar Rojas in action in Madrid (© Daniel Meumann / Sportmedia)
The triple jump provided the main highlights of the Meeting Madrid, a World Athletics Continental Tour Silver meeting, in the Spanish capital on Saturday (19).
On a pleasant evening for athletics with temperatures at about 24C, world indoor record-holders Yulimar Rojas of Venezuela and Hugues Fabrice Zango of Burkina Faso came out on top in the women’s and men’s competitions respectively.
Rojas produced her most consistent series ever with four leaps beyond 15 metres, topped by a wind-assisted 15.34m and consolidated with three slightly shorter wind-legal marks. Zango, meanwhile, took a thrilling men’s contest with a wind-assisted 17.83m to beat Portugal’s Pedro Pablo Pichardo by just 14 centimetres.
Whenever Rojas competes, there is little doubt over whether she will win. The only question is: how close to the world record will the Venezuelan get? And today the answer was 31 centimetres.
Boosted by her recent national long jump record of 6.88m set last week in La Nucía, the two-time world champion opened with 15.19m (1.4m/s), her longest ever round-one leap, immediately giving her a significant margin over Spain’s Ana Peleteiro (14.39m) and Portugal’s Patricia Mamona (14.35m).
Rojas leapt 15.16m in round two while France’s Rouguy Diallo moved to second, thanks to a PB of 14.51m. After a foul in round three, Rojas sailed out to 15.18m and 14.99m with her next two jumps before concluding her stunning series with 15.34m (2.2m/s).
Rojas first surpassed the 15-metre landmark back in 2016 also in Madrid thanks to a 15.02m effort. Overall, she has gone no fewer than 20 times beyond the 15m barrier, eleven of them in Spain, where she is based. The reigning Olympic silver medallist declared:
“I didn’t realise that today I set my record of three jumps over 15m; that’s the most important thing for me, the consistency I showed today,” said Rojas, whose first 15-metre jump back in 2016 also came in Madrid. The Olympic silver medallist has now surpassed 15 metres 20 times, 11 of them in Spain. “This season all is about Tokyo and everything is OK so far; I’ll next compete at the Wanda Diamond League in Monaco on 9 July.”
The men’s event was billed as a fascinating encounter between Zango and Pichardo, two members of the exclusive 18-metre club. The fireworks began in round one with Pichardo landing at 17.65m (1.6m/s) while Zango fouled. Both men fouled in round two, then Pichardo strengthened his lead in round three by leaping 17.59m, but Zango then managed his first valid jump, 17.49m, before taking the lead in the following round with a slightly wind-assisted 17.83m (2.5m/s).
Pichardo passed his fourth-round jump, while Zango fouled his remaining two efforts. Pichardo landed at a world-leading 17.69m in the penultimate round, but it wasn’t enough to displace Zango at the top of the leader board in Madrid.
“I’m obviously satisfied with the win but I’m especially happy since I managed to respond to Pichardo’s stiff challenge,” said Zango, who jumped a world indoor record of 18.07m in February. “I felt I was very competitive and that’s what really matters, thinking of Tokyo.”
Three more athletes surpassed the 17-metre barrier: France’s Melvin Raffin and Jean Marc Pontvianne, both with 17.17m, and Germany’s Max Hess (17.16m).
Zambrano wins, Van Niekerk ready for Olympic title defence
The much awaited men’s 400m featured South Africa’s Olympic champion Wayde Van Niekerk and Colombia’s world silver medallist Anthony Zambrano.
Today’s race was one of Van Niekerk’s last chances to qualify for the Tokyo Olympics and he didn’t disappoint, running well inside the required 44.90. Drawn in lane five, he reached half way just outside 21 seconds, while Zambrano ran some five metres behind. The Colombian began to approach Van Niekerk entering the home straight and finally caught the South African in the closing 20 metres, crossing the line in a season’s best of 44.51. Van Niekerk was right behind in 44.56, his first sub-45-second clocking since winning the 2017 world title.
“it’s an honour for me to beat a legend like Van Niekerk,” said Zambrano. “He has a very strong first 200m but I was finally able to catch him on the home straight. I would like to make the Olympic final; I’d dedicate that feat to my mum, I do everything for her.”
As for Van Niekerk, who is now based in Florida where he trains under the guidance of Lance Brauman, the 28-year-old said: "I ran inside the qualifying standard for Tokyo (44.90) so mission accomplished. I'm training well so I knew what I was capable of. 44.56 in my first 400m race in a long time is okay, but I hope to improve in my following competitions. I'll next race in Luzern but I’m not sure whether it will be over 200m or 400m.”
Namibia’s Christine Mboma was a convincing winner of the women’s 200m, clocking 22.79, just 0.12 shy of her PB. The 18-year-old finished comfortably ahead of Ecuador’s Gabriela Suárez (23.18).
France’s Cyrena Samba-Mayela was a convincing winner of the women’s 100m hurdles in a season’s best of 12.80 ahead of Ireland’s Sarah Kate Lavin, runner-up in a career best of 12.95. The men’s 110m event was taken by Spain’s Enrique Llopis in 13.44, who had clocked 13.42 in semifinals.
Germany’s Julian Weber took the better of Spain’s Odei Jainaga in the men’s javelin, 82.65m to 82.21m. Italy’s European U23 bronze medallist Sara Fantini won the women’s hammer thanks to a massive lifetime best of 72.31m, beating Spain’s Laura Redondo, whose 70.65m was just one centimetre shy of the national record she set last week.
The men’s pole vault was won by Rutger Koppelaar of the Netherlands with 5.70m, while his compatriot Tony Van Diepen won the 800m in 1:45.17, finishing marginally ahead of Ireland’s Mark English (1:45.22). Elsewhere, South Africa’s 2016 world U20 200m silver medallist Gift Leotlela won the men’s 100m in 10.15.
Emeterio Valiente for World Athletics