Russian javelin thrower Maria Abakumova in action (© Getty Images)
The organisers of the IAAF World Challenge meeting in Berlin couldn’t have hoped for a better start. In the first round of the first event of the day, Maria Abakumova improved the Javelin meeting record to 68.82m. But the Russian wasn’t finished yet.
In round four, she achieved 70.53m – the third best throw of her career, the tenth best throw ever and the farthest distance marked since September 2011 when Abakumova won the World title in Daegu with 71.99m.
It was the Russain’s fourth consecutive victory since her third-place finish at the IAAF World Championships on home soil in Moscow.
“My technical coach has told me all year long that I can throw 70 metres this season – and he was right,” she said. “I have to admit that I am thinking about the World record now. My family and my whole team help me believe I can make this dream come true.” The World record has been set by Czech Barbora Spotakova in 2008 with a mark of 72.28m.
Current World champion from Germany Christina Obergfoll had to leave the big stage to Abakumova, placing third with 63.30m behind German champion Linda Stahl’s 65.35m.
“Since Moscow, I have found it hard to stay focused,” admitted Obergfoll. “The years before, I have been the one who has set big marks after the top event. This year it’s the other way round.”
With her first gold medal being safely stored away at home, she could still enjoy the competition despite the defeat.
Wlodarczyk one step closer to Hammer Challenge victory
In the IAAF Hammer Challenge, it was Olympic bronze medallist Betty Heidler who set the first big mark with 74.62m in round two, putting her at the top of the leader board until halfway through the competition.
Even though the Berlin born and raised athlete had the support of the 53,000 spectators in Berlin’s 1936 Olympic stadium, Heidler didn’t improve and ended up in third place as two other athletes stepped up their game.
As in 2009, when she took the World title in Berlin, Poland’s Anita Wlodarczyk proved to be the strongest in the German capital. Improving with each attempt, the leader in the IAAF Hammer Challenge improved from 75.16m in the fourth to 76.05m in the fifth round and finished off with 77.15m.
Putting even more ground between herself and her opponents, and with only one event to go on 8 September in Rieti, the victory in this year’s IAAF Hammer Challenge seems to be Anita Wlodarczyk’s.
World and Olympic champion Tatyana Lysenko from Russia this time had to settle with second place (74.89m).
Harting defends his home ground
He would defend his home ground in boxer shorts and with a muck fork – that’s what local hero Robert Harting had said before the meet. As it turned out, the triple World champion from Berlin didn’t need those accessories to claim victory in style.
It was his German countryman Martin Wierig, fourth at the World Championships, who challenged Harting in the fourth round with a throw of 66.73m. But Harting bounced back straight away. With 69.02m, his fourth best mark of the year, he went back to the top of the ranking, and that’s where he stayed.
With 64.89m, World silver medallist Piotr Malachowski was not only beaten by two Germans this time, but also by another Polish contender as Robert Urbanek finished third with 64.97m.
Adams’ last victory of the season
New Zealand’s Shot queen Valerie Adams added yet another victory to her growing collection. With six attempts past 20 metres, the Olympic and World champion dominated the competition. “This was my last competition of the year and I am pretty tired,” she said. “But I am still happy with my shape.”
As in Moscow, second place was reserved for Christina Schwanitz from Germany, who achieved 19.43m.
Thirty-seven-year-old German Nadine Kleinert (17.73m) placed fourth in her last competition in a big stadium. “There were some tears today when I said goodbye to Valerie Adams,” said the two-time World championship silver medallist who will retire at the end of this season. “I will miss this crazy chick; it’s hard to think of doing things without her now. I have celebrated the biggest successes of my career with her.”
Home victories for Storl and Reif
In the men’s Shot, World champion David Storl snatched victory from Czech Ladislav Prasil who had a strong series of four attempts beyond the 20-metre mark. His best attempt of 20.79m was not enough, though, to beat the German in front of his home crowd as Storl improved to 20.91m in the fourth round which turned out to be enough to stay at the top.
The most emotional performance came from veteran Ralf Bartels (19.08m) who, at the age of 35, ended his long career in Berlin. “My goal for today was to have fun and to surpass the 19-metres mark,” said the 2006 European champion and 2009 World bronze medallist. “And that’s what I did, so I am happy.”
Another German victory went to long jumper Christian Reif, who achieved 8.11m on his last attempt, surpassing South Africa’s Godfrey Khotso Mokoena by three centimetres.
Kemboi drops out again
Of the three individual World champions who participated in Berlin’s track events, only one could claim victory: Mohammed Aman. The Ethiopian dominated the 800m after the pace makers had left and crossed the finish line in 1:43.97, leaving behind the strong US runners Duane Solomon and Brandon Johnson.
As in the Diamond League race in Stockholm ten days before, three-time World champion Ezekiel Kemboi did not finish the 3000m Steeplechase. Talking to the press afterwards, he explained that he had muscular problems.
But six of his countrymen stepped up and made sure that the victory still went to Kenya. Fastest in the field was Hillary Yego in 8:08.84 ahead of Paul Kipsiele Koech (8:09.31).
In the women’s 1500m, World 800m champion Eunice Sum only placed third in 4:10.81. It was Russia’s World University Games champion Yekaterina Sharmina who had the strongest finish and came first in 4:10.45 ahead of Great Britain’s Hannah England (4:10.80).
Silke Bernhart for the IAAF