Majd Eddin Ghazal in the high jump at the IAAF World Challenge meeting in Beijing (© AFP / Getty Images)
Syria’s Majd Eddin Ghazal stole the limelight from more established stars when he set a world lead at the IAAF World Challenge meeting in Beijing’s national stadium on Wednesday (18).
Coming into the Bird’s Nest competition with a previous best of 2.31m, the 29-year-old Ghazal successively cleared 2.32m, 2.34m and 2.36m, adding three centimetres to the world lead previously shared by Erik Kynard, Zhang Guowei and Wang Yu.
With Zhang a withdrawal from the meeting, Wang was the only one of that trio whom Ghazal defeated on the night, but he has shown he could be a medal contender in Rio later in the year. Wang, and Chinese teammate Sun Zhao, tied for second at 2.25m.
Ghazal went to fourth on the Asian all-time list behind Qatar’s Mutaz Essa Barshim (2.43m), China’s former world record-holder Zhu Jianhua (2.39m) and Zhang (2.38m).
On a great night for the men’s vertical jumps, Sam Kendricks of the USA won the pole vault with 5.92m, another outdoor world lead and the best pole vault performance by a US man since June 2008. He also defeated world champion Shawn Barber, who finished sixth with 5.60m.
Kendricks had three unsuccessful attempts at 6.00m, which would have established him in an exclusive club to have cleared that height. It would have also bettered the Chinese all-comers’ record of 5.96m, set by Steve Hooker when winning the Olympic title in 2008.
But two competitions in China for two wins over the world champion will have to do for now.
The third world lead came from Zhang Wenxiu who won the second round of the women’s IAAF Hammer Throw Challenge with a best distance of 75.58m. Two of Zhang’s other throws were also farther than the 72.39m of Zalina Marghieva of Moldova.
World champions return with mixed results
Shawn Barber was one of four winners from last year’s World Championships to return to the Bird’s Nest; javelin thrower Katharina Molitor, 100m hurdler Danielle Williams and steeplechaser Ezekiel Kemboi the others.
It was a mixed night for the returnees. Williams won the 100m hurdles comfortably in a season’s best of 12.80 and Kemboi won the steeplechase in 8:14.19. But Barber was well beaten in the pole vault and Molitor only third behind Australia’s Kathryn Mitchell in the javelin.
Going back to Beijing 2008, however, 200m champion then Veronica Campbell-Brown equalled her season’s best of 22.29 in easily winning the 200m from Jamaican teammate Simone Facey, 22.63.
Ahoure and Gatlin take 100m wins
Having beaten Campbell-Brown over 200m at the IAAF Diamond League meeting in Shanghai last Saturday, Murielle Ahoure dropped down to the 100m in Beijing. Leading from start to finish, the Ivorian won in 11.06 (-0.1m/s) from the fast-finishing Ivet Lalova-Collio of Bulgaria (11.11) and Candyce McGrone of the USA (11.18).
Two abortive starts marred the men’s 100m. No one was held responsible for the first, but Deondre Batson of the US was disqualified for the second.
When the race finally got under way, Gatlin was pushed surprisingly close by US compatriot Mike Rodgers before winning, 9.94 to 9.97.
Aries Merritt led all the way to win the men’s 110m hurdles in a season’s best of 13.24, well clear of China’s Xie Wenjun, 13.48.
Bett out-leans Sowinski in tight 800m
Kenya’s Kipyegon Bett and Erik Sowinski of the USA went stride-for-stride down the home straight in a tight finish to the men’s 800m.
Sowinski seemed to have gained the upper hand before Bett’s desperate lunge for the line saw him thrust his chest in front by centimetres. Both were given the same time, 1:45.80.
World youth champion Willy Tarbei proved there are limits to what precocious 17-year-olds can do, fading to fourth place in 1:47.32 after leading going into the final bend. Tarbei flew to Beijing after running 1:44.84 in Germany last weekend.
Hellen Obiri looked, and proved to be, the class of the women’s 1500m. Having gone sub-4:00 in Shanghai, she left it to the final lap here to win by almost 10 metres in 4:02.11. Betlhem Desalegn of the UAE and Nelly Jepkosgei of Kenya filled the minor places. Desalegn’s time of 4:03.70 broke her own national record.
Kemboi made his winning move in the steeplechase at the same 200m-to-go point as at the World Championships. While not as decisive as then, his win in 8:14.19 over compatriot Abraham Kibiwott (8:14.58) was never in doubt.
China dominates men’s horizontal jumps
Li Jinzhe may remain out of action, but China’s impressive depth was on display in the men’s long jump as the hosts took the first four places.
Gao Xinglong, fourth in the World Championships final last year, won with 8.23m ahead of teammates Huang Changzhou (8.12m), Tang Gongchen (8.03m) and Wang Jianan (7.99m). Last year’s world leader, Jeff Henderson of the USA, was fifth with 7.90m.
There was also a one-two in the triple jump where world indoor champion Dong Bin produced a season’s best of 17.24m on his only valid jump (one foul, four passes) to beat Cao Shuo (16.98m) and Alexis Copello of Cuba (16.93m).
Kathyrn Mitchell had two throws beyond 64 metres in the javelin, with her best of 64.37m putting her more than two metres clear of Liu Shiying of China, 62.30m. Molitor was third with a best of 62.01m.
Mirela Demireva of Bulgaria won a tight battle in the women’s high jump, coming from equal second at 1.90m to win at 1.93m.
Demireva was the only one of the five to clear 1.93m. Asian champion Svetlana Radzivil of Uzbekistan had a clean sheet up until 1.90m but neither she, nor compatriot Nadiya Dusanova, could get over the height.
Len Johnson for the IAAF