Ryan Wilson and David Oliver in action at the 2013 IAAF World Challenge meeting in Zagreb (© Organisers)
Another thrilling night of track and field in Zagreb produced five meeting records at the IAAF World Challenge meeting – three in the field and two on the track – and a little bit of disappointment for the home crowd as Sandra Perkovic’s winning streak of 15 victories came to an end.
The 34-year-old US veteran Gia Lewis-Smallwood stole the show in the Discus with a personal best and meeting record of 66.29m while Croatia’s reigning Olympic and World champion finished second with 65.63m.
Germany’s Nadine Muller was a distant third with 62.55m.
“I wouldn't be competing if I wasn't competing in my home town,” said Perkovic, who later left the stadium in tears.
The Zagreb crowd had waited more than 20 years to see a meeting record in the men's Javelin and the hero of the evening was Finland’s 2013 IAAF World Championships silver medallist and world leader Tero Pitkamaki, who won with a throw of 86.36m. His only serious rival was fellow Finn Antti Ruuskanen who briefly went in front with 85.64m in the third round before Pitkamaki immediately responded with the winning distance.
“You have to be satisfied when you throw four times over 85 and six times over 83 but I wanted to throw over 90 metres. I have two more competitions to do that,” said Pitkamaki, whose next outing will be at the IAAF Diamond League final in Brussels on Friday.
Norway’s 2004 and 2008 Olympic champion Andreas Thorkildsen was down in sixth with 80.77m.
De Oliveira the best of the Brazilians
Brazilian pole vaulters Augusto Dutra de Oliveira and Thiago Braz da Silva were flying and offered a thrilling competition which will be long remembered by Zagreb's athletics fans.
It was de Oliveira that came out on top, going over a meeting record 5.75m with his third attempt and calling it a day.
Da Silva, who earlier this season broke Oliveira's South American record by one centimetre with 5.83m, cleared 5.65m with his third attempt, as did his compatriot but he couldn’t go any higher.
In a fast men's 3000m, seven runners went under 7:40 and five of them beat the previous meeting record 7:37.50, led home by Kenya’s Caleb Mwangamgi Ndiku, who won in 7:35.06. Bahrain’s Albert Rop ran a personal best of 7:35.63 in second place while third place went to France’s Bouabdellah Tahri with 7:36.96.
The other meeting record came over the same distance but over barriers, although it was the first time on the programme for the women’s 3000m Steeplechase.
Ethiopia's Hiwot Ayalew, fourth at the 2013 World Championships last month, gained a little satisfaction by beating Kenya's World champion Milcah Chemos in the closing stages, crossing the line in 9:28.72 to Chemos's 9:29.16.
US sprinter Mike Rodgers was the fastest in the men’s 100m with an impressive 9.97 on a slightly chilly night, and with only a slight tailwind of 0.1 metres-per-second.
Jamaica’s Kemar Bailey-Cole also dipped under 10 seconds to finish second with 9.99. Justin Gatlin didn't live up to his billing of being the favourite and the Moscow silver medallist – and the only man to beat Usain Bolt over 100m this season – finished third with 10.01.
In the women's race, USA’s Barbara Pierre took the honours with a quick 11.00 win, with her US team-mate Alexandria Anderson second with 11.06.
US hurdler Dawn Harper-Nelson quickly came back to a winning trail after missing out on a medal at the 2013 World Championships. The 2008 Olympic champion claimed her third 100m Hurdles victory in Zagreb by clocking 12.63.
The Olympic silver medallist dominated the race from the gun. Australia’s reigning Olympic champion and Moscow silver medallist Sally Pearson was second with 12.75, just holding off the USA’s Kellie Wells, who was 0.01 further back.
In the men’s 110m Hurdles, all three Moscow medallists were in action and the World Championships gold and and silver medallists David Oliver and Ryan Wilson couldn't be split, and the American pair were both awarded first place in 13.25 after a close examination of the photo-finish.
Whiting a big winner again
US shot putter Ryan Whiting, the Moscow silver medallist, continued to show outstanding late-season form and had three throws over 21 metres, the farthest reaching 21.60m.
Canada’s Dylan Armstrong, who finished one place behind Whiting at the World Championships, produced season’s best of 21.45m in second place while third went to Poland’s two-time Olympic champion Tomasz Majewski with 20.88m.
Russia’s Ekaterina Poistogova had enough strength to hold off a strong attack on her inside by Winny Chebet over the final metres to claim victory in the 800m. The diminutive Kenyan ran a personal best of 1:59.30 but the London 2012 Olympic Games bronze medallist was just a bit faster and won with 1:59.03. Another Russian, Yelena Kotulskaya, also dipped under two minutes when finishing third in 1:59.78.
Ukraine’s 2011 World champion Olha Saladuha narrowly won the Triple Jump. She leapt 14.44m and edged Israel’s Hanna Knyazyeva-Minenko by just six centimetres.
South Africa’s 2008 World indoor champion Godfrey Mokoena won the men's Long Jump with 8.09m. The USA’s 2012 Olympic Games Triple Jump champion Christian Taylor switched events and jumped over eight metres for the first time this season, claiming second place with 8.01m.
With the injured Blanka Vlasic watching from the stands, the women’s High Jump produced an entertaining fight with three jumpers over 1.95m, before the trio all brought the bar down three times at 1.97m.
Russia’s Irina Gordeeva won on count back from Sweden’s Emma Green-Tregaro with local Zagreb athlete Ana Simic third, the latter just one centimetre short of her career best.
Hrvoje Slišković (Jutarnji list) for the IAAF