Sandra Perkovic, winner of the discus at the Hanzekovic Memorial in Zagreb (© Organisers)
Sandra Perkovic may not have been her usual dominant self so far this year, but the home crowd at the Hanzekovic Memorial in Zagreb – the final IAAF World Challenge meeting of 2019 – cheered the world and Olympic discus champion on to a 67.78m victory on Tuesday (3).
German champion Kristin Pudenz led for the first two rounds after opening with 63.25m. Perkovic started her series with 62.18m, but soon found herself in the highly unusual situation of being overtaken by a fellow Croatian as compatriot Marija Tolj, the European U23 champion, threw 62.57m in round two.
It didn’t last long, though, as Perkovic sent her disc out to 64.75m in the third round to take the lead. She followed it with 64.59m and then extended her leading mark to 67.78m in round five. Pudenz and Tolj didn’t improve after the first two rounds.
It was Perkovic’s second-best throw this year and a mark that just two other women have bettered this year. It was also her sixth consecutive victory at this meeting.
Fellow Olympic champion Sara Kolak also produced a convincing performance, much to the delight of the Croatian supporters.
The 24-year-old opened the javelin competition with a season’s best of 65.82m. Canada’s Liz Gleadle closed in on Kolak’s lead with a season’s best of 63.77m in round two, but Kolak responded in the following round with 66.42m. Neither woman improved on their marks, although Gleadle backed up her best throw with 63.48m in round five.
Kolak’s winning mark was the third-best throw of her career and her longest since July 2017, the month in which she set a national record of 68.43m.
Francis and Manyonga victorious
US 400m sprinter Phyllis Francis and South African long jumper Luvo Manyonga produced confidence-boosting victories ahead of the defence of their world titles at the IAAF World Athletics Championships Doha 2019 later this month.
Francis finished comfortably ahead of the rest of the field in the women’s 400m, clocking 51.02 with Allyson Felix placing second in 51.67.
The men’s long jump was decidedly closer with Manyonga’s 8.03m leap putting him just seven centimetres ahead of Australia’s Henry Frayne.
Francis aside, US athletes won four other events. Mike Rodgers stopped the clock at 10.04 to win a 100m race in which world champion Justin Gatlin pulled up injured. Sharika Nelvis got the better of US compatriot Christina Clemons to win the women’s 100m hurdles, 12.73 to 12.82.
A strong final lap from Kate Grace resulted in a convincing 1500m victory in 4:07.91, while Chris Benard won the triple jump earlier in the evening with 16.97m.
Jon Mulkeen for the IAAF