Wojciech Nowicki in the hammer in Silesia (© Marta Gorczynska)
In the stadium known locally as the ‘Witches’ Cauldron’, Olympic hammer champion Wojciech Nowicki showed he still has the magic touch at the latest World Athletics Continental Tour Gold meeting at Stadion Slaski, Silesia, on Sunday (5).
Meanwhile fellow Olympic champions Anita Włodarczyk and Jasmine Camacho-Quinn also left their rivals spellbound as they respectively won the women’s hammer and 100m hurdles in impressive style.
In front of a partisan home crowd at the Janusz Kusocinski Memorial, Poland’s Nowicki showed a champion’s heart after world silver medallist Quentin Bigot uncorked a personal best of 80.55m fourth-round throw to lead the competition. But Nowicki produced a superb world-leading 81.58m in the final round to snatch the win. Bigot, fifth at last year’s Olympics, settled for second with four-time world champion and Olympic bronze medallist Pawel Fajdek of Poland third with 79.62m.
In the women’s hammer, three-time Olympic champion Wlodarczyk took charge in the third round with 75.76m. It was enough to hold off Olympic bronze medallist Malwina Kopron whose second-round 75.08m was a season’s best.
A Polish 1-2-3 was completed by 21-year-old Ewa Rozanska, who landed a first-round personal best of 71.31m – her first throw beyond 70 metres – offering a glimpse of yet more hammer talent from the home country.
Camacho-Quinn showed her class in the 100m hurdles. She was always in control, despite the efforts of fast improving home heroine Pia Skrzyszowska and Olympic bronze medallist Megan Tapper of Jamaica.
Camacho-Quinn won in 12.43 (-1.4m/s), with Skrzyszowska 0.3 behind and Tapper a further 0.17 adrift.
There were meeting records in the men’s shot put, men’s pole vault, women’s 100m and women’s long jump. In the shot circle, Tom Walsh made it a Polish double after his win in Bydgoszcz earlier in the week.
The Olympic bronze medallist again got the better of world champion and Olympic silver medallist Joe Kovacs. The New Zealander also landed a season’s best with a third-round 22.31m. It was 31 centimetres better than what his US rival could muster. Poland’s Konrad Bukowiecki threw a season’s best of 21.66m for third.
In the pole vault, Chris Nilsen also repeated his victory from Bydgoszcz, clearing 5.92m at the second attempt. He attempted a North American record height of 6.07m, but fell short. 2012 Olympic champion Renaud Lavillenie of France and Norway’s Pal Lillefose placed second and third with 5.81m each, the former in a season’s best and the latter in a personal best.
In the women’s 100m Poland’s 2019 European indoor champion Ewa Svoboda – making her outdoor seasonal debut – was just 0.01 outside her personal best with a searing 11.08 (-0.4m/s), a meeting record. Shannon Ray of the USA pocketed a personal best of 11.19 in second ahead of Poland’s versatile Anna Kielbasinska, third in a PB of 11.22.
The women’s long jump was one of the competitions of the day, with two athletes putting themselves among this year’s leading performers with lifetime bests. First up it was Agate De Sousa of Sao Tome & Principe who sailed out to a national record of 6.81m (0.5m/s) in the fourth round.
It looked like it was enough to win until the final round when 2017 European U20 champion Milica Gardasevic also landed 6.81m (0.2m/s). And the Serbian’s next best effort of 6.64m was seven centimetres better than De Dousa’s to grab the win and claim a meeting record.
In a race that brought the crowd to its feet, the women’s one-lap race saw Poland’s 4x400m silver medal winning quartet from the Tokyo Olympics come up against US sprint icon Allyson Felix. Making her first European outing over 400m of the season, the most decorated female athlete in history nosed in front as they turned into the home straight with Poland’s Natalia Kaczmarek and Justyna Swiety-Ersetic either side of her.
It was rising star Kaczmarek who finished the stronger and overhauled Felix to win in 50.40. Felix finished in a season’s best of 50.71 for second with Swiety-Ersetic also claiming a season’s best with 50.74 in third.
The men’s 400m was equally thrilling. Poland’s Karol Zalewski took it on and led into the home straight, but Alexander Ogando of Dominican Republic and Zakithi Nene of South Africa paced it perfectly. Ogando came through to win in a personal best of 44.68, with Nene also resetting his lifetime best in second with 44.92. Zalewski faded to fourth in 45.38 with Oganda’s international teammate Lidio Andres Feliz third in a season’s best of 45.27.
Olympic bronze medallist Patryk Dobek delighted the home fans and ignited his year by winning the 800m in a season’s best of 1:44.49. France’s Benjamin Robert led into the home straight, but Dobek wore him down to edge past in the closing metres. Robert hung on for second, equalling his personal best of 1:44.53. Spain’s 2019 European indoor champion Alvaro De Arriba also set a personal best, placing third in 1:44.85.
In the women’s 800m, it came down to a straight fight between Ethiopia’s Diribe Welteji and Jemma Reekie of Great Britain & Northern Ireland.
Welteji took it on with 300 metres to go, closely tracked by Reekie, and although the Olympic fourth-place finisher attacked off the final bend, the Ethiopian held on to win in a PB of 1:58.28. Reekie had the satisfaction of a season’s best in 1:58.44 as runner-up and Poland’s Sofia Ennaoui savoured a personal best 1:58.98 for third.
South American champion Rafael Pereira of Brazil won the men’s 110m hurdles in 13.28 and Olympic semi-finalist Arthur Cisse of the Ivory Coast coasted to victory in the men’s 100m in 10.24 (0.1m/s).
Olympic 50km race walk champion Dawid Tomala’s attempt at the one-mile world best fell short. In heat-sapping conditions, he was more than 10 seconds shy of Tom Bosworth’s best of 5:31.08 from 2017. He also missed out on the race victory with Germany’s Christopher Linke winning in 5:40.04, 1.79 seconds clear of Tomala.
Chris Broadbent for World Athletics