Pawel Fajdek on his way to winning the hammer (© Organisers / sport-pics.cz)
As expected, throwers provided most of the highlights at the Janusz Kusocinski Memorial in Szczecin on Saturday (10) as Pawel Fajdek and Anita Wlodarczyk took the wins in the IAAF Hammer Throw Challenge with 80.53m and 77.07m respectively.
In addition to the Polish stars, Andrius Gudzius impressed with 68.23m in the discus, as did David Storl and Michal Haratyk, both with 21.18m in the shot put on a sunny but breezy afternoon.
World-class fields were assembled in both hammer competitions, but there was no stopping the Poles on home soil. In the men's competition, two-time world champion Pawel Fajdek effectively sealed the win in the second round with 80.53m, his fourth mark beyond 80 metres in four appearances this year.
He was unable to improve in the following rounds, although each of the two following throws from him, each beyond 79 metres, would have been sufficient to win handily.
In a close competition for second place, it was Poland's world and Olympic bronze medallist Wojciech Nowicki who came through with 76.19m, edging out Nick Miller's 76.00m. Olympic champion Dilshod Nazarov was pushed out of the podium this time, with 75.57m only good enough for fourth.
There was never significant doubt about who the winner on the women's side would be. World record-holder Anita Wlodarczyk quashed her rivals' hopes with her very first throw of 77.07m. The distance remained her best, but she underlined her dominance with three more attempts in excess of 76 metres. It was the 35th consecutive win for the Polish star, a series started back in 2014.
Hanna Skydan of Azerbaijan was clearly the best of the rest with 74.12m in the third round. Two more Polish throwers followed her in the standings, Malwina Kopron completing the top three with 71.88m, and Joanna Fiodorow just behind at 71.65m.
There were high hopes for more Polish success in the discus through world champion Piotr Malachowski, but it was Andrius Gudzius who proved completely dominant in Szczecin. The Lithuanian started with 67.23m and went even better in round two, reaching out to 68.16m.
No one could come close to Gudzius's efforts. Malachowski had a solid, if unspectacular, series headed by 64.82m in round five, good enough for second place. Lolassonn Djouhan of France took third with 63.95m, just ahead of Robert Urbanek's 63.72m.
The shot put favourite, two-time world champion David Storl, looked completely dominant for most of the competition. Going into the lead in round one with 20.98m, he improved to 21.12m on his second put and once again to 21.18m in round five. After that round he had the five best puts in the competition.
Meanwhile, the top Poles were fighting it out for second place. In round three, Jakub Szyszkowski reached 20.57m, a personal best and World Championships qualifying mark. Immediately following him in the throwing order, Michal Haratyk bettered that with 20.78m.
Then, in the final, Haratyk sent the shot out well beyond the 21-metre line. The official raised the red flag, claiming the athlete stepped on the rim of the circle. Haratyk protested, and as it turned out, he was successful in overturning the initial decision. After reviewing the video, the put was reassessed as valid. And it was measured at 21.18m, an outdoor best for Haratyk, exactly matching Storl's leading mark. The German ended the competition with a foul. He was still the winner, albeit only on countback.
European indoor champion Konrad Bukowiecki didn’t have the best of days and recorded just one valid throw of 20.02m, finishing in fourth.
Greece’s 2014 world indoor champion Konstadinos Filippidis was the only one with a clean card up to 5.60m in the pole vault. This, however, was as high as he was able to go. Local favourite Piotr Lisek secured the victory with a second-time clearance at 5.70m. This ended up being the winning height, as Lisek followed with three failures at 5.80m.
The high-hurdles specialists raced twice in one afternoon over the 110m distance, with Damian Czykier the clear winner each time. Continuing his consistent form this season, he ran a legal 13.37, followed by a wind-aided 13.31 (2.6m/s). Konstadinos Duvalidis of Greece was the runner-up both times, with 13.58 and 13.61.
The windy conditions affected the performances in all track events from one lap up, but the races provided plenty of excitement nonetheless.
Poland's No.1 Rafal Omelko took the men's 400m in 45.86 after a close battle down the home straight against Britain’s Rabah Yousif, who finished just 0.09 behind.
The women's race proved an even closer one. Olympic finalist Olga Zemlyak of Ukraine entered the finishing straight with a clear lead, but a trademark strong finish from Justyna Swiety nearly allowed her to catch the Ukrainian. In the end, there was only 0.04 separating the two, with Zemlyak the victor in 51.78.
World indoor 400m champion Kemi Adekoya of Bahrain was the winner in the one-lap race over the hurdles in 55.41. Similarly to the flat race, Poland's top runner, Joanna Linkiewicz, was making up ground over the final 100 metres, but fell 0.17 short of the win. Ukraine's Olena Kolesnichenko took third place with 56.09.
The women's 800m ended with a Ukrainian 1-2. European champion Nataliya Pryshchepa came through in a tactical race to take it in 2:02.68, a mere 0.03 ahead of Olga Lyakhova. Angelika Cichocka was the best of the Poles on this occasion with 2:03.32 for third place, with Olympic finalist Joanna Jozwik down in fifth.
In the men's race, Marcin Lewandowski scored a valuable victory against his domestic arch-rival Adam Kszczot. Attacking 200 metres before the finish, Lewandowski extended his lead around the curve and was never threatened in the straight, winning in 1:47.06. Kszczot, fresh off the victory at the IAAF Diamond League meeting in Rome two days earlier, reached the finish in 1:47.55, less than a metre ahead of Michal Rozmys.
Sofia Ennaoui took the women's 1500m with a highly impressive finish. Her final 200 metres took her more than 2.5 seconds ahead of her rivals to a win and a season's best of 4:05.03. Danuta Urbanik was the runner-up in 4:07.62.
There was another Polish win in the men's high jump. Wojciech Theiner triumphed after clearing 2.25m, a height also cleared by 2007 world champion Donald Thomas. European indoor champion Sylwester Bednarek was unable to go higher than 2.20m and took third place.
Pawel Jackowski for the IAAF