Report28 Aug 2014

Kuchina conquers her nerves in Zurich to capture the Diamond Race – IAAF Diamond League


Maria Kuchina, 2.00m in Zurich (© Jean-Pierre Durand)

Mariya Kuchina may not be the world leader, but she has still been the most consistent female high jumper this year. She has also shown she has strong nerves and that quality was particularly on display when winning her discipline at the IAAF Diamond League final in Zurich on Thursday (28).

The full Diamond Race standing for each event can be seen here.

A ragged series saw her have failures at three earlier heights before she and Croatia’s Ana Simic were the only women left as the bar was raised to 1.98m.

Simic went clear with her first attempt and Kuchina failed. With nothing to lose, the Russian then opted to wait until the bar went up to 2.00m to take her remaining attempts.

The Croatian dislodged the bar at the first time of asking but the world indoor champion then went well clear to equal her personal best and throw down the gauntlet to Simic.

It was a challenge she couldn’t rise to and Simic brought down the bar with her remaining two attempts.

Kuchina, the last athlete in action in the Letzigrund Stadium and with her $40,000 first prize secure, then decided to gracefully retire rather than attack a world-leading height of 2.02m, a decision the meeting organisers would no doubt be grateful for as the ceremony to celebrate the 16 Diamond Race winners on the night didn’t need to be delayed.

If Simic finished out of the money then there was some non-monetary compensation as Thursday will go down as the night she truly stepped out of the shadow of her illustrious and charismatic compatriot, and two-time world champion, Blanka Vlasic.

Simic finished ahead of Vlasic for the first time in an outdoor competition.

If the women’s high jump was the last event to finish, one of the other top field event contests was one of the first to be resolved.

Shot putter Reese Hoffa secured his fourth IAAF Diamond League win of the summer and took the Diamond Race in convincing fashion, the US thrower clinching the contest in the final two rounds.

US champion Joe Kovacs led the way through the first half of the competitions with throws of 21.07m in the first round and then 21.43m in the third.

Recently crowned European champion David Storl of Germany then moved up from first to third with his fifth effort of 21.47m but Hoffa was the next man in the circle and responded immediately, reaching 21.58m, which alone would have been good enough to win.

Hoffa was not finished, either.

In the final round Storl and Kovacs went close to his leading mark with puts of 21.22m and 21.38m but, with the competition and Diamond Race won, Hoffa flung his implement out to a season’s best of 21.88m.

Bartoletta battles to Diamond Race win

Ivana Spanovic almost pulled off a big surprise in the women’s long jump, the Serbian flying out to 6.80m with her first effort and nobody could better that.

Tianna Bartoletta reached 6.76m in the fifth round, taking her from third to second and there she stayed and t was enough to give her the Diamond Race because although she and Spanovic had 16 points apiece, Bartoletta had won at three meetings during the summer to Spanovic’s brace.

US discus thrower Gia Lewis-Smallwood has been something of a nemesis to Sandra Perkovic, inflicting her only two defeats in the past 12 months, and she put the Croatian under pressure early with a second-round throw of 67.32m, the second-best distance of her career.

However, Perkovic – who had already clinched the discus Diamond Race prior to Zurich – showed her fighting spirit admirably by equalling Lewis-Smallwood's distance in third round, reaching 67.54m with her next effort and then, like Hoffa, produced the best throw of the competition with the last throw of the night when she tossed the discus out to 68.36m.

In the women’s pole vault, five women attempted 4.72m but only Brazil’s 2011 world champion Fabiana Murer cleared, and did so on her first attempt to maintain her flawless record up to that point.

She then brought the bar down three times at what would have been a world-leading 4.82m but she had already done enough to win the Diamond Race.

Phil Minshull for the IAAF