Report13 Jun 2023

Vadlejch throws javelin world lead to win in Turku


Jakub Vadlejch in action in Turku (© Alex Andrei)

A world-leading javelin throw of 89.51m by Jakub Vadlejch and a 70.38m discus effort by Daniel Stahl proved the highlights of the Paavo Nurmi Games, a World Athletics Continental Tour Gold meeting, in Turku on Tuesday (13).

Czechia's Vadlejch stated his intention in the first round with an 86.67m effort, and produced his 89.51m in the second round to surpass the previous world lead of 88.67m by Neeraj Chopra last month. After feeling discomfort in his ankle, however, the Olympic silver medallist passed his final two attempts. “I had a very good start and I knew I could do better, but during the second throw I almost twisted my ankle and I didn’t want to risk,” said Vadlejch. “I think it’s okay now – let’s see.”

Buoyed on by the home crowd, Finland’s Oliver Helander produced a season’s best of 87.32m to finish second, while Germany’s Julian Weber took third with 85.82m. 

Sweden's Stahl was equally dominant in the men’s discus. In the birthplace of his mother, and at a stadium that holds such fond memories, the Swede did his Finnish roots proud with his fifth-round effort of 70.38m. That left him well clear of Slovenia’s Kristjan Ceh (68.67m) and Austria’s Lukas Weisshaidinger (66.84m). 

“My goal today was to rock and roll, throw far and have fun,” said Stahl, the reigning Olympic champion. “My mother comes from this town and I love this stadium, these people. It’s amazing for track and field.”

Still, Stahl wasn’t overjoyed with much of his performance, his winning throw coming in the fifth round after a best of 67.60m before then. “I didn’t have the rhythm in my first three throws but my goal was to have this sisu (a Finnish word for determination) all the way and not give up. I was a little bit jumpy but the sun will rise up tomorrow, so just continue. After the fourth throw, I felt I could push more forward and I did that. This was my 13th meet over 70, so I’m very proud of it.”

Australia’s Nicola Olyslagers continued her fine form with a meeting record of 2.01m in the women’s high jump, just off her best of 2.02m, which handed her victory over Britain’s Morgan Lake (1.97m) and Ukraine’s Iryna Gerashchenko (1.94m). 

“I was so glad with that third attempt to get over two metres, it’s an amazing feeling to be back in the form I was in a couple of years ago,” said Olyslagers. “I’m hoping, with this momentum, I’ve got 2.03m in me. It feels scary when you look at it but I’m learning to trust that what I have inside me is enough to get over it. I know my technique is still not the best as it’s early in the season, but I know when I compete with Yaroslava (Mahuchikh), the two of us can push each other to both get PBs this year.”

Brooke Andersen continued her winning ways in the women’s hammer but the world champion was far from satisfied with her throws, recording just two marks, the best of which, 76.45m, was enough for victory.

“It’s not what I hoped for or expected,” said Andersen. “I was just getting ahead of the hammer a little bit and started pulling instead of working with it, so I went into the cage a lot. They’re easy fixes, but I’ve just got to do it consistently.” Canada’s Camryn Rogers was next best with 76.21m, while Finland’s Silja Kosonen took third with 72.56m. 

KC Lightfoot continued his fine form with a win in the men’s pole vault, the US athlete soaring over a stadium record of 5.90m at the third attempt, before coming up short three times at 6.00m. Next best was Australia’s Kurtis Marschall with 5.71m, while Poland’s Piotr Lisek took third with 5.46m. 

“The crowd was awesome, they got me through it,” said Lightfoot. “I was a little tired on the day.” Asked what led to his 6.07m breakthrough this year, he said: “Finally not being injured. I can actually train and try to jump at 100%.”

Jamaica’s Shanieka Ricketts won the women’s triple jump, her best hop, skip and jump coming in the fifth round – 14.20m (0.7m/s). That gave her victory over Turkey’s Tugba Danismaz (14.03m) and Slovenia’s Neja Filipic (13.83m). “It wasn’t the best series, but to come out with the win, I’m grateful,” said Ricketts.

There was a Finnish 1-2-3 in the women’s pole vault where Wilma Murto led the way with a season’s best of 4.75m. Elina Lampela was second with a PB of 4.56m while Saga Andersson took third with 4.46m. 

Slovenia’s Anita Horvat led early, and then again late, to win the women’s 800m in a PB of 1:58.73, outkicking – well, more like outlasting – South Africa’s Prudence Sekgodiso (1:58.87) and Britain’s Jemma Reekie (1:59.41). After a swift early pace that saw Horvat pass 400m in 56.87, she surrendered the lead – temporarily – to Reekie and Australia’s Catriona Bisset on the back straight.

“I died a bit in the second lap,” said Horvat, though if her finish was defined as dying, you’d be scared to see her living. “But then I came back with a sprint, so I’m happy.” She will race next in Poznan. 

France’s Ludvy Vaillant edged a close battle in the men’s 400m hurdles, beating Kyron McMaster to the line, 48.50 to 48.57, with USA’s Khallifah Rosser third in 49.16. “It was a little bit windy in the last metres, but it’s a good time,” said Vaillant, who will make the short hop to race in Oslo on Thursday night. “I was expecting more but it’s good. I’ll take it.”

Britain’s Jessie Knight ticked off a key World Athletics Championships qualifying time in the women’s 400m hurdles, clocking 54.32 to take victory, all the evidence she needed that her new stride pattern – she ran with 14 strides to hurdle five for the first time – is paying off. 

“I needed that,” said Knight. “It’s not been the best start to the season but today is the first day I got it right, so, perseverance. I’m very relieved. I’ll go into a training block now for two weeks then go to Ostrava. Now I can go home really motivated.”

Australia’s Sarah Carli followed her home in a PB of 54.66, while Finland’s Viivi Lehikoinen took third in 54.88. 

USA’s Cravont Charleston was a class apart in the men’s 100m, winning in 9.95 (0.1m/s) from Britain’s Reece Prescod (10.14) and Sweden’s Henrik Larsson, who set a national record of 10.17. “It felt great, I wanted to come out here and run sub-10,” said Charleston. “I got out really well the first 30.”

Swiss athlete Ditaji Kambundji claimed victory in the 100m hurdles in 12.79 (0.9m/s), a race that saw Polish star Pia Skrzyszowska disqualified for a false start, having returned from injury to win her heat in 12.84. Hungary’s Luca Kozak took second in the final in 12.93 with France’s Laeticia Bapte third in 12.93.

The 110m hurdles saw USA’s Jamal Britt live up to his favourite’s tag, clocking 13.32 (0.3m/s) ahead of Brazil’s Rafael Henrique Pereira (13.41) and Italy’s Hassane Fofana (13.43). “I barely did much tonight between the heat and final, I ran 13.3 while sitting around pretty much the whole time, so it’s still pretty decent,” he said. “Sub-13 is there, I’m just waiting to execute that race.”

His goal for 2023? “Make that (US) team and medal.”

Ireland’s Sarah Healy produced a run every bit as courageous as it was classy to win the 1500m, the 22-year-old Dubliner playing a patient game before assuming command on the final lap and holding off the charge of Italy’s Gaia Sabbatini and Britain’s Ellie Baker to edge it in 4:03.85. 

“It went out slower than I expected and I was behind the pacemaker, I wanted a nice even race but in the second half I just thought about winning it,” she said. “I went for it with 300m to go and just hung on.”

Ethiopia’s Abraham Seme was a facile winner of the men’s steeplechase in 8:17.44, with Sweden’s Emil Blomberg second in a PB of 8:20.01 and Germany’s Karl Bebendorf third in 8:20.43.

France’s Benjamin Robert was an impressive winner of the men’s 800m, outkicking USA’s Clayton Murphy to win in 1:44.40 to Murphy’s 1:44.91. Sweden’s Andreas Kramer took third with 1:44.95. 

“My tactics weren’t good, I was fourth or fifth and blocked a lot, going inside and outside, but I finished fast and I’m happy,” said Robert. “I know my shape is good and I’m ready for the World Championships.”

His goal in Budapest? “Gold medal. I’m going there to win.”

Cathal Dennehy for World Athletics