Yulimar Rojas leaps 15.43m in Andujar (© Curro Cardador)
Venezuela’s reigning world triple jump champion Yulimar Rojas and Poland’s four-time world hammer gold medallist Pawel Fajdek provided the main highlights at the Meeting Internacional Jaen Paraiso Interior – a World Athletics Continental Tour Bronze meeting – in Andujar, Spain, on Saturday (22).
World indoor record-holder Rojas returned to the scene of her 15.41m, the second furthest performance in history, set a couple of years ago. The 25-year-old had opened her outdoor season with a more-than-promising 15.14m effort a fortnight ago in Ibiza and there was some talk about a world record attack.
Rojas opened with a long foul and continued with a reasonable 14.73m second effort before her monster 15.43m (0.7m/s) in round three – just seven centimetres shy of Inessa Kravets' world record of 15.50m set two months before she was born. After a 14.50m fourth effort and a foul, the fireworks came back in the final round when she landed at 15.31m (0.2m/s) to send a clear message that the world record is well within her capabilities.
Rojas first surpassed the 15-metre landmark back in 2016 in Madrid thanks to a 15.02m effort. Overall, she has gone no fewer than 13 times beyond the 15m barrier, eight of them in Spain, where she is based.
Coached by Cuba’s long jump legend Ivan Pedroso in Guadalajara, Rojas commented: “Today’s was a good competition for me. Of course, I’m satisfied with my performance as I managed a PB, but I also have the feeling I could have jumped further. We’re still making some tecnical adjustments and we should improve as the season develops”.
Asked whether she already feels the pressure of being the hot favourite to take Olympic gold in Tokyo, a quiet Rojas replied: “I know a lot of people consider I’m the athlete to beat there but I’ll try to take Tokyo as any other event, just focusing on my technique. If I do that, the outcome will be positive for sure. My next event now will be the Diamond League in Doha next Friday.”
Way back, France’s Rouguy Diallo finished second after a fierce battle with Spain’s reigning European outdoor and world indoor bronze medallist Ana Peleteiro – 14.20m and 14.17m being their respective performances.
Fajdek is back to the 80s
Poland’s multiple world hammer champion Fajdek had opened his season with a laclkustre 74.48m performance in Split two weeks ago but on Saturday he proved to be in top form by unleashing a powerful throw of 81.61m in his opening effort to move to second place on this year’s world list. The 32-year-old continued with a foul, 78.56m and another foul before bouncing back in round five (80.94) and closing his contest in style, adding one centimetre to his opening throw (81.62m). Fajdek seems to be on the right path to get an Olympic medal which has so far eluded him.
Poland’s Olympic bronze medallist Wojciech Nowicki and Frenchman Quentin Bigot also showed great shape. The Pole came close to the 80m barrier with a 79.54 fourth-round release, while Bigot achieved a PB of 78.99m in the same round.
5000m debutant Hailu prevails over Dibaba
The women’s 5000m was billed as a thrilling encounter between the Ethiopain pair of world 1500m record-holder Genzebe Dibaba and the rising star Lemlem Hailu, who had turned 20 just the day before. After a promising debut over the half marathon in Valencia last December when she clocked 1:05:18 to win in style, two DNF outcomes in Torun (3000m indoors) and more recently in Ostrava over 1500m last Wednesday had arisen some doubts on Dibaba's current form. Meanwhile Hailu, winner of the 2021 World Athletics Indoor Tour over 3000m, was making her debut over the distance. But it was Hailu who decided to run closest to the pacemaker, with their fellow Ethiopian Hiwot Mehari going through the opening kilometres in 2:54.77 and 5:53.68. At that point the pacesetter dropped out and Hailu took charge of the pacing duties to clock 8:59.98 by the 3000m point. Despite that decreasing rhythm, Dibaba began to lose ground and Hailu was an unopposed victor in 15:02.27 to Dibaba’s 15:09.61.
Hailu keeps momentum
The 20-year-old Ethiopian Freweyni Hailu confirmed her win and PB of 4:04.20 in Ostrava over 1500m last Wednesday was no fluke and gained a commanding victory in the women’s 800m. She even overtook the pacemaker before the bell, which Hailu crossed in 58:64 closely followed by her compatriot Hirut Meshesha. Over the second lap the Ethiopian pair ran well clear of the rest of the pack with Hailu finally prevailing in a massive PB of 1:59.92, her first ever sub-2:00 time, while Meshesha was runner-up in 2:00.95. Ethiopians also dominated in the men’s 1500m thanks to Teddese Lemi and Samuel Abate, with 3:35.84 and 3:36.30 their respective clockings.
Drawn in lane six, Marileidy Paulino of the Dominican Republic stamped her authority in the women’s 400m to cross the finish line head and shoulders above her rivals in a career best and national record of 50.25. She was clearly ahead of Portugal’s Catia Azevedo, runner-up in a national record of 51.61. Paulino moves to seventh on the year’s list and remains unbeaten this season after no fewer than eight competitions. Her compatriot Yancarlos Martinez was the quickest over 200m in 20.54.
Elsewhere, Gambia’s Gina Bass, a creditable sixth-placed at the World Athletics Championships in Doha over 200m, was an overwhelming winner in the women’s 100m in 11.27. Five men surpassed the 20-metre line in the shot put, headed by the Portuguese pair of Tsanko Arnaudov and Francisco Belo who both reached 20.25m, with the win going to Arnaudov by virtue of a further second throw. Latvia’s 2010 world U20 silver medallist Lina Muze took the women’s javelin thanks to a 62.28m third round effort while Puerto Rico’s Luis Joel Castro was successful in the men’s high jump with a third-time clearance of 2.22m. Nick Smidt of the Netherlands managed victory in the men’s 400m hurdles, timed at 50.13. Sweden’s Emile Blomberg became a surprise victor in the men’s steeplechase in a career best of 8:29.68, while Spain’s Caridad Jerez was the winner in the 100m hurdles, timed at 13.29.
Emeterio Valiente for World Athletics
Photo by Curro Cardador