Steven Gardiner on his way to a world 400m lead in Szekesfehervar (© Thiago Ribeiro)
Olympic champion Steven Gardiner made a statement just one month out from the World Athletics Championships, running a world 400m lead of 43.74 – the second-fastest performance of his career so far – at the Gyulai Istvan Memorial in Szekesfehervar on Tuesday (18).
Some of the world’s best athletes were in Hungary for this season’s penultimate World Athletics Continental Tour Gold meeting as they sought strong results ahead of their return for the global showpiece taking place in Budapest between 19-27 August.
Gardiner was among them and a day after explaining at the pre-event press conference how he feels “like my old self again”, he proved it with a dominant run that saw him shoot into the lead of this season’s top list.
The Bahamian sprinter sits sixth on the world all-time list with the 43.48 PB he set when winning world gold in 2019, but he was unable to defend that title in Oregon due to injury. He returned to competition in March and stayed patient, building his way back ahead of Budapest.
Racing in hot and sunny conditions in Szekesfehervar, he improved the meeting record of 44.30 he set in 2015 to replace Muzala Samukonga as the fastest 400m runner in the world this year. Samukonga clocked 43.91 in April, while world record-holder Wayde van Niekerk continued his own comeback with a 44.08 win at the Diamond League meeting in Silesia on Sunday.
Rusheen McDonald chased Gardiner to second place in 44.03 – also his second-fastest ever time behind his Jamaican record from 2015 – while USA’s Vernon Norwood was third in 44.63.
“I think that is my old self again out there and I’m happy," Gardiner said. "It gives me more confidence to know that I can do anything, it’s possible. I went out there and I did what I had to do and I surprised myself today.”
The women’s 100m starred a first ever clash between Julien Alfred and Sha'Carri Richardson – both unbeaten in the discipline this year – as Alfred looked to make an impression on her professional debut.
The 22-year-old certainly did that, securing a strong start and striding away from the rest of the field to win in 10.89 (0.7m/s) – 0.08 off the PB she set in Texas in May. The Saint Lucian sprinter, who has won multiple NCAA titles for the University of Texas over the past couple of years, finished clear ahead of US champion Richardson, who closed the gap a touch in the final stages and finished second in 10.97. Her US compatriot Tamari Davis was third in 11.02.
“A lot of people would say it is a surprise result, but I felt the power and I knew I could do it,” said Alfred, who next competes in the 200m at the Diamond League in Monaco. “I could not be in any better shape one month before the World Championships.”
Shericka Jackson secured another win as she continues her journey towards her world title defence in Budapest. The Jamaican clocked 22.02 (1.0m/s) in the 200m to triumph ahead of Ireland’s Rhasidat Adeleke, also making her professional debut, who came close to her PB with 22.36. Anthonique Strachan was third in 22.45.
The men’s 200m closed the programme and Dominican Republic’s Alexander Ogando dipped under 20 seconds to pip USA’s Erriyon Knighton – 19.99 to 20.05 (1.1m/s). Jamaica’s Andrew Hudson finished third in 20.36.
There was a first 100m win of the season for Jamaica’s 2011 world champion Yohan Blake as he clocked 10.04 (0.1m/s) to lead a Jamaican top three ahead of Ackeem Blake (10.09) and Rohan Watson (10.10).
Nigeria’s world champion and world record-holder Tobi Amusan showed her consistency in the women’s 100m hurdles, following up her win in 12.34 at Sunday’s Diamond League meeting in Silesia with a 12.35 (-0.5m/s) winning performance in Szekesfehervar. She held off 2019 world champion Nia Ali, who clocked 12.41, while her US compatriot Alaysha Johnson was third in 12.50.
USA’s Daniel Roberts edged Jamaica’s Olympic champion Hansle Parchment and Tyler Mason to win the men’s 110m hurdles, dipping over the finish line in 13.12 (0.5m/s) to his rivals’ matching time of 13.14.
Andrenette Knight started strongly in the women’s 400m hurdles and she held on to turn the tables on national champion Janieve Russell and lead a Jamaican top four. Knight – runner-up to Russell at the Jamaican Championships earlier this month – improved her PB to 53.26 to win this time, with Russell second in 53.72 and Rushell Clayton third in 53.79. World bronze medallist Sada Williams cruised to victory in the women’s 400m, the Barbadian sprinter striding over the finish in 50.34 ahead of Romania’s Andrea Miklos in 50.80 and Austria's Susanne Gogl-Walli in a PB of 50.87.
World record-holder Ryan Crouser continued his dominance in the men’s shot put, throwing 22.51m to win by almost half a metre. That mark came in the fourth round, with three of his other valid throws also beyond 22.40m.
His US compatriot Joe Kovacs, competing in front of some of his Hungarian family, took an early lead with 22.06m in the opening round but Crouser threw 22.42m on his second attempt for a lead he wouldn’t relinquish. That opener ended up being Kovacs’ best and he finished second, with New Zealand’s Tom Walsh third with 21.85m.
Shot put winner Ryan Crouser in Szekesfehervar (© Thiago Ribeiro)
World champion Kristjan Ceh and Olympic champion Daniel Stahl were tied on 14 career wins apiece head of their contest in Szekesfehervar but now it’s Stahl who holds the advantage as he thew 68.98m to win the men’s discus ahead of Andrius Gudzius (67.66m) and Ceh (67.60m).
Three days after his European U23 title win in Espoo, Mykhaylo Kokhan maintained his unbeaten year with a 79.37m season’s best – his farthest throw in two years – to win the men’s hammer.
The 22-year-old, who set his PB of 80.78m to triumph in Szekesfehervar in 2021, surpassed 76 metres with all six of his attempts, winning by more than a metre ahead of Olympic champion Wojciech Nowicki (77.89m) and home favourite Bence Halasz (77.82m). Ukraine’s Kokhan backed up his winning mark from the fifth round with throws of 78.90m in the final round and 78.61m in the fourth.
Just 5cm separated Olympic champion Miltiadis Tentoglou and 2019 world champion Tajay Gayle in the men’s long jump, as Tentoglou prevailed with 8.29m in the last round ahead of Gayle's 8.24m from round four.
Serbia’s Milica Gardasevic soared to top spot in the women’s long jump, leaping 6.80m to win ahead of Nigeria’s world silver medallist Ese Brume and Hungarian champion Petra Banhidi-Farkas. Gardasevic leapt 6.71m in the second round and that would have been enough – just – for her to triumph ahead of Brume with 6.69m from the same round. But the Serbian champion went even farther in the final round to consolidate her victory. Banhidi-Farkas’ best was 6.66m from the third round.
Nelly Chepchirchir broke the meeting record to win the women’s 1500m, claiming a convincing victory in 4:00.18 ahead of her compatriot Brenda Chebet in a 4:01.25 PB in a repeat of the Kenyan World Championships Trials top two. Uganda’s Winnie Nanyondo finished third in 4:01.96.
Australia’s Peter Bol and Gabriel Tual of France were locked in battle in the closing stages of the men’s 800m – Tual having taken over when the pacemaker stepped off at 600m but Bol readying himself to cover the move. As Tual forged ahead, Bol – who recently lost his Oceanian record-holder to his training partner Joseph Deng – stayed close and managed to edge ahead at the finish, winning in 1:44.48 to Tual’s 1:44.55. USA’s Clayton Murphy was third in 1:45.53 and Deng, who ran 1:43.99 in France earlier this month, finished seventh.
Morocco’s Mohamed Tindouft won a tactical men’s 3000m steeplechase, clocking 8:15.73 just two days after another 8:15 performance at the Diamond League meeting in Silesia. To the fore of a large group at the bell, Tindouft kicked to string the field out for the first time. He was chased by Ethiopia’s world U20 silver medallist Samuel Firewu, who finished second in a PB of 8:16.40, and Uganda’s Leonard Chemutai, third in a PB of 8:17.14.
Jess Whittington for World Athletics