Joe Kovacs on his way to winning the US shot put title (© Kirby Lee)
With his fifth personal best of the year, Joe Kovacs became the latest member of the 22-metre club with his winning effort in the shot put on the opening day of the US Championships on Wednesday (25).
Held in front of 5500 fans at the California State Capitol in downtown Sacramento, Kovacs was playing catch-up for much of the competition. 2007 world champion Reese Hoffa took an early lead with his opening throw of 20.61m, only to be overtaken in the next round by Kurt Roberts, who launched his shot out to 21.03m.
Roberts then extended his lead to a PB of 21.47m as Hoffa crept closer with 20.77m in the third round and 20.78m in the fourth.
With Jonathan Jones having set a PB of 20.75m in round three, Kovacs was sitting in fourth place as the shot putters entered the second half of the competition. Then in the fifth round, Kovacs unleashed his mammoth 22.03m effort.
Both Roberts and Kovacs ended their series with marks that landed past the 21-metre line, but neither improved on their best marks of the competition.
With his winning mark of 22.03m, Kovacs added more than half a metre to his previous best, set earlier this year at the IAAF Diamond League meeting in Shanghai. He also became the 23rd man in history, indoors or outdoors, to join the 22-metre club. Of those 23 men, 13 are from the US.
Earlier in the day, US record-holder Michelle Carter won the women’s contest, leading from the outset to capture her fifth national crown.
After opening with 18.58m, Carter twice extended her lead, first with 19.12m in round two, and then with 19.45m in the fourth round.
That remained the best mark of the day, but it came under a bit of pressure in the final round when Felisha Johnson heaved a PB of 19.18m to move up one place into second, overtaking world finalist Tia Brooks, who threw a season’s best of 18.83m.
The US Championships continue until Sunday (29) with all of the other events being held at Sacramento State University.
Jon Mulkeen for the IAAF