Michelle Perry's world leading 12.44 in Rome (© Getty Images)
Michelle Perry and Asafa Powell were the peerless athletes in the Olympic stadium at tonight’s ‘Golden Gala Kinder+Sport’, the third stop on the six-meet IAAF Golden League 2007, which was played out in front of over 39,000 spectators.
Three of the four $1 Million Jackpot contenders proceed
There was triumph and near tragedy across the four disciplines in which Jackpot contenders embarked searching for victory in the third stage of their quest to win at least a share of the $1 Million prize which is available for any athlete(s) who wins at all six meetings of the series. There were assured victories for Americans Michelle Perry (100mH) and Sanya Richards (400m) and Russian Yelena Isinbayeva (PV) but a defeat and some heavy emotions for Finland’s Tero Pitkämäki (JT).
Perry is perfection
Perry is now the pre-eminent women’s sprint hurdler of the season, as she has been at the conclusion to the last two years as well. Her 12.44 run improved the current world season lead of Ginnie Powell who had beaten her in the US Trials. The style of her victory put her opponents in a deep competitive shade. Susanna Kallur, the European titleholder and the fastest from the ‘old continent’ this season with her brilliant pursuit of Perry in Lausanne, was not even near to matching the American tonight with 12.72 for third. Spain’s Josephine Onyia with a PB of 12.67 split the two.
“The Golden League hunt is still on,” commented a delighted Perry. “At the start I felt the blood pumping because I felt the pressure…I started well, I executed it (the race) well in the middle and I finished strongly. I am not surprised with 12.44.”
Richards – grace for 350
In the 400m, Richards went out strong and looked very relaxed for the first 350 metres but as was seen in Paris last week she tightened up as she closed on the line. That slight stiffness was enough to let 2001 World champion Amy Mbacke Thiam close somewhat and take second place (50.15, her season’s best and fastest for four years). Not that the victory was ever in doubt as Richards took the tape in 49.77 but against the impressive CV that the 22-year-old has already established the manner of her success clearly indicates she has yet to find top gear. USA’s Natasha Hastings finished third in 50.34.
Isinbayeva alone on high once more
It was a great disappointment to discover at the very start of the meeting that the much awaited pole vaulting duel between Yelena Isinbayeva and Jenn Stuczynski was not to take place. The American had been suffering from a lower back problem all week since her arrival in Rome, had had physio on Monday, and while she warmed up tonight at the Olympic stadium suffered a relapse and so withdrew.
The competition was thus just the usual, brilliant, one woman affair with first time fouls at 4.65m and 4.85, for the World record holder, but good clearances when she immediately moved on from both heights to respectively clear 4.70 and 4.90 bars at her next approaches. Later none of Isinbayeva’s three tries at a would-be World record of 5.02m were close even though she seemed to have the height on her last before coming down on the bar.
Pitkämäki and Sdiri the centre of near tragedy
A first round 88.36 metres release by Norway’s Andreas Thorkildsen promised so much for this Javelin Throw competition on the acknowledged fast runway of the Olympic stadium, and when Jackpot contender Tero Pitkämäki launched an 86.09 in response with his second it looked like our hopes would be delivered.
Yet most unfortunately in one of life’s freak accidents we were instead delivered a near tragedy. Launching his spear in the third series, the Finn watched with horror as it flew out to the left of the sector by the long jump pit, impaling French long jumper Salim Sdiri in his side.
Sdiri was speedily treated by doctors at the stadium and taken to hospital but thankfully the first diagnosis was positive, with the initial scan taken in the ambulance not showing any serious damage to the Frenchman. Later the news improved further to the effect that there is no internal damage, with the spear having only pierced 3cm into the body. Sdiri remained conscious throughout and says he remembered nothing of the incident except for the bolt of pain.
Pitkämäki was distraught. “My only wish is that the long jumper is ok,” said the Finn. “And I hope that it was just a scratch.... I rotated a bit too much to the left and it just went (flew) into the jumping area.”
On his continuing the competition – “I tried to throw again, but I was just feeling very bad.” He ended with a sixth round 86.00m.
>>UPDATE: Sdiri was returned to the hotel room in the early hours of this morning (14) heavily bandaged but with no serious injuries<<
Powell powers back
Any injury concerns about World record holder Asafa Powell, who had to pull out of last week’s race in Paris due to a groin strain, were swiftly dismissed in just 9.90 seconds. It was the Jamaican’s 100m season’s best and a convincing statement that no one should write him off from their Osaka World Championship predictions.
Runner-up was Bahamian Derrick Atkins (10.02) and Chuandy Martina of the Netherlands Antilles came third (10.10). Martina is an interesting character because his greatest career notice before tonight was a 9.76 time in 1996 set in very windy conditions (6.1 m/s wind).
No Roman celebrations
There was to be no great party night for the large Roman crowd who were following their current pet events, the men’s Long Jump and women’s High Jump.
There was a low key if noisily supported 8.12m win in the men’s Long Jump for national hero Andrew Howe. But everyone was hoping for so much more in an event where only three men went over 8 metres. Back in a woeful ninth place was the reigning World and Olympic champion Dwight Phillips with a 7.66m best!
In the High Jump, Croatian Blanka Vlasic claimed her second straight Golden League competition - and her eighth overall win this season in nine outings - after a solid first attempt clearance at 2.02. World champion Kajsa Bergqvist of Sweden needed three attempts at both 1.98 and 2.00 before going over cleanly. Spaniard Ruth Beitia was third (1.98), and the Italian crowd’s hope Antonieta Di Martino bettered 1.95 to finish fourth.
It was a strange night for the horizontal jumps. The men’s Triple Jump like the Long Jump was low key. Different reasons here though and more concerning for current Olympic champion Christian Olsson because after a 17.19m first round effort, which ultimately held on for the victory, he had a second attempt foul, and then retired with a cramp in the third round. The Swede however was quick to confirm “it was not an injury”.
Moore makes his mark
USA’s Anwar Moore might not be going to Osaka but he is turning out to be the revelation of the men’s High Hurdles this summer. It is not betraying any confidence to say the track world was surprised to see this name as one of the Jackpot contenders after the first meet in Oslo (13.26).
However, in his equally brilliant but significantly faster racing in the following weeks he has proved to have the mark of true quality. Unlucky he lost out on the Jackpot chase on the line in Paris but his 13.13 was the same time as the winner Dayron Robles of Cuba. Then in Lausanne he was second to World record holder Liu Xiang with a PB equalling time of 13.12.
Now tonight the 28-year-old American took the line first in 13.16 beating Robles (13.17), with USA’s David Oliver who is going to Osaka for the USA, third in 13.36.
Fast times in 5000s
A straightforward men’s 5000m was won by Ethiopia’s Sileshi Sihine with a 13:01.46 world lead. It was a last straight sprint finish which took him clear of Kenya’s Eliud Kipchoge (13:02.10) and Musir Salem Jawher of Bahrain, the latter ending with a national record of 13:02.89.
In the women’s race, there was a national record for New Zealand’s Kimberley Smith (14:49.41) and a European lead for Portugal’s Jessica Augusto (14:56.39) but both were no match for Morocco’s 23-year-old Mariem Alouli Selsouli’s 14:36.52. That time destroyed her previous PB of 14:57.26 which she had established when coming sixth in Oslo on 15 June.
Sinclair continues in winning mode
Battling through the centre of the women’s 800m field coming off the final bend, Kenia Sinclair, hot from her victory in the cool night air of Lausanne on Tuesday, again exhibited a most impressive final burst of speed to win a high quality race in which four women dipped under 2mins. The Jamaican’s winning time of 1:59.45 was enough to hold off Spain’s Mayte Martinez (1:59.74), Kenyan Janeth Jepkoskei (1:59.87), and Slovak Lucia Klocova (1:59.89).
The men’s two laps was taken by Mohammed Al-Salhi in 1:46.18 who was one of four men who nipped past the long time last lap leader Kenya’s World Indoor champion Wilfred Bungei in the last 40 metres. Bungei has had a right leg injury in recent weeks, and it showed as his strength flooded away in the last metres.
The men’s 400m was a reversal of the US Trials result with LaShawn Merritt (44.44) taking the tape ahead of Angelo Taylor (44.55). A powerful run from the fast developing talent of Sweden’s Johan Wissman, the former 200m specialist, took third in 45.12, equalling the Swedish national record and establishing a new European season’s lead.
Edwards a class apart
Torri Edwards continued a consistent season with her fourth World Athletics Tour win of the season following on from Eugene, Paris and Lausanne. Her run in Switzerland on Tuesday was won in a 11.00 near-dead heat with Veronica Campbell. Here tonight in the Jamaican’s absence Edwards was a class apart with a 11.03 victory in the 100m which with half of the race run became more of a solo demonstration of the US champion’s skills than a true competition. USA’s World Indoor 60m champion Me’Lisa Barber was second (11.11), and Bulgaria’s Tezdzhan Naimova was third (11.14).
PB’s peppered the result sheet in the men’s 1500m. With 250 metres to go Algeria’s Tarek Boukensa had the slight advantage over the pack and while sustaining a number of challenges it wasn’t until Oslo winner Adil Kaouch pounced in the home straight that he was headed. The Moroccan World silver medallist won with a PB of 3:30.77, followed by career bests for Boukensa (3:30.92) and Kenya’s Shadrock Korir (3:31.18). Two of last year’s international circuit winning stalwarts were not significantly in the play. Kenyans Alex Kipchirchir (3:31.58 – 4th) and Daniel Kipchirchir Komen (3:32.55 – 5th) were not quite on song by comparison to their normal racing reputations.
The night’s track action was ended with the men’s and women’s 400m Hurdles.
30 metres from the finish the men’s race looked as if it was going to produce a three-man blanket finish in lanes 3, 5 and 6. But in the those final metres South Africa’s LJ Van Zyl, who had taken a surprise win in Athens nearly a fortnight ago, was able to open a little light between him and his opponents, crossing in 48.24 from USA’s Kerron Clement (48.26) and James Carter (48.31).
The women’s race was a duo duel between Jana Rawlinson and Jamaican Melanie Walker, the Australian taking it 54.91 to 55.18, and for the first time in three races finding enough energy to power slightly off the last barrier. USA’s Sandra Glover was third, 55.38.