Four world leads highlighted the IAAF World Challenge meeting in Beijing, and there was an attempt on Zhu Jianhua’s iconic national record in the high jump by Zhang Guowei on Wednesday night (20).
David Oliver and Wenda Nel set world-leading times in the hurdles, as a crowd of more than 40,000 watched in the stadium which will host the 2015 IAAF World Championships.
The day before the Beijing meeting, Oliver was outlining his competitive philosophy to a group of media representatives. In a nutshell, it boiled down to always putting everything on the line every time you compete because you never know what is coming next.
Several athletes who competed on Sunday at the IAAF Diamond League meeting in Shanghai showed signs of weariness as the show moved north to Beijing, but not Oliver.
He gave the same 100 per cent effort he had given in winning four days earlier. As he crossed the line 0.22 seconds ahead of Orlando Ortega on this occasion – it was just 0.02 on Sunday – the time initially was displayed as identical as in Shanghai, 13.17.
But it was soon adjusted to 13.15 and the man who won at the World Championships in Moscow two years ago now stands at the top of the pile again.
Nel did not run in Shanghai, where Kaliese Spencer won in 54.71, and last weekend Nel also lost her world lead to the USA’s Shamier Little, but the South African put things right in the Bird’s Nest.
Running in the middle of the field, she was never behind. Nel rose to the eighth hurdle fractionally ahead of Olympic silver medallist Lashinda Demus and her US compatriot Tiffany Williams and then powered away from them along the final straight to win in a personal best of 54.37 from Williams (55.22) and Demus (55.86).
Throws dash Chinese hopes, but Zhang salves pride
There were bright local prospects in the women’s throws, but it didn’t work out like that.
It may have been expecting a little too much for either Wang Zheng or Zhang Wenxiu to beat Polish hammer world record-holder Anita Wlodarczyk but either, or both, might have got close.
Instead, Wlodarczyk stamped her authority on the competition, part of the 2015 IAAF Hammer Throw Challenge, very early. Her 74.14m opener would have won the day, but she improved to a world-leading 77.73m in the second round and her last three throws went out to 76.23m, 75.59m and 75.61m.
It was easily Wlodarczyk's best ever season opener and is the best hammer performance ever achieved on Asian soil.
Zheng took second with 73.99m and Slovakia’s Martina Hrasnova was third with 73.80m.
The expectation in the shot put, however, was that Gong Lijiao would repeat her Shanghai win over Christina Schwanitz, but the German opened with 19.86m, which took the lead over Gong’s 19.50m earlier in the round.
Gong never improved, whereas Schwanitz went to 20.38m in the fourth round and a world-leading personal best of 20.77m in the fifth.
In this form, the German thrower will be a threat even to Valerie Adams when the 2014 World Athlete of the Year returns to competition.
It was the best outdoor throw in the world since Adams won the 2013 world title and the best mark by a German since 1997.
If hopes were dashed by these two results, Chinese fans were smiling again in the men’s high jump.
Not only did Zhang win with 2.34m, but two Chinese jumpers fought out the contest at that height. Wang Yu got over 2.28m at his third try and 2.31m at his second to force Zhang into a fight for the win.
Zhang, who was leading on countback in any case, cleared 2.34m on the third attempt and then audaciously went straight to 2.40m, one centimetre above the national (and former world) record set by Zhu Jianhua way back in 1984.
Zhang didn’t get it this time, but one attempt was a good one.
There was another Chinese victory in the women’s 100m hurdles, Wu Shuijiao running a clean race to hold a narrow lead over Tenaya Jones all the way to the line, winning in 12.85 to the US hurdler’s 12.89.
Another event with a strong Chinese presence was the men’s long jump, but victory not only eluded the home athletes, but also world champion Aleksandr Menkov and world leader Jeff Henderson.
Instead, Henderson’s training partner Mike Hartfield improved his best from 8.15m to 8.27m for an upset win.
Henderson was second with 8.23m, Menkov jumped 8.20m and Li Jinzhe was fourth with 8.13m
Michelle-Lee Ahye took the women’s 100m in 11.05 and the USA’s world indoor 60m silver medallist Marvin Bracy ran a personal best 9.95 to take the men’s event.
Bracy had not broken 10 seconds before, his previous best being 10.08.
Anna Chicherova, who is returning from an ankle injury last year, won the women’s high jump, the Olympic champion clearing 1.94m on her last attempt.
Kenya’s Jonathan Ndiku, the Commonwealth Games champion last year, won the 3000m steeplechase in 8:11.64 while world youth and world junior champion Alfred Kipketer showed he might be a threat to his older rivals this year with a win in the 800m in 1:45.45.
Ukraine’s in-form Anna Mishchenko showed an impressive burst of speed over the final 200 metres to win the women’s 1500m in 4:02.89.
Len Johnson for the IAAF