Caterine Ibarguen, winner of the triple jump at the IAAF Continental Cup Ostrava 2018 (© Getty Images)
With well-played jokers and a handful of surprise performances, the Americas team find themselves in the leading position at the end of the first day of the IAAF Continental Cup Ostrava 2018 on Saturday (8).
Runners-up in 2014, Americas have amassed 135 points at the half-way stage to lead from defending champions Europe (123). Africa sits in third with 89 points while Asia-Pacific is fourth with 74 points.
On a day full of drama and careful calculations as athletes adjusted to the new formats for various events, the first track event of the weekend set the tone as Jamaica’s 2015 world champion Danielle Williams led an Americas 1-2 from world record-holder Kendra Harrison in the women’s 100m hurdles.
Harrison, the world indoor champion, got off to the best start but Williams was close behind throughout. While Harrison lost a bit of momentum in the latter stages, Williams came off the final hurdle best and hurtled towards the line in 12.49, just 0.02 shy of the competition record. Harrison was second in 12.52 while Germany’s Pamela Dutkiewicz, representing Europe, was third in 12.82.
More victories for the Americas team soon followed.
Panama’s Alonso Edward retained his Continental Cup title in the 200m, overtaking world champion Ramil Guliyev in the closing stages to win in 20.19.
In the women’s hammer, Deanna Price of the Americas upset Europe’s world record-holder Anita Wlodarczyk. In the new format for horizontal field events, the top four athletes from each team after three rounds had an additional attempt. The top two athletes from that fourth round went on to have one further attempt, the results of which would be used to determine the final standings.
Price and Wlodarczyk dominated each stage of the hammer, Price throwing 75.13m to the Pole’s 73.45m in round three. Both women came close to those marks in the fourth round to guarantee their place in round five. Wlodarczyk ended with 73.20m while Price sent her hammer flying out to a competition record of 75.46m.
There was some consolation for Wlodarczyk and her Europe teammate Alexandra Tavernier, however, as their team captain had played their joker, meaning the duo picked up double points.
Americas dominate field events
Americas team captain Mike Powell had played one of his joker cards in the women’s triple jump and Colombia’s Caterine Ibarguen did not disappoint.
Her opening jump of 14.31m remained the top mark after three rounds. Then, jumping into a -0.9m/s wind and taking off 29 centimetres behind the line, she improved to 14.76m in round four. Competition record-holder Olga Rypakova was the only other remaining competitor in the fifth round, but she recorded a foul while Ibarguen sailed out to 14.54m to guarantee her victory.
Donald Thomas bagged more valuable points for the Americas, winning the high jump on countback with 2.30m. Asia Pacific had played their joker in this event, so second-placed Brandon Starc and fourth-placed Majd Eddin Ghazal, with a best of 2.24m, went away with double points.
The success for Americas continued in the throwing events.
Brazil’s Darlan Romani upset Americas teammate Ryan Crouser, the Olympic champion, and Asia-Pacific’s world champion Tom Walsh by winning the shot put. Romani’s second-round effort of 21.89m remained the best of the day and he came out on top by beating Walsh in the final round, 21.68m to 21.43m.
Another world champion thrower was beaten by a member of the Americas team when Jamaica’s Fedrick Dacres got the better of Europe’s Andrius Gudzius in the discus. Dacres was the clear leader in the first three rounds with 66.64m and safely made his way through to the last round, where he improved to 67.97m.
With this being another joker event for the Americas, the leaders enjoyed an additional points boost.
Europe had been hoping to get back on terms with the Americas in the women’s discus, but in what was arguably the most dramatic field event of the day, the defending champions once again missed out.
World, Olympic and European champion Sandra Perkovic set out her stall early, throwing 68.44m in round one. IAAF Diamond League winner Yaime Perez, representing the Americas, threw 65.00m in round two and was second-best to Perkovic in the fourth round, meaning both women went through to round five.
But Perkovic faltered after releasing her discus in the final round, losing her balance and touching the ground outside the circle to register a foul. In the format of this competition, where marks in the fifth round count towards the final standings, it meant that any valid attempt from Perez would end up as the winning mark. As it was, the Cuban didn’t hold back and sent her discus out to 65.30m to take the win.
The day ended as it began: with further victories for the Americas. Both of their 4x100m teams sped to comfortable triumphs, the women winning in 42.11 from an all-British European team, and the men’s quartet breezing to a 38.05 win from Europe’s Turkish squad.
Hassan keeps European hopes alive
The European team had hoped that the home soil advantage would work to their favour, but the overall defending champions won just two individual events on the first day.
Their consistency across the board, though, means that they are only 12 points adrift of Americas on the overall leader board and still have every chance of winning tomorrow.
European 5000m champion Sifan Hassan produced the performance of the day, not just of the host team’s athletes but of the competition as a whole.
In the elimination 3000m, the Dutch runner was always safely positioned near the front of the pack alongside Europe teammate Konstanze Klosterhalfen. World champion Hellen Obiri and her Africa teammate Senbere Teferi were also well placed and it was those four women who remained in the race after the four eliminations had taken place.
The changes in pace to avoid elimination had taken their toll on Obiri, who had nothing left on the final lap. Hassan, meanwhile, was full of running and sprinted away from her opponents to win in a world-leading 8:27.50, smashing the competition record and improving on her own national record.
Teferi was second in 8:32.49, also inside the previous competition record, while Obiri was further back in third in 8:36.20.
Europe’s other individual win came in the women’s pole vault where another competition record was shattered.
Anzhelika Sidorova led up to and including 4.75m with first-time clearances. Sandi Morris of the Americas needed two attempts to get over that height while world and Olympic champion Katerina Stefanidi got over it on her third. Sidorova then failed at 4.80m while Morris and Stefanidi went clear.
All three women then safely negotiated 4.85m on their second attempts but could not quite get over 4.90m. As Sidorova had fewer failures earlier in the competition, she came away with the victory.
One-lappers shine for Asia-Pacific
They may not have threatened Americas’ overall lead, but Asia-Pacific picked up individual victories in both of the one-lap events on the first day.
Qatar’s Abderrahman Samba concluded his undefeated season with a competition record of 47.37 in the 400m hurdles. Kyron McMaster of the Americas and Karsten Warholm of Europe tried to stay with him during the early stages, but had nothing left in the second half as Jamaica’s Annsert Whyte came through to finish a distant second in 48.46.
It was Samba’s ninth sub-48-second time of the season, equalling the record tally achieved by Danny Harris in 1990 and Kevin Young in 1992.
Samba’s Asia-Pacific teammate Salwa Eid Naser came out on top in the women’s 400m. The world silver medallist won in 49.32, the second-fastest time of her career, to hold off Caster Semenya, who clocked a South African record of 49.62 in second.
Another week, another dramatic steeplechase for Kipruto
Although Africa ended the first day at the bottom of the team standings, they recorded individual wins in five events. Of those, Conseslus Kipruto’s steeplechase triumph – nine days after his one-shoed win at the IAAF Diamond League final in Zurich – was perhaps the most notable.
With Evan Jager of the Americas not starting due to injury, it meant just three of the seven men in the field would be eliminated. Just as the first of the eliminations was about to be made, Kipruto’s Africa teammate Soufiane El Bakkali twisted his ankle and suddenly pulled up.
Asia-Pacific duo John Koech and Kosei Yamaguchi were eliminated before the final lap, by which point Kipruto was away and clear. The Kenyan started celebrating with 200 metres to go, eventually winning in 8:22.55 and finishing more than seven seconds ahead of Canadian Matt Hughes of the Americas.
There was further African success in middle-distance events as Emmanuel Korir held off a strong challenge from USA’s Clayton Murphy and Botswana’s Nijel Amos to win the 800m in 1:46.50. Winny Chebet, meanwhile, showed impressive finishing speed to get the better of USA’s Shelby Houlihan in the 1500m, 4:16.01 to 4:16.31.
Marie-Josee Ta Lou and Ruswahl Samaai made history for the continent by becoming the first African winners in their respective events.
Ta Lou held off co-world leader Dina Asher Smith to win the 100m by 0.02 in 11.14. Samaai, meanwhile, dominated the long jump, leaping a best of 8.16m in round two before sailing out to 8.10m in the crucial fifth and final round to get the better of Greece’s Miltiadis Tentoglou.
Jon Mulkeen for the IAAF