Thomas Rohler unleashes his 93.90m bomb in Doha (© Hasse Sjogren/Jiro Mochizuki)
A 90-metre javelin throw at any stage of the season is noteworthy. But a 93.90m throw on a season’s debut suggests Thomas Rohler could be set for an incredible year.
The Olympic champion, competing in Doha at the opening IAAF Diamond League competition of the year, saw his early lead taken away from him in the third round as compatriot Johannes Vetter sent his spear out to a world-leading 89.68m.
But Vetter’s mark lasted only a few minutes at the top of the world list as Rohler responded in the next round with 93.90m.
As it flashed up on the scoreboard, so did various sets of initials to indicate that it was a world lead, a meeting record, an IAAF Diamond League record, and a national record. It also, perhaps more significantly, moves him to second on the world all-time list behind world record-holder Jan Zelezny.
The Czech legend owns five throws in excess of Rohler’s mark from Doha; the most recent one of those was more than 20 years ago.
It essentially marked the end of the competition as Rohler passed his remaining two attempts and Vetter couldn’t get within three metres of his own mark from round three. Jakub Vadlejch of the Czech Republic threw 87.91m, which at most other top-flight meetings would have been enough to win, but tonight it put him in third place.
“I did not see that coming, I did not expect that in the first start of the season,” said Rohler, whose previous best was 91.28m. “I’m second best, ever. It will take some days to realise that.
“It was an amazing competition for all of us,” he added. “We had a good training camp this year; it was early so we did a lot of fast training on the grass.”
Olympic champion Caster Semenya hasn’t lost any of the unbeatable aura she carried throughout last season.
The South African sat in the middle of the pack on the first lap of the 800m before taking up the sole lead with 200 metres remaining and moving away from the rest of the field. Olympic bronze medallist Margaret Wambui was the only athlete capable of covering the move, but Semenya crossed the line a comfortable winner in a world-leading meeting record of 1:56.61.
Wambui was second in 1:57.03 as fellow Kenyan Eunice Sum was third in 1:58.76. Habitam Alemu was fourth in 1:58.92 while world 1500m champion Genzebe Dibaba, making her 800m debut, was fifth in 1:59.37.
“The race was fantastic and the field is great,” said Semenya. “I’m looking forward to having great races; my only concern now is to finish my studies. I’m left with two semesters, so I need to graduate and get my focus back on the track.”
On a night of numerous world-leading marks, world silver medallist Elijah Manangoi led a Kenyan sweep of the top six places in the men’s 1500m. The field was paced through 800m in 1:53.10 before Timothy Cheruiyot took up the running.
But Manangoi proved to have the stronger finish and held off 2011 world silver medallist Silas Kiplagat to win by 0.33 in 3:31.90. Bethwell Birgen, Vincent Kibet and Cheruiyot all finished within 3:33.
Competing in his first race since taking victory in the mixed 4x400m at the IAAF/BTC World Relays Bahamas 2017, Steven Gardiner of The Bahamas held off two-time world champion LaShawn Merritt to win the 400m.
The world leader clocked 44.60 to Merritt’s 44.78. USA’s Tony McQuay was third in 44.92.
“I could have executed better, but it’s a little windy,” said Gardiner. “It’s the start of the season so I feel good, but I should have done better so I’m looking forward to the rest of the season.”
Olympic champion Michelle Carter led from start to finish to take full points in the women’s shot put. The US thrower opened with 18.86m and improved to 19.32m in round three. Hungary’s Olympic bronze medallist Anita Marton, as she often does, saved her best for the last round, but her 18.99m wasn’t enough to beat Carter.
Jon Mulkeen for the IAAF