Ryan Crouser, winner of the shot put in Zagreb (© Organisers)
Olympic champion Ryan Crouser continued his unbeaten 2020 campaign at the Hanzekovic Memorial on Monday (14), winning the shot put at the World Athletics Continental Tour Gold meeting with a Croatian all-comers’ record of 22.74m.
As is tradition at this meeting, the men’s shot put is staged at Zagreb’s City Fountains on the eve of the main competition and is held in honour of Ivan Ivancic, Yugoslavia’s 1983 world shot put finalist.
Crouser, who won in Zagreb in 2016 with a meeting record of 22.28m and triumphed again in 2018, opened conservatively today with 21.03m, but it was still enough to take an early lead. David Storl took a short-lived lead in round two with 21.20m, then world champion Joe Kovacs took a turn in top spot with 21.30m, but Crouser jumped back into pole position with 22.10m to close out round two.
The US thrower then unleashed an almighty 22.74m in round three to extend his lead, adding 46 centimetres to his own meeting record.
After a foul in the fourth round, Crouser came close to his leading mark with 22.59m in round five. He rounded out his series with 22.31m, another throw beyond his previous meeting record.
Crouser’s winning mark today is the best throw achieved in Europe since 1988. It’s also his 31st throw this year beyond 22 metres; a barrier no other man has bettered in 2020.
“I was really happy with the night, that’s one of my top-10 throws,” said Crouser, who has thrown farther on just two previous occasions. “I was a little disappointed that I didn't throw a little bit further, I was really hoping for the 23. I think there is still a 23-metre throw there; I just have to let it happen.”
Kovacs and Storl didn’t improve in the second half of the competition and so remained in second and third respectively. USA’s Payton Otterdahl threw 21.06m in the penultimate round to move into fourth, while Nick Ponzio ended with 21.03m to place fifth.
Perkovic ready for final appearance of 2020
Speaking at the press conference held earlier on Monday, multiple world and Olympic discus champion Sandra Perkovic said she is looking to end her season on a high when she competes in Zagreb on Tuesday.
“This has been a crazy year and we didn't know how to deal with all the problems from the beginning,” said Perkovic, whose only other competition this year was a 65.93m victory in Split back in March. “We managed, we had ups and downs. I’m happy that this meeting has been organised and that I am returning to the throwing circle. I wanted to mark the 70th Hanžeković Memorial with a throw beyond 70 metres, but that’s not realistic to expect now. But a throw beyond 65 metres would prove that I’m still at the very top of the world.”
Fellow Olympic champion Sara Kolak, meanwhile, is a late withdrawal from the javelin due to a toe injury, but she intends on watching the action tomorrow evening.
“I have had problems with my big toe for several months now,” she said. “I missed a lot of training because of it and it has affected my technique and the condition of my whole body.”
World silver medallist Amel Tuka, winner of the 800m in Zagreb last year, says he is rounding into good form and hopes to win again when he takes on a strong field that includes the likes of USA’s Bryce Hoppel and British duo Jake Wightman and Daniel Rowden.
“I’ve had just three races this season and now I'm getting back to normal,” said Tuka, who has a best of 1:42.51. “Given the strong competition, I believe the meeting record (1:44.08) could fall.”
Turkey’s 2017 world 200m champion Ramil Guliyev is also excited to return to Zagreb.
“I’ve had only five races this year, but this stadium holds happy memories for me,” said the European champion. “I set a 200m PB (19.88) here five years ago, and I believe that my result in the 100m tomorrow will be good as well.”
The women’s high jump has a strong line up, but Australia’s Nicola McDermott hopes her Croatian roots will earn her a bit of extra support from the crowd when she takes on Ukraine's 2017 world silver medallist Yuliya Levchenko.
“At the age of eight I’d watch Blanka Vlašić’s performances on YouTube with great excitement,” said McDermott, whose grandparents are from Blato on Korcula. “That’s why tomorrow’s competition is a special event for me.”
Jon Mulkeen for World Athletics