Robert Harting wins the discus at the IAAF Diamond League meeting in New York (© Victah Sailer)
Robert Harting's travel itinerary for his first trip to New York wouldn't have been anyone's first choice.
After arriving from Germany at 6pm on Friday night, he was awake early for the ride out to Randall's Island from Manhattan for the start of the competition at the IAAF Diamond League meeting before turning around and boarding a plane back to Europe a few hours later.
It would have been understandable if the big man struggled to perform in the men's discus and, indeed, he got off to a slow start, but an entertaining duel with Ehsan Hadadi of Iran and Piotr Malachowski of Poland livened him up and spurred the world champion to a meeting record throw of 68.24m in round six that earned him four points and a share of the Diamond Race lead.
"It's kind of unusual travel, (departures) being very close," said the three-time world champion. "My opinion is when you are tired from the trip, it causes a kind of stress on the body but the stress also causes you to be powerful because the body doesn’t know what is happening and it gives you everything that you need."
Hadadi had taken the early lead in round two with a toss of 65.23m, but Harting answered quickly with a throw of 66.49m that same round and then extended it to 67.02m on his next throw.
Malachowski, the current world leader at 69.28m, struggled throughout but whirled past Hadadi into second place with a final throw of 65.45m. Harting then responded with his best throw of the day on his last attempt, obliterating the previous meeting record of 66.84m set by US thrower Jarred Rome in 2007.
"I've had so much trouble this year," said a pleased Harting afterwards. "I finished my studying and have a new coach so we need to get a relationship too. There are little mistakes happening every week, so that is why the level isn’t very consistent.
“I don’t think that 70 metres this year is possible. I have to battle the Europeans like Piotr this summer. But I will prepare and try to win the Diamond Race for the first time. My plan is to stay consistent and make as many mistakes as possible this year so that, with my new coach, we can avoid them through 2016."
Merritt sets 400m mark on the run
LaShawn Merritt said he is taking the Diamond Race very seriously this season and his results are proving that, as the 27-year-old world champion followed up his world-leading effort in a dead-heat in Eugene with a victory in the men's 400m here in 44.19, smashing the meeting record of 44.70 set in 2008 by his US countryman Xavier Carter.
Merritt needed the effort to hold off Wayde van Niekerk of South Africa, who finished second in a national record and African under-23 best of 44.38, and Chris Brown of The Bahamas, who was third in a world age-35 best of 44.61.
"For me, it is not really about the time," said Merritt. "I wanted to come to get the victory. That is what it took to win because second place was 44.3. To go 44.1, I ran as well as I had to and conserved energy for the next race. I actually am running now to catch a flight to Ostrava and will keep doing business."
This was quite the different competition for US long jumper Jeff Henderson.
On Monday, he tweaked his approach, moving it back further to capitalise on his speed. With only two chances before the meeting to work on the new approach, he was a bit uncertain as to how things would materialise but, after a strong warm-up, a solid opening jump and two fouls, the 25-year-old soared out to 8.33m, breaking the meeting record of 8.16m set in 2012 by Australia’s Mitchell Watt.
"I felt very fast and very confident," said Henderson. "I was on the runway and this time, I didn’t clap for some reason. I started my run and I stood up tall and started running fast. I came off the board high but I didn’t really know how high I got. I hit the sand and got up and noticed that it was very far."
Not only did Henderson not prompt the crowd to clap rhythmically, but he also didn't put a goal mark out there for himself to chase.
"I didn’t have a target," said Henderson, whose previous best was 8.25m. Every time I have a target, I end up not jumping good. I just focused on running my runway and making sure that I jump the way I am supposed to jump."
Middle distance marks for Assefa and Aregawi
After her brilliant victory in the women's 3000m steeplechase at the IAAF Diamond League meeting in Eugene, Sofia Assefa opted to remain in nearby Portland rather than travel back home to Ethiopia.
Remaining at sea level for so long left her feeling a bit sluggish, but it didn’t show on the clock as she cruised to victory in 9:18.58, a time seven seconds slower than her last race but almost 16 seconds faster than the meeting record of 9:27.29 set in 2011 by Kenya’s Milcah Chemos.
"This was a good win for me today," said Assefa. "I was happy to get the meeting record. I really went for it. I thought I would be able to get it since my personal best (9:11.39 in Eugene) was under the meeting record by a good amount. I feel really fit right now. I am hoping to do well in my next meeting in Paris, but today was very good."
In the women's 1500m, Sweden's world champion Abeba Aregawi continued her brilliance this season by holding off Dawit Seyaum of Ethiopia, 4:00.13 to 4:00.66 for her second IAAF Diamond League victory of the season.
Aregawi's time bettered the meeting record of 4:01.60 set by Kenya’s Nancy Langat in 2010.
Kenya's Mercy Cherono won the women's 3000m in 8:39.84.
Joe Battaglia for the IAAF