Two weeks after finishing an uncharacteristic third at the Kenyan Olympic Trials, world and Olympic champion David Rudisha returned to winning ways by running a world-leading 1:43.35 in the 800m at the Istvan Gyulai Memorial in Szekesfehervar on Monday (18).
He almost missed out on taking a place on Kenya’s Olympic team when he made some poor tactical decisions in Eldoret earlier this month before eventually battling to a third-place finish. In Szekesfehervar, though, he made no such mistakes.
The world record-holder followed pace maker Bram Som, albeit some eight metres adrift, as the first lap was covered in 50.90. He then started to dig in with a lap to go in a long run for home. Compatriot Jonathan Kitilit tried to stay with him but couldn’t make up any ground as Rudisha charged through the line in a world-leading 1:43.35, his fastest time in exactly two years. Kitilit finished second in 1:44.16.
On an evening with perfect conditions for athletics, there were a handful of big surprises.
Akani Simbine produced the run of his life to win the 100m in a South African record of 9.89. Aided by a useful 1.9m/s tailwind, former world record-holder Asafa Powell got off to the best start, but Simbine ended ahead in the second half to cross the line 0.03 ahead of the Jamaican.
Simbine went on to win the 200m in a personal best of 20.16 (0.7m/s), finishing 0.08 ahead of USA’s Isiah Young.
One of the other shocks came in the men’s high jump.
Donald Thomas of The Bahamas took the lead with a second-time clearance at 2.33m. Ukraine’s 2013 world champion Bogdan Bondarenko regained the lead by sailing over 2.35m on his first try.
The bar then went up to 2.37m, which Bondarenko passed, knowing that Thomas would have to produce the jump of his life to take back pole position. And that’s exactly what happened as Thomas got over it on his third attempt, breaking the personal best which he set nine years ago and equalled when winning the world title in 2007.
Bondarenko and Thomas each had one attempt at 2.39m and the latter had two further tries at 2.41m, but neither succeeded.
Fajdek and Wlodarczyk dominate
Both hammer competitions were part of the IAAF Hammer Throw Challenge and both, unsurprisingly, were won by Polish stars Pawel Fajdek and Anita Wlodarczyk.
Fajdek took the lead in round two with 78.10m before improving to 78.50m in round four and 81.11m in round five. Qatar’s world U20 champion Ashraf El-Seify was a distant second with 76.59m.
The world champion’s victory not only extended his winning streak, but it also increased his lead at the top of the challenge standings.
The winning margin in the women’s hammer, held on the eve of the main competition, was even bigger.
All five of Wlodarczyk’s efforts would have easily been enough to win. The world record-holder opened with 74.23m and continued to extend her lead up to and including the fourth round when she sent her hammer out to 78.10m. Azerbaijan’s Hanna Skydan was second with 71.69m, more than six metres in arrears.
Excellent night for the hosts
The home crowd went away happy after witnessing two Hungarian victories as well as a national record.
After falling in the 110m hurdles at the IAAF Diamond League meeting in Monaco, world indoor champion Omar McLeod had hoped to get his season back on track in Szekesfehervar. But the Jamaican had yet another race he’ll be keen to forget.
He shot into the lead but clipped the third hurdle, allowing South Africa’s Antonio Alkana and Hungary’s Balazs Baji to move past. As McLeod clattered the ninth hurdle and crashed to the ground, Baji held his form best and crossed the line in 13.33 (1.2m/s).
Discus thrower Zoltan Kovago was the other Hungarian winner, unleashing a season’s best of 67.13m to take a 21-centimetre victory from Sweden’s Daniel Stahl.
In one of the best-quality women’s shot put competitions of the year, Olympic champion Valerie Adams achieved another confidence-boosting victory over world champion Christina Schwanitz.
Adams’ early lead of 19.00m was soon overtaken by Schwanitz’s 19.13m in the first round. Adams improved to a season’s best of 20.14m in round two, but Schwanitz matched that throw and regained the lead on count-back.
Schwanitz went on to consolidate her lead with a back-up throw of 20.13m, but Adams saved her best for last, unleashing her shot to 20.19m with her final throw of the competition to take the victory.
World indoor champion Michelle Carter was third with 19.56m, while world indoor silver medallist Anita Marton finished fourth with a Hungarian record of 19.49m.
Elsewhere, Blessing Okagbare sped to a wind-assisted 10.92 (2.6m/s) win in the 100m over Marie Josee Ta Lou (10.95), two-time Olympic champion Veronica Campbell-Brown won the 200m in 22.52, and Kirani James won the 400m with relative ease in 44.60.
Jon Mulkeen for the IAAF