Barbora Spotakova in the javelin at the IAAF Diamond League meeting in London (© Errol Anderson)
Revenge was sweet indeed for Barbora Spotakova at the Müller Anniversary Games in London this afternoon as the 36-year-old javelin world record-holder re-asserted her supremacy over the young pretender who has emerged from Croatia to challenge for her crown.
Sara Kolak not only took her Olympic title in Rio last summer but came to London for the ninth IAAF Diamond League meeting of the season fresh from a world-leading victory over her Czech rival in Lausanne and with a two-point advantage on the road to the final.
All that changed at the London Stadium this afternoon where a contest that produced three meeting records came to a thrilling climax as Spotakova snatched victory in the final round with 68.26m.
Not only was that her best throw of the year, indeed her best throw since winning the Olympic title in this same stadium five years ago, but it landed just 17 centimetres short of Kolak’s Lausanne winner.
For Spotakova it brought back memories of her Olympic victory here five years ago and puts her in positive mood for a tilt at a second world title a full 10 years after she won her first.
“I didn’t expect such a big throw even though I knew I was in good shape,” she said. “Competing back here flooded me with so many nice memories of 2012.
“Now, I have to keep my form until August – it’s pretty even with me and a couple of the other girls so I can’t underestimate anyone, it will be a very exciting competition.”
As for Kolak, the 22-year-old can feel unlucky at missing out on another IAAF Diamond League win as she led from round two and twice beat the old meeting record with 66.79m and 67.83m.
But victory slipped from her grasp with the penultimate throw of the competition as Spotakova improved from 66.34m in round four with her winning effort.
Slovenia’s Martina Ratej was third with 64.85m, her best of the year.
There was another meeting record in the women’s long jump where world champion Tianna Bartoletta beat her Lausanne victor Ivana Spanovic with a leap of 7.01m.
The Olympic champion matched her best of the year to take the lead from the Serbian in the fifth round after Spanovic had leapt 6.88m in the first then promptly retired.
“I wasn’t expecting that today, I felt good but I really surprised myself,” said Bartoletta. “It usually takes me until the championships to be on top form so I’m really happy to jump so well today.
“I have great memories of 2012 and running the 100m here. I’ve never jumped here so I was so excited to get a preview for the World Championships and get a feel of the runway.
“Now I’m ready to come back. I don’t even entertain the thought of not winning – I’m coming back to retain my title.”
For a moment, the women’s high jump threatened to take the mantle of best field event of the day as Maria Lasitskene cleared 2.00m for the 23rd time to notch up her 20th consecutive victory, then made a serious attempt at a national record.
Lasitskene, who competes as an authorised neutral athlete, was the only jumper to manage 2.00m although USA’s teen wonder Vashti Cunningham came close to matching her, having cleared 1.97m at her third try.
It wasn’t to be, and Lasitskene had one go at 2.03m before attacking 2.08m.
“We decided to try the Russian record of 2.08m – I think I had one good attempt,” she said. “The points are good in the long run for the Diamond League, but I’m not happy that I didn’t jump higher.”
Olympic champion Ekaterini Stefanidi once again showed imperious form in the pole vault when she sailed over 4.81m at the first attempt to take her third IAAF Diamond League victory of the year.
The event was pitched as a clash between the Olympic gold and silver medallists, but Rio runner-up Sandi Morris, who arrived in London late on Saturday from France, bowed out at 4.73m to finish fourth overall.
That left Stefanidi and Nicole Büchler, each with one failure at 4.73m. Büchler’s task at 4.81m was to break the Swiss record, a feat just beyond her this time. Stefanidi had three valiant attempts at a Greek record of 4.91m, but wasn’t close.
“I’m not a morning or early afternoon person so it took me a while to find my rhythm and get going,” she said. “But, for a bad day, 4.81m is still fairly pleasing.”
Jamaica’s Fedrick Dacres looked on course for a one-centimetre victory over Philip Milanov in the discus before world leader Daniel Stähl produced a sixth-round effort of 66.73m to move from third to first and maintain his supremacy in the road to the final.
Dacres had snatched the lead from Milanov at half way with 66.66m but had to settle for second as his last-round throw landed at 65.33m. With the final to come, Stähl leads Dacres 2-1 in IAAF Diamond League head-to-heads and will go to the World Championships as favourite.
“It was really nice to get the feel of the circle here and to perform well as Diamond League leader is good,” he said. “I’ll look forward to throwing at the final in Brussels.”
Jeff Henderson was the only man beyond eight metres in the long jump, the Olympic champion leading a US sweep of the top three with a best of 8.17m.
Matthew Brown for the IAAF