Ivana Spanovic sailing to the Mediterranean Games title in Tarragona (© Foto Tarragona 2018)
Serbia’s Ivana Spanovic highlighted the opening day of athletics at the Mediterranean Games which is being held in the Spanish city of Tarragona from 26 to 30 June.
The world indoor champion kicked off the long jump final with a wind-assisted 7.04m (2.2m/s). She proved that her big opening effort wasn’t a fluke as her second jump was a wind-legal 6.99m (1.8m/s) to equal the world-leading mark set by Germany’s Malaika Mihambo.
The Olympic bronze medallist continued her stunning series with an effort of 6.95m (1.3m/s) which also bettered her previous season’s best of 6.92m.
After the fireworks of the first half of the event, the 28-year-old produced one more valid attempt, 6.79m in round four, to conclude with a foul before passing her last jump. Spanovic’s next big aim is to retain her European title in August in Berlin.
The contest brought two medals for the home athletes in the guise of Juliet Itoya and Fatima Diame. They both jumped 6.68m in round three, a massive PB for 21-year-old Diame, whose previous best was 6.49m. The 2015 European junior bronze medallist held the second spot on countback until the last round when Itoya, 10 years her senior, produced a wind-assisted final effort of 6.83m (2.6m/s) to take silver ahead of Diame.
Alic defeats Zunic
Hamza Alic of Bosnia-Herzegovina was an unexpected winner of the men’s shot put thanks to a 20.43m fifth-round toss to get the better of pre-event favourite Stipe Zunic of Croatia.
World bronze medallist Zunic had set a season’s best of 21.36m in Split just 10 days ago but he could go no farther than 20.21m in round three and had to settle for silver behind 39-year-old Alic. Alic’s compatriot Mesud Pezer unleashed a 19.82m final toss to overtake Italy’s Sebastiano Bianchetti’s 19.71m and collect bronze.
There were no surprises in the women’s hammer, a contest dominated by France’s Alexandra Tavernier, who effectively ended the contest with her opening throw of 73.67m.
The 2015 world bronze medallist didn’t record any other valid releases but her win was never in jeopardy. Turkey’s Kivilcim Salman took silver with 71.07m while France’s Camille Sainte Luce captured bronze with 68.93m, just ahead of local star Berta Castells (67.53m) who lives 15km away from the stadium.
Moroccans dominate endurance events
World silver medallist Soufiane El Bakkali stamped his authority on the men’s 3000m steeplechase.
After a slow opening kilometre of 2:52.55, the long-legged Moroccan ran away from the rest of the field with ease to reach 2000 metres in 5:36.42, head and shoulders ahead of Tunisia’s Amor Benyahia.
El Bakkali extended his lead over the final kilometre to romp home unopposed in 8:20.97 in his opening outing of the season. Benyahia took silver in 8:26.14 and Italy’s Yohannes Chiappinelli completed the podium (8:32.06).
Youness Essalhi and Soufiyan Bouqantar achieved a Moroccan double in the men’s 5000m, the closing event of the day. The race was a typical cagey affair as former 1500m specialist Essalhi won in 13:56.12 thanks to a brisk last lap timed at 53.88 to his compatriot’s 13:56.28. European under-23 champion Yemaneberhan Crippa of Italy landed bronze in 13:56.53, just 0.21 ahead of Spain’s Toni Abadía.
Emeterio Valiente for the IAAF