Joe Kovacs on his way to winning the shot at the IAAF Diamond League meeting in Monaco (© Philippe Fitte)
The evening’s proceedings had only just begun when Joe Kovacs broke the Herculis meeting record with his first throw at the IAAF Diamond League meeting in Monaco on Friday (17).
But, like the meeting itself, Kovacs was only just getting started.
Following his opening-round heave of 21.53m, the US champion unleashed a mammoth throw of 22.56m. Not only did it break the oldest IAAF Diamond League record on the books, but it was also the best throw in the world since 2003, moving him to eighth on the world all-time list.
As far as the competition was concerned, it was over. 2009 world champion Christian Cantwell – whose IAAF Diamond League record of 22.41m Kovacs had broken – was the nearest challenger, throwing 21.24m in the fourth round. Meanwhile, 2007 world champion Reese Hoffa – whose meeting record of 21.25m Kovacs had smashed – was the only other man to surpass 21 metres, throwing 21.08m in round two.
But Kovacs was away and clear. All five of his valid efforts landed beyond the 21-metre line and he ended his series with a 21.91m toss, meaning his three best throws comfortably exceeded the previous meeting record.
Kovacs now joins David Storl – who was a late withdrawal from Monaco due to a niggling neck injury – at the top of the Diamond Race standings in the shot put. Both men have won three competitions, bringing their tally to 14 points each.
“Everything was clicking today,” said Kovacs. “I had a great warm-up which showed me that I was ready to do something. It was a big throw, but I knew I had it in me. After the big one, I needed to slow down, I was too excited. I was also happy with my last throw. It’s a pity Storl wasn’t here, though.
“My coach, Art Venegas, prepares me well and I trust him totally,” said the 26-year-old. “I think I can throw even farther and the world record is not that far away now. I just need more consistency, like making all of my throws over 22 metres. That is what I’m aiming for and that should be the key to success in Beijing.”
Aside from Kovacs in the shot and the 1500m victories from Genzebe Dibaba and Asbel Kiprop, there were three other meeting records and a total of eight world-leading marks.
In terms of surprise victories, Amel Tuka from Bosnia and Herzegovina produced one of the biggest of the night. The 24-year-old was making his IAAF Diamond League debut, but looked as though he had been on the circuit for years, defeating the likes of world champion Mohammed Aman and Olympic silver medallist Nijel Amos in the 800m.
France’s Pierre-Ambroise Bosse was closest to the pacemaker at half way, passing 400m in 50.1. But most of the field were still in contention with half a lap to go.
Amos swung wide approaching the home straight and looked to be on his way to victory, but Tuka held his form and strode past the Botswanan athlete, catching him just metres before the line to smash his own national record for the third time this year, clocking 1:42.51.
Tuka’s world-leading time was just 0.06 outside the meeting record Amos set last year and moves him to fourth on the European all-time list.
Amos finished second in 1:42.66 and Djibouti’s world bronze medallist Ayanleh Souleiman set a national record of 1:42.97 in third in a race in which seven men ran faster than 1:44.
Olympic 3000m steeplechase silver medallist Habiba Ghribi was making her outdoor season debut, but the Tunisian showed she is clearly in good form after smashing the meeting record and world-leading time.
She bided her time in the middle of the pack throughout the first two kilometres. After a fast opening third of 3:01.05, the pace settled down in the middle section as Hiwot Ayalew led the field through 2000m in 6:11.55.
It was only on the last lap when Ghribi showed her hand, opening up a gap on her opponents. Kenya’s Hyvin Kiyeng closed slightly on the home straight, but Ghribi still won by more than a second in 9:11.28, the third-fastest time of her life.
Kiyeng set a PB of 9:12.51 in second place ahead of Diamond Race leader Virginia Nyambura, who also set a lifetime best of 9:13.85.
The men’s triple jump may not have matched the kind of excitement witnessed in Doha and Lausanne earlier this year, but the battle between Christian Taylor and Pedro Pablo Pichardo was a close one.
Pichardo added three centimetres to the meeting record with 17.66m in round two, only for Taylor to better it with the next jump of the competition, flying out to 17.75m. Pichardo improved to 17.73m in round four, while Taylor also came close to the leading mark with 17.74m in round five and 17.64m in round six to hold on to the win.
It now brings their career head-to-head record to 4-4. Taylor leads on 2015 head-to-heads, but Pichardo remains at the top of the Diamond Race standings.
World indoor champion Francena McCorory buried the demons of her shock defeat at the US Championships, winning the 400m in a world-leading 49.83.
Looking back to her dominant form of earlier in the season, McCorory already had a comfortable lead approaching the home straight and continued to power away from the rest of the field. Commonwealth champion Stephenie Ann McPherson finished second in 50.41 from Jamaican champion Christine Day (50.66). World champion Christine Ohuruogu clocked a big season’s best of 50.82.
Like McCorory, Caleb Ndiku also bounced back after disappointment. The world indoor 3000m champion was spiked in Lausanne on his season debut and wound up 11th. But after making a speedy recovery, he appeared to be back to his old self in the 3000m tonight.
Always in contention throughout, Ndiku ran a final kilometre of 2:28 to win in a world-leading 7:35.13, finishing more than a second ahead of Ethiopia's Yenew Alamirew.
The other meeting record of the night came in the men’s 100m. Even before the half-way point, it was clear Gatlin was headed for victory and he eventually crossed the line in 9.78 (-0.3m/s), taking 0.04 off the meeting record set by Asafa Powell in 2008.
Fellow US sprinter Tyson Gay was second in 9.98 with France’s Jimmy Vicaut taking third place in 10.03.
Jon Mulkeen for the IAAF