Zhang Guowei, winner of the high jump at the IAAF Diamond League meeting in Oslo (© Mark Shearman)
High hopes of a high jump world record in Oslo were effectively blown away by a fitful wind which troubled athletes both on the track and in the field during the IAAF Diamond League meeting which was also the 50th Anniversary running of the ExxonMobil Bislett Games.
But it was an ill wind which blew China’s Guowei Zhang some good as he earned an unexpected win with a clearance of 2.36m.
Zhang, who jumped 2.38m at the IAAF Diamond League meeting in Shanghai, was the happiest jumper in show after his clearance here, marking the achievement with an extraordinary, unhinged jig.
For the big three who have dominated the event this season and last, it was a muted competition. For all the efforts of the organisers to offer the best spot in the stadium for the event, and for all the urgings of the crowd, Mutaz Essa Barshim, already with a 2.41m to his credit this season, could only clear 2.33m, having required two attempts to get past 2.29m.
Ukraine’s world champion Bogdan Bondarenko, who cleared 2.42m last season, had been hoping at least to beat his season’s best of 2.37m here but he also went no higher than 2.33m.
By that point Russia’s Olympic champion, Ivan Ukhov, was already out after three failures at 2.29m.
In the end, four men managed 2.33m behind Zhang, with Bondarenko in fifth place and Barshim and Olympic silver medallist Erik Kynard from the United States finishing joint third behind Marco Fassinotti.
The Italian was another unexpected beneficiary of the winds of change as his 2.33m equalled the national record.
Marharyata Dorozhon of Israel produced a victory almost as unexpected as that of Laura Muir in the 1500m as a second-round effort of 64.56m in the awkward conditions saw her finish clear of a javelin field which contained all the big names of recent years.
While the Israeli athlete was more obviously in the mix in terms of her previous season’s best – and personal best – of 63.85m, one might have expected one thrower from a field including double Olympic champion Barbora Spotakova of the Czech Republic, world champion Christina Obergfoll of Germany and Russia’s 2011 world champion Mariya Abakumova to move past her.
None did. Closest was South Africa’s Sunette Viljoen, who threw 64.36m, and Spotakova managed third place with a season’s best of 64.10m. Obergfoll was seventh with 60.88m, while Abakumova was 10th and last with 57.68m.
“It was very special to win here,” said Dorozhon. “I still do not consider myself a World Championships favourite after my recent good performances. I must confirm it more times.
“I’m training close to Tel Aviv and my next competition will be at the European Games in Baku.”
The women’s triple jump didn’t contain the drama of its last IAAF Diamond League running in Eugene but there was certainly a sub-plot.
Caterine Ibarguen, unbeaten in three years, lost her early lead of 14.40m to Gabriela Petrova as the Bulgarian jumped 14.57m in the third round. But normal service was resumed in the next round as Colombia’s world champion, imperious in long black socks, regained the lead for good with 14.68m.
Ibarguen thus joined discus thrower Sandra Perkovic on a maximum of 12 points from her three IAAF Diamond League outings so far.
“Every win is good,” said Ibarguen. “Now I have 25 in a row and I want to continue as long as possible. Today it was difficult because of the wind and I did not cope well with the surface. But I’m happy I was OK because this was my first meet this year in Europe.”
The first track event of the evening, run as the sun slanted in near the rim of the stadium, offered Kaliese Spencer the opportunity to do the same thing. And it was an opportunity the Jamaican took as she held off an enduring challenge down the home straight from Georganne Moline of the United States to win the 400m hurdles in 54.15.
It was the fastest time in the world so far this year, and brought her the 21st Diamond League win of her career. Moline clocked a season’s best of 54.29 ahead of the world champion Zuzana Hejnova, who finished in 55.14.
“I definitely want the medal this year in Beijing so that I’m not only called a Diamond League usual winner,” said Spencer. “It was windy but I kept going.”
Piotr Malachowski also had the chance to reach 12 points, but could only manage third place in a men’s discus won by his fellow Pole Robert Urbanek with a third-round effort of 63.85m. Malachowski took third place with 62.32m, the same distance as second-placed Erik Cadee of the Netherlands.
As world and Olympic shot put champion Valerie Adams continues to recover from surgery to her elbow and shoulder, the race is on to put the Diamond Race out of her reach for the first time – and Christina Schwanitz of Germany is making the pace.
Having earned second and first places so far, she added another maximum four points with a first-round effort of 20.14m – just 12 centimetres off Adams’ meeting record – that put her out of reach. Michelle Carter of the United States came closest, with 19.20m.
Steven Gardiner of the Bahamas produced a personal best of 44.64 to win the 400m ahead of Britain’s European silver medallist Matt Hudson-Smith, who clocked 45.09, and Pavel Maslak, the world indoor champion from the Czech Republic, who recorded 45.39.
Mike Rowbottom for the IAAF