With every other event having finished at the Golden Spike meeting, German javelin thrower Thomas Rohler saved the best for last – quite literally – at the IAAF World Challenge meeting in Ostrava on Friday (20).
Just moments earlier, Usain Bolt had fallen slightly short of his target time when winning the 100m in 9.98, while Czech stars Zuzana Hejnova and Pavel Maslak had been beaten into third in their respective specialist events.
But any chances of the capacity crowd going home disappointed soon vanished when Rohler sent his spear out to a world-leading 87.37m with the last throw of the competition.
Rohler had led from the first round, opening with 81.58m before improving to 83.11m, 84.28m and then 84.50m in round four.
World champion Julius Yego opened with 81.10m but was bumped down to third place when world silver medallist Ihab Abdelrahman threw 82.62m in round three, improving to 84.05m one round later.
The competition then came alive in the final round. Jaroslav Jilek of the Czech Republic threw 83.02m to move into third place, but he was quickly overtaken by Poland’s Marcin Krukowski, who threw 84.74m to move into the lead.
Abdelrahman then responded with a season’s best of 84.85m to take pole position. Rohler, who had gone from first to third in the space of two throws, had one throw left with which to react. And that’s exactly what he did, producing the fourth-best throw of his career to win with 87.37m.
“The quality of the throws got better and better, and the javelin started flying further and further,” said Rohler, who finished fourth at last year’s World Championships. “We all stepped up on the last attempt and finally, with the last throw of the last event, it was perfect.
“I was highly motivated,” he added. “That’s the point when you really have to focus and look for the best throw and that’s what I did.”
Bolt goes sub-10
World and Olympic champion Usain Bolt shaved a few hundredths from his season’s best to win the 100m in 9.98 (-0.4m/s), his eighth victory at this meeting.
At the pre-event press conference, the Jamaican superstar stated that he was in shape to run 9.8 if the weather was good. With the thermometer reading 22C, conditions were certainly far more conducive to fast times than last year’s meeting, but Bolt may have been capable of a quicker time had he been pushed all the way. As it was, his nearest challenger, Ramon Gittens of Barbados, finished 0.23 adrift.
“My first 40m was kind of sluggish,” said Bolt. “I could tell that the power behind my start wasn’t good, and that’s why I was shaking my head at the end of the race.
“I’m happy that I came out injury free. We have a lot of work to do, but we’ve got a couple of months to do it, so we’ll be fine. I need more races; the more I run, the faster I’ll get and the more fluid I’ll be.
“It’s a very big year for me,” he added. “This will be the year that I’ll really top off my legendary status.”
World and Olympic decathlon champion Ashton Eaton had been set to line up against Bolt in the 100m, but the US all-rounder picked up a slight quad injury when competing in the long jump earlier in the evening.
Bukowiecki breaks world U20 best
One of the best events of the meeting came earlier in the evening as world junior champion Konrad Bukowiecki defeated a quality field in the shot put.
A second-round throw of 20.69m moved him into the lead in front of Polish compatriot and two-time Olympic champion Tomasz Majewski. But in the third round, Bukowiecki unleashed a lifetime best of 21.01m, the best ever outdoor throw by a junior shot putter with the senior implement and just four centimetres shy of Terry Albritton’s outright world U20 best of 21.05m set indoors back in 1974.
Majewski produced his best throw of the season in the fourth round, but even his 20.84m wasn’t enough to catch the 19-year-old. Another junior athlete, Romania’s Andrei Toader, finished third in a personal best of 20.32m.
“I’m very satisfied,” said Bukowiecki. “I think bigger throws will come. My main aims this year are to win at the World U20 Championships, qualify for the Olympic Games and maybe get to final.”
Bukowiecki wasn’t the only junior athlete to triumph. Germany’s Konstanze Klosterhalfen ran away from a field of more experienced women to win the 1500m in impressive fashion.
The 19-year-old was the only one to go with the pacemakers in the first half of the race. By the time the second pacemaker stepped off the track with 500 metres to go, the European junior cross-country champion had a lead of about 10 metres which had grown to about 15 metres with three-quarters of a lap remaining.
Lucia Klocova began to attack with 200 metres left, but she couldn’t make a significant dent on Klosterhalfen’s lead as the teenager crossed the line in a PB of 4:06.91, more than a second ahead of Klocova.
Oljira breaks meeting record
Belaynesh Oljira may be starting to carve out a career as a marathon runner, but the Ethiopian showed she still has good speed at the shorter distances.
The 2013 world 10,000m bronze medallist was tracked by 22-year-old compatriot Haftanmesh Tesfay for each of the seven-and-a-half laps, having passed 1000m in 2:55.95 and 2000m in 5:48.56.
Oljira then kicked ahead on the final lap and went on to win in 8:38.55, breaking her personal best from 2010 and taking exactly two seconds off the meeting record. In second, Tesfay was rewarded with a huge personal best of 8:40.80.
Five years after breaking the Ostrava meeting record in the 400m hurdles, South Africa’s LJ van Zyl returned to the scene of his 47.66 personal best and notched up his third victory at this meeting. The 2011 world bronze medallist was level with Johnny Dutch through the first half before his US opponent moved into a slight lead going into the home straight.
But Van Zyl was strongest coming off the final barrier and kicked ahead to win in 48.67, his fastest time since August 2011. Dutch finished second in 49.01 while world junior champion Jaheel Hyde fell on the top bend after hitting a hurdle.
In the women’s event, the home crowd had been hopeful of a Czech victory from Zuzana Hejnova, but the two-time world champion was handed a surprise defeat.
Hejnova edged past Kaliese Spencer on the back straight and looked poised to strike for victory going into the home straight. But Hejnova tied up going into last hurdle, while Poland’s World University Games champion Joanna Linkiewicz – despite clipping the final barrier – was finishing strongly and edged into the lead just metres before the finish line.
Linkiewicz crossed the line in a PB of 55.40 with Spencer sneaking through to take second place in 55.43, 0.26 ahead of Hejnova.
Having been beaten in his opening competition of the summer, Olympic pole vault champion Renaud Lavillenie notched up his first victory of the 2016 outdoor season.
World champion Shawn Barber nearly exited the competition at his opening height, but he got over 5.35m on his third attempt and soon found his rhythm. Lavillenie, meanwhile, went straight into the lead after needing just one attempt at his opening height of 5.70m.
Barber had also got over that height at the first time of asking, but then failed three times at 5.77m. Lavillenie sailed clear at 5.83m, again on his first try, but was unsuccessful when the bar was raised to a would-be meeting record of 5.93m.
Earlier in the competition, Greek youngster Emmanouil Karalis set a world U18 best of 5.55m.
Double Jamaican triumph at 400m
Jamaica’s Javon Francis and Christine Day produced convincing victories over one lap of the track.
Francis unleashed a storming finish down the home stretch to overtake USA’s Tony McQuay, crossing the line in 44.87. McQuay was second in 45.17 with two-time world indoor champion Pavel Maslak taking third in 45.46.
Day, who finished fourth at the 2015 IAAF World Championships, eased away from the field in the second half of the women’s 400m to stop the clock at 51.09, her fastest ever time for this stage of the season. Canada’s Carline Muir finished second in a season’s best of 51.84.
Surprise home wins for Ptacnikova and Sasinek
Home favourites Hejnova and Maslak may have been beaten, but the crowd were still treated to two Czech victories.
Jirina Ptacnikova won a close pole vault contest with a season’s best of 4.60m, finishing ahead of world champion Yarisley Silva on count-back. USA’s world indoor silver medallist Sandi Morris was forced to make an early exit from the competition when her pole snapped, sustaining slight injuries to her shoulder and hand.
A Czech athlete won the men’s 1500m, but it wasn’t two-time world indoor silver medallist Jakub Holusa, the pre-race favourite. Instead, it was 20-year-old former steeplechaser Filip Sasinek who came away with the win, slashing his PB by several seconds to clock 3:36.32.
Elsewhere, USA’s Jarret Eaton set a PB of 13.25 to win the 110m hurdles, while Britain’s James Ellington took the 200m in 20.35. After Ashton Eaton withdrew from the long jump, Paralympic champion Markus Rehm produced the best leap of the day, winning with 8.13m.
Jon Mulkeen for the IAAF