Sandra Perkovic at the 2014 IAAF Diamond League meeting in Shanghai (© Errol Anderson)
It was no surprise when Sandra Perkovic produced a world lead in the women’s discus at the IAAF Diamond League in Shanghai, but it was an absolute sensation when Ihab Abdelrahman El Sayed came up with another in the men’s javelin on Sunday (18).
More than that, the 25-year-old Egyptian set an African record, his 89.21m monster opening throw eclipsing the former area record set by South Africa’s Marius Corbett at the 1998 Commonwealth Games.
In one competition El Sayed beat all three medallists from last year’s World Championships: gold medallist Vitezslav Vesely, silver medallist Tero Pitkamaki and bronze medallist Dmitriy Tarabin.
It was a significant improvement on his previous best of 83.93m, set in Cairo less than a fortnight ago, and a massive improvement on the 80.06m he threw in finishing second at last Sunday’s IAAF World Challenge meeting in Tokyo.
Kenya’s Julius Yego was fourth in Moscow last summer with 85.40m, and had been at the vanguard of the current generation of African javelin throwers. Who would have thought that a year later he would be overshadowed by another emerging talent from the continent?
El Sayed left everyone way behind. Sweden’s Kim Amb was second with 84.14m, Vesely third with 83.80m, Yego fourth, Tarabin fifth and Pitkamaki sixth. Olympic champion Keshorn Walcott was seventh.
If it is any consolation to them, the audience in the Chinese city were stunned, too.
Perkovic, by contrast, confirmed the huge talent she has already shown.
When she threw 70.51m in Split on 1 March, it had been almost 15 years since a female discus thrower had last exceeded 70 metres.
The world didn’t have to wait that long for the next 70-metre effort. In fact, it was 11 weeks almost to the day when Perkovic was again beyond 70 metres here in Shanghai.
With an eye to the theatrics, perhaps, she added just one centimetre to her previous best to win at the second IAAF Diamond League meeting of the season with 70.52m.
Renaud Lavillenie might not like the concept of improving records a centimetre at a time, but it seems it is fine by Perkovic, who also added a centimetre to her own national record.
It was the very first step in the Diamond Race for her event and Perkovic had delivered on her pre-meeting vow to maintain her dominance of the competition.
She won all seven competitions in the Diamond Race last year and added the World Championships gold medal.
“I am very glad to win the first Diamond League this season,” Perkovic said. “I love Shanghai. I love the atmosphere here.
“I will try my best in the next several stops including Rome and Eugene,” she promised.
So far, Perkovic’s best is proving better than anyone else in the 21st century.
Australia’s Dani Samuels continued her own resurgence taking second place with a best of 67.89m, just 10 centimetres below the personal best she set in Wiesbaden, Germany, a week earlier.
Since becoming the youngest ever women’s discus world champion in Berlin in 2009, Samuels had rather stagnated. She remained a regular contender in the big meetings, but not a threat to the very best.
Now, the wheel seems to have turned for the 25-year-old Australian. An IAAF Diamond League meeting is a fiercer competitive furnace than a throwers-only meet, such as the one in Wiesbaden, and to back up her performance in Shanghai was encouraging.
“Compared to last year, I’m technically more sound and stronger,” Samuels said. “All the power is going into my throw.
“I clearly put too much pressure on myself the last few years. I’m more relaxed and confident.”
Christian Cantwell made it a good night all round for the throws with a win in the men’s shot put with 21.73m, close to his world lead of 21.85m. The 2009 world champion’s US colleague Joe Kovacs produced a personal best of 21.52m for second place.
Len Johnson for the IAAF