Sandra Perkovic at the 2015 IAAF World Challenge meeting in Zagreb (© Organisers)
An entertaining and powerful display of consistency by hometown hero Sandra Perkovic and a breakthrough 200m performance by Ramil Guliyev highlighted the 65th Hanzekovic Memorial in the Croatian city of Zagreb on Tuesday (8).
The penultimate IAAF World Challenge meeting for 2015 saw Perkovic competing for the first time since her runner-up finish at last month’s IAAF World Championships, Beijing 2015. She threatened the 70-metre line three times, with a best of 69.88m, the fifth farthest throw in the 25-year-old’s already illustrious career.
Perkovic got out the rust with an impressive 69.77m effort in round three and also reached 68.95m in the fifth round before closing out the competition with her winning toss in round six.
“I’m extremely happy today,” said the reigning Olympic champion and 2013 world championships gold medallist, who finally claimed the meet record in her country’s biggest athletics competition.
“I really wanted this record. This year, I wasn’t injured and the conditions and the crowd were excellent.”
But, she added, “I expected an even better result,” something closer to 71 metres, a distance that is now her target at the IAAF Diamond League final in Brussels on Friday where she’s expected to face Cuba’s world champion and world leader Denia Caballero.
Germany’s Julia Fischer was a distant second at 63.16m, ahead of compatriot Nadine Muller, the Beijing bronze medallist again finishing third with 61.85m.
While Perkovic gave the near-capacity crowd the show they were hoping for, Guliyev produced the night’s biggest surprise in the meeting’s final event, the men’s 200m.
Guliyev under 20 seconds
Running on the outside, the 25-year-old Turk tore what was a five-man race wide open at the top of the homestretch, blasting away from the pack to reach the line in a national record of 19.88, the fastest time by a European this year.
“This is the result I expected in Beijing,” said Guliyev, who was sixth in the world championship final and arrived in Zagreb with a 20.01 personal best.
“But today the conditions, the atmosphere and the competition were very good so I finally reached that result.”
Greece’s Likourgos-Stefanos Tsakonas was a distant runner-up in 20.45, just edging Panama’s Alonso Edward who was credited with the same time.
Things went according to the form guide in the women’s high jump where Mariya Kuchina, one of two recently minted world champions on the programme, dominated the proceedings.
Clinching the win at 1.94m, the Russian had the bar raised to 2.00m which she cleared on her second attempt.
After that, instead of trying for a personal best of 2.02m, she opted to make an assault on Anna Chicherova’s 2.03m world lead with attempts at 2.04m. After coming up short with two tries, she called it a night.
Likewise in the meeting’s signature race, the men’s 110m hurdles which featured Sergey Shubenkov, the second Beijing gold medallist and coincidently another Russian.
Clearly ahead after the fourth barrier, the Russian began to power away after the sixth hurdle en route to a decisive 13.11 win, well clear of French runner-up Pascal Martinot-Lagarde, who was second in 13.50.
Pedersen provides an upset
There was an upset however in the women’s 100m hurdles, where Norway’s Isabelle Pedersen, running in lane eight, sneaked by Great Britain’s 2014 European champion Tiffany Porter to equal her recent personal best of 12.86, with the Briton clocking 12.91.
Asafa Powell took a convincing victory in the 100m in 9.96, the 93rd run under 10 seconds of his career, ahead of Michael Rodgers who clocked 10.10, and Guliyev, who warmed up for his nightcap with 10.18.
The women’s race was tighter, at least until 70 metres where USA’s Candyce McGrone passed Marie Jose Ta Lou, of Ivory Coast, to take a clear 11.10 to 11.17 victory. It was the second 100m win in three days for the Beijing 200m finalist.
In the 400m hurdles, USA’s Cassandra Tate, the Beijing bronze medallist, ran down Georgeanne Moline with just four strides to go to steal the win in 55.16, which was actually her first victory since 2 May.
In the 400m flat, Natasha Hastings built a slight lead as she entered the homestretch and held it to take a comfortable victory in 51.20.
Elsewhere, in the field, Brazil’s Fabiana Murer won the pole vault with 4.50m, the third meeting record on the night.
Australia’s Fabrice Lapierre took the long jump with an 8.29m leap and Germany’s Thomas Rohler won the javelin with 85.44m.
The meeting got off with a bang on Monday night at the city’s central Fountain Park where New Zealand’s Tom Walsh extended his own Oceania area record in the shot put by four centimetres to 21.62m.
Walsh, who finished fourth in Beijing, nailed his big effort in the final round to take the win from Jamaica’s World University Games champion O’Dayne Richards, who reached 21.29m.
Poland’s Konrad Bukowiecki, the reigning world and European junior champion, was third with 20.78m, a world junior best with the senior implement.
This throw by the 18-year-old came in the final round. Along with his 20.75m from round five, both bettered the 20.65m effort by USA’s Michael Carter from back in 1979.
Bob Ramsak for the IAAF