Sara Kolak may yet have to suffer being called the surprise Olympic champion every time her Rio exploits are recalled but she reinforced the fact that it was no fluke in emphatic fashion when she twice extended her national record at the IAAF Diamond League meeting in Lausanne on Thursday (6), finishing with a world-leading 68.43m with her final effort.
In balmy conditions with just the gentlest of breezes to help the javelin throwers, Czech world record holder and two-time Olympic champion Barbora Spotakova opened with a world-leading 67.40m to show there is still some fight and flight left in her arms.
In many competitions, that would have more than sufficed for victory but Kolak showed that she is a formidable competitor as well and gradually improved over the first three rounds: 63.94m, 64.64m and then her first national record of the night, 66.65m to add 47cm to her previous record, which was set in Rio.
By contrast, after her big opening throw, Spotakova seemed to lose a bit of her spark but Kolak never threw in the towel. After a foul and a fifth round throw of 65.78m, she then unleased her massive effort to take the lead and usurp Spotakova.
Spotakova had the very last throw of the competition but, with all eyes in the stadium on her, she fell short with 64.59m.
“The performance did not surprise me,” reflected Kolak, who clearly knew something the rest of the world didn’t.
“I want to go step-by-step from here. Stay healthy. Build my strength and make it to the final in London,” she added, expressing a rather modest ambition from her current position on top of the world lists. “I am writing my own story in my out-of-the-box way. People in Croatia have high expectations and I want to live up to that.”
In a competition of excellent depth, Australia’s Kathryn Mitchell took third place with a personal best of 66.12m in the fifth round.
Meeting record for Crouser
In sharp contrast to the outcome of the women’s javelin, Ryan Crouser dominated the men’s shot put from the outset.
Throwing last of the 10 men in the first three rounds, Crouser watched Tom Walsh reach 21.97m three efforts earlier before sending his shot out to 22.18m.
It would have been sufficient for the win but then, after a foul and a lacklustre – by his exalted standards – 21.56m, the Rio 2016 Olympic Games champion really came into his own over the final three rounds.
He equalled his first round distance with his fourth attempt and then unleased his implement out to a meeting record of 22.39m before finishing with 22.35m.
If Crouser was just a little way adrift of his impressive form of Rio and, more recently, US Championships where he set a personal best of 22.65m it is worth noting that he put together a rarely seen series with four puts over 22 metres.
Schippers holds of Ta Lou
Dafne Schippers fulfilled her role as favourite for the women’s 200m and won in a European-leading 22.10 but she was chased all the way to the line by Marie-Josee Ta Lou, running one lane inside her Dutch rival, who set an Ivory Coast record of 22.16.
In fact, Ta Lou just managed to edge in front of Schippers for a few strides with 50 metres to go but then Schippers responded and, as has happened so often, found another gear and clinched the victory.
Believe it or not, Aman Wote had not won an international outdoor 1500m race since 2013 but from the confidence the Ethiopian exuded in Lausanne over the final lap, you would have thought that he was rattling off victories on a weekly basis.
Hitting the front just before the bell as the pacemaker Elijah Kiptoo stepped to one side, Wote had a lead of 15 metres over the rest of the field.
Running scared, or that’s how it seemed, Wote then held on to cross the line in 3:32.20.
Behind him, and closing quickly, with the rest of the field hunting him down in similar fashion to the way the Tour de France peloton consumes a breakaway rider, the fast-finishing Charles Simotwo almost caught Wote and was rewarded with a personal best by more than three seconds as he finished second in 3:32.59.
Another Ethiopian to triumph in Lausanne was Genzebe Dibaba.
Her widely-publicised attack on the long-standing mile world record of 4:12.56, held by Russia’s Svetlana Masterkova since 1996, started to unravel just before the halfway point when she was a second adrift of the desired pace and she came home in 4:16.05, having had to run the last 600 metres on her own.
Nevertheless, she could not be faulted for effort and although the women’s mile is staged much less frequently than the men’s event and it was not a Diamond Discipline on this occasion, only four women – including Dibaba herself – have run faster than that time.
Nelvis in a tight finish
Sharika Nelvis got the verdict in a blanket finish in the women’s 100m hurdles, running 12.53 after a strong second half of the race to edge out her compatriots Jasmin Stowers and Christina Manning, who were second and third in 12.57 and 12.58 respectively.
Some of the biggest cheers of the night were reserved for local hero Kariem Hussein, who memorably won the 2014 European 400m hurdles title on home soil in Zurich.
In his best race in his specialist event for two years, he won the non-Diamond Discipline in 48.79.
Phil Minshull for the IAAF