Russia's Anna Chicherova, winner of the High Jump (© Getty Images)
The 2013 IAAF World Challenge Beijing, the first athletics meeting held at the Bird’s Nest Stadium since the 2008 Olympics, sent a clear message on Tuesday (21) evening in warm and nice weather.
- Beijing's Olympic stadium will host the 15th edition of the IAAF World Championships, 22 to 30 August 2015 -
The fireworks of good performances, particularly those by local Beijing and other Chinese athletes, created a good atmosphere which really seemed to get the competitors going towards the end of the meet.
The meeting was also highlighted by two world leading marks – one by USA’s David Oliver in the 110m Hurdles, which he won in 13.16, and another in the women’s High Jump, which was won by Olympic champion Anna Chicherova with a 2.02m jump.
Oliver, 31, returned with a blast to the stadium where he won Olympic bronze five years ago. Hurdling like a different person to the Oliver that was at last weekend’s Shanghai Diamond League, he stormed to a good start and kept his position from start to finish to win by a big margin.
His timed of 13.16 was faster than the time he ran in the same stadium to win Olympic bronze in 2008, and erased Orlando Ortega’s previous world-leading mark of 13.17. Training partner Dwight Thomas of Jamaica was second in 13.44, while World champion Jason Richardson, who was never really in the race, was third in 13.48.
First two-metre jump of 2013
Chicherova became the first jumper over two metres this outdoor season with a 2.02m, before making three unsuccessful tries at 2.04m. 23-year-old Croatian Ana Simic bettered her outdoor personal best by three centimetres to finish second with 1.95m. Nadezhda Dusanova, Marina Aitova and Zheng Xingjuan all cleared 1.92m to finish third, fourth and fifth respectively.
After a break in the competition for the opening ceremony, Chicherova had a chat to her support team in the crowd. “They gave me a lot of confidence and calmed me down,” she said.
As usual, the most hype was reserved for the men’s 100m, the final track event of the programme. Local attention was on Zhang Peimeng, who last month broke the national record with 10.04. But despite his new-found speed, this race was out of his hands from the start.
USA’s Justin Gatlin powered away from the field to win in a season’s best of 9.91 (0.1m/s), looking more than ready to challenge Usain Bolt and Tyson Gay. The performance takes him to the second on the 2013 world list behind Gay’s 9.86.
Fellow American Mike Rodgers clocked a season’s best 9.96 in second, but in third place there was a surprise. 23-year-old Chinese Su Bingtian, who held the national record at 10.16 prior to Zhang’s breakthrough, got off to a good start and maintained his form to finish strongly in a PB of 10.06. USA’s Calesio Newman was fourth in 10.08, just 0.01 ahead of Zhang Peimeng – proof that the Chinese duo should be taken seriously this season.
Double jumps victory for China
Another big event, naturally, was the men’s Long Jump, where world leader Li Jinzhe jumped in front of his local crowd. The 23-year-old did not disappoint, but the competition did not end well.
After producing a winning 8.31m leap, Li was forced to exit the stadium after suffering an injury to his left arm. Former World indoor champion Ignisious Gaisah was second with 8.13m and World bronze medallist Ngonidzashe Makusha, who is coming off an Achilles injury, was third with 8.04m – his best jump since the 2011 World Championships. In fifth place, 16-year-old Wang Jianan jumped a world youth-leading 7.92m.
The men’s High Jump was another event that drew big cheers from the crowd. National indoor record-holder Zhang Guowei didn’t quite find his best jumping last weekend in Shanghai, but in this competition all eyes were on him.
But there was a surprise in store as there was a high-performing Chinese athlete – and it wasn’t Zhang. Instead, 21-year-old Beijing resident Wang Yu showed from the outset that he was in form to break his 2.30m outright PB, set indoors this season. His first-time clearances at 2.15m and 2.20m were considerably better than any other competitors, and he cleared every other height with ease at the first time of asking through to 2.28m.
Russia’s 2010 European champion Aleksandr Shustov also went over 2.28m with his first jump, but was already behind Wang on count-back when the top duo continued to 2.31m. Only at this height did Wang show fatigue, but he eventually cleared it on his third try, as did Shustov. At 2.33m, both jumpers also failed their first two attempts before Wang Cleared it again as Shustov failed for a third time.
The celebration from Wang’s home crowd was big, and he decided against trying for a world lead of 2.35m. He bettered his outdoor PB by five centimetres and went to equal second on the Chinese all-time list. The last Chinese athlete to jump higher was former World record-holder Zhu Jianhua back in 1985.
“I don’t think the most important thing for an athlete is the result; I think an athlete must enjoy the training and the process," said Wang. "I also find it difficult to give you a target for me in the future as the spirit of an athlete is personal improvement.”
Felix and Okagbare clear winners
In her first 200m race of the season, Allyson Felix was a class apart. She led at half way and continued to pull away from her rivals, winning by almost half a second in 22.36 (0.3m/s) as US team-mate Lashauntea Moore was second (22.85).
Nigeria’s Blessing Okagbare was similarly dominant in the 100m. The last time she competed in this stadium was as a long jumper, taking the bronze medal at the 2008 Olympics. Now an accomplished sprinter, the 24-year-old won in 11.04 ahead of Mikele Barber’s 11.30.
Stadium record for Yego, surprises in throws
For a meeting held in a stadium that hosted a recent Olympic Games, expectations for a stadium record were low. But Kenya’s Hillary Yego delivered in the men’s 3000m Steeplechase – the only event of the evening to produce a stadium record.
The 20-year-old wound up the pace in the final few laps to build up a huge lead, crossing the line in 8:09.17 – more than six seconds ahead of team-mate Brimin Kipruto, the man who triumphed on the same track five years ago at the Olympic Games.
After winning in Doha and throwing a season’s best of 86.67m in Shanghai, Vitezslav Vesely had problems in Beijing. His first three throws were awful with the only measured one landing at 71m. With Russian Dmitriy Tarabin leading the competition with 81.11m, the 30-year-old Czech finally got over 80 metres with his fifth and sixth throws, but a 80.81m best was only enough for second place. Ari Mannio of Finland was third with 80.65m and Kenyan Julius Yego was fourth (79.43m).
Similarly, the pre-event favourite in the women’s Javelin was also out of sorts. World champion Mariya Abakumova was lacking her usual form and trailed Latvia’s Sinta Ozolina-Kovale, 60.90m to 60.26m. The Russian’s final attempt went out to 62 metres, but it was outside of the sector, leaving Ozolina-Kovale to take the victory.
Russian Tatyana Lysenko was the expected winner in the women’s Hammer with 73.12m, but in second place Eva Orban surprised the whole field with her 73.00m, smashing her own Hungarian record by 1.67m. China’s Wang Zheng was third with 71.91m.
Close Kenyan finishes in middle-distance events
There were Kenyan 1-2 finishes in both middle-distance races. In the women’s 1500m Eunice Sum out-sprinted Mary Kuria, 4:04.49 to 4:05.17, while Alfred Kirwa Yego caught countryman Edwin Melly on the line in the 800m, 1:46.43 to 1:46.46.
US 400m specialist LaShawn Merritt won the 200m easily in 20.40, and Olympic bronze medallist Kellie Wells won the 100m Hurdles in 12.87. China’s Liu Xiangrong surprised US favourite Michelle Carter winning with the Shot with an 18.73m season’s best to Carter’s 18.70m.
Spaniard Igor Bychkov topped the Pole Vault, equalling his 5.60m PB, while Cao Shuo secured another home win in the Triple Jump, winning his first competition of the season with 16.72m. In the women’s pole vault Li Ling equalled her 4.50m PB to win with Ren Mengqian in second place with 4.40m.
Mirko Jalava for the IAAF