Luvo Manyonga sails to victory in Rome (© Hasse Sjogren)
Luvo Manyonga continues to demonstrate that, when it comes to men’s long jumping, he is human dynamite.
South Africa’s world and defending Diamond League champion improved his own 2018 world-leading mark with 8.58m at Rome’s Olympic Stadium to win a memorably competitive event at the fourth stop of the 2018 IAAF Diamond League that saw seven jumpers surpass eight metres.
Second place went to the 20-year-old Cuban Juan Miguel Echevarria, who beat Manyonga to the world indoor title in March and who snatched the lead in the second round with a personal best of 8.53m, only to see the South African rise to that challenge shortly afterwards.
Manyonga’s compatriot Ruswahl Samaai finished third with an effort of 8.34m in what was surely one of most extraordinary second rounds of long jumping ever witnessed. No wonder the event trailed away towards the end.
“Today my motivation was big,” said Manyonga. “The Diamond League is very important for me, because there is no major competition. I met Echevarria the last time at the world indoors, where he beat me. So I wanted to compete against him and give back. I only look at myself – but I have an eye on Echevarria.”
Olympic champion Jeff Henderson had lit the blue touch paper in establishing an opening round lead of 8.11m.
By the end of the next round, however, no less than four other jumpers had passed him, led by Manyonga, who added two centimetres to the distance with which he had won in a rainswept Shanghai earlier in the month.
This mild, still night was far more conducive to jumping, and a hugely talented field took full advantage as Echevarria leapt into his brief lead.
With Australia’s Henry Frayne moving up behind Samaai with 8.15m, the Olympic champion suddenly found he had dropped from first to fifth.
And early in the third round he dropped another place as Jamaica’s Tajay Gayle, clearly picking up on the inspiring atmosphere to produce a personal best of 8.15m. Astonishing.
Henderson rallied with 8.19m to take fourth place, but after the crackling second round the operating temperature drooped. Even Manyonga – who always makes it clear how much sheer joy he gets from competing - misfired, although he signed off with 8.41m.
Lasitskene nails 40th straight victory
Mariya Lasitskene remains apparently invincible in the women’s high jump. The world champion secured a 40th consecutive victory since being re-admitted to the sport as an Authorised Neutral Athlete last year.
Lasitskene, in her normal imperturbable fashion, defeated the field with a first-time clearance of 1.97m, then cleared 2.02m before making three unsuccessful attempts at 2.04m – two centimetres below her personal best. Perhaps, if and when she can get into competition with the Olympic heptathlon champion who headed the 2018 world list with 2.01m prior to tonight, Nafi Thiam of Belgium, such heights might be regained.
Bulgaria’s Mirela Demireva got closest to her, taking second place on countback with a clearance of 1.94m, with four others, topped by Italy’s Elena Vallortigara, on the same height.
“I am happy to beat my season’s best,” said Lasitskene. “In today’s competition I got everything I wanted emotionally. At 1.91m I missed my first attempt and then I was angry with myself. I am sure now that everyone can beat me any time. So I must not relax.”
Second straight DL victory for Kendricks
Some of the most impressive bend-running on the night came from world pole vault champion Sam Kendricks of the United States as he wheeled away in triumph onto the final bend, arms raised, after winning the competition with his third and final attempt at a season’s best of 5.84m.
Second place went to Poland’s 2011 world champion Pawel Wojciechowski on 5.78m, also a season’s best, while his successor as world champion, Raphael Holzdeppe of Germany, claimed third place by equalling his own season’s best of 5.62m.
Brazil’s Rio 2016 champion Thiago Braz registered his second successive Diamond League no mark – this time without being able to make an attempt at any height.
Another meeting record for Perkovic
Sandra Perkovic succeeded in her target in the women’s discus as she bettered the meeting record of 68.90m set by Bulgaria’s Tsvetanka Khristova in 1986.
” I don’t have this meeting record yet,” the world, Olympic and defending Diamond League champion from Croatia announced in the pre-event press conference. “It is an old record, and maybe we will see a throw tomorrow of 68.90m or maybe further.”
It was only a little further – 68.93m – and came perhaps a little later than she had expected in the penultimate round. But a record is a record.
The Cuban pair of Yaime Perez and 2015 world champion Denia Caballero came closest to her with 66.62m and 63.48m respectively.
“I had to keep changing my technique, and I had a problem around 65 metres so I was really angry – I just thought ‘it is now or never for the meeting record.’ I was pleased I got it in the end.
“My main goal this season is definitely the European Championships in Berlin…I hope to collect my seventh IAAF Diamond League title this season…Now I hope to take the meeting record in the other five competitions.”
Dacres extends unbeaten streak to 11
Fedrick Dacres completed a good natured, mini-lap of honour of his opponents – bumping a fist here, patting a shoulder there, after winning a stacked men’s discus with 68.51m.
The 24-year-old Jamaican, who leads this year’s world lists with 69.83 produced his decisive effort in the second round to overtake the opening lead of 68.17 established by Lithuania’s world champion Andrius Gudzius, who remained second ahead of Iran’s Ehsan Hadadi, who reached 65.93.
Mike Rowbottom for the IAAF