Julius Yego at the IAAF Diamond League meeting in Birmingham (© Jean-Pierre Durand)
Even though the javelin boasted the strongest field of any discipline at the Sainsbury’s Birmingham Grand Prix, few could have predicted the drama that would ensue in that event at the IAAF Diamond League meeting on Sunday (7).
Kenya’s Julius Yego took an early lead with 85.95m in the first round but Trinidad and Tobago’s Olympic champion Keshorn Walcott moved into pole position with a national record of 86.43m in round three.
But Walcott’s lead lasted just a matter of minutes as Yego threw 10 centimetres farther with the next throw of the competition.
World champion Vitezslav Vesely just made it past the halfway cut of the competition, throwing 79.55m in round three after two fouls to sit in eighth place. The world champion remained in that position until his last throw of the day when he unleashed a season’s best of 88.18m to move straight into first place.
Everyone else was unable to respond to the Czech athlete with their final throws until Yego stepped on to the runway.
He sent his javelin high into the air and it landed well beyond Vesely’s mark but was initially ruled to have fallen outside the sector.
It was up for debate, though, as the sector lines hadn’t been extended beyond 87 metres.
The throw was measured anyway – 91.39m for the record – but after close examination the judges said it was still outside the sector.
Twenty minutes after the meeting ended, with the stands now completely empty, the officials reversed their decision and awarded Yego the victory with his 91.39m throw.
Confirmed as the winning mark, Yego’s performance is not only an African record and IAAF Diamond League record, but it was also the best throw in the world since 2006.
Perhaps feeling a slight bit of added responsibility to perform as Britain’s sole reigning Olympic champion left at the meeting following the withdrawals of Jessica Ennis-Hill and Mo Farah, long jumper Greg Rutherford ensured the fans went home happy.
He took the lead at the end of the first round with 8.11m, moving three centimetres ahead of USA’s Mike Hartfield.
In the next round, Hartfield regained the lead with 8.23m (1.4m/s) but Rutherford once again responded, sailing out to 8.35m (1.7m/s). It was his best jump ever in Britain and equalled the second-best mark of his career.
Hartfield had a huge jump in the third round which may have challenged for the lead had it not been a foul. Rutherford then jumped 8.24m in the third round but then passed his remaining attempts.
Hartfield didn’t improve and maintained his second place while Britain’s Dan Bramble jumped 8.17m in the last round to take third place in a competition that had five men jump 8.10m or farther.
Rutherford was one of three stand-out performers on a day in which the best performances came from the field events.
Perkovic still perfect
The only meeting record was broken just minutes after the competition started.
World, Olympic and European discus champion Sandra Perkovic sent the discus out to 69.23m with her opening throw, smashing the meeting record of 66.16m that had been set by Ellina Zvereva back in 2002.
The Croatian had two other valid throws, both beyond 68 metres, and ended up winning by more than four metres. Australia’s 2009 world champion Dani Samuels was a distant second with 64.89m.
“I came here directly from Rome so I had to save something in the tank for today,” said Perkovic. “It worked because today I threw 69.23m, so I'm happy it all went to plan. A stadium like this deserves to see a distance like what I produced today.
“My goal for this season is Beijing; I want to defend my title from Moscow in 2013. I still have four Diamond League meetings left and I want to win them all, so I need to stay focused and train well.”
She is now unbeaten in her four competitions in 2015, three of which have been in the IAAF Diamond League, and she leads the Diamond Race with 12 points.
Jon Mulkeen for the IAAF