Despite the fact that the 6th edition of the SamsungGalan (formerly EuroJump) in the Scandinavium Arena brought no less than four new World leading season marks for 2008 there was no question as to the star of the evening: Susanna Kallur, the European indoor and outdoor sprint hurdles champion.
Physically stronger than ever
Already at the presentation of the top athletes during the opening ceremony Kallur got the most vociferous greeting of all and she certainly didn't let anybody down by her performance this evening.
Despite being a little bit late out of the blocks in the 60m Hurdles and thus not really hitting the front until between barriers one and two she won by some two and a half metres in 7.90 in the process equalling the arena record set by Annelie Ehrhardt almost 34 years ago at the European Indoor Championships 1974!
Kallur’s 2008 world lead of 7.81 and her national record of 7.80 thus both felt vulnerable in the final about one and half hour later. But after three or four aborted starts (a couple of them due to problems with gun) many in the arena felt that too much mental energy probably had been lost for a record race.
But one who certainly didn't harbour any such thoughts was Kallur herself. In the final she got away reasonably well and now she meant business. Already at the first hurdle she was leading and she just stormed – in the true meaning of the word – away from the rest of the field to win with the same kind of hefty 2.5 metres margin as in her heat. The scoreboard clock stopped at 7.77 secs
A time only eight other runners ever have surpassed. But when the photo-finish was evaluated it turned out that Susanna's time was even two hundredths faster so she actually moved up to 6th place of all-time - 7.75! And suddenly the 17-years-old World record seems within reach as it is just six hundredths away.
“The simple explanation is that I am in really good form. Tests have showed that I am physically stronger than ever and that of course translates into better results,” said Kallur.
“I have been able to do more hurdle training than a year ago when I was hampered by a nagging injury.”
But even though Kallur got the "Athlete of the meet" award she certainly was not the only one this evening deserving special recognition for his or her performance.
Vlasic clears 2.01
Croatia's outdoor World High Jump champion Blanka Vlasic seems to have established a very special relation with Sweden. Her first ever major victory against world class senior opposition was in Båstad 2002, her PB was set in Stockholm last year and now she opened her 2008 promptly grabbing the World lead by clearing 2.01m.
A surprise second was former junior multi-medallist Svetlana Shkolina who followed narrow clearances of 1.90 and 1.93 by an impressive success at 1.96, a 2cm improvement of her PB.
Robles just short of PB
Cuba's Dayron Robles picked up where he left last autumn. After a very cautious 7.71 in his 60m Hurdles heat Robles went all out in the final and despite clobbering the last hurdle quite heavily he won by over three meters in 7.45, just 0.07 of his PB from last year. And of course a new World lead for 2008.
Savigne on form but injury concerns
Also Robles's compatriot Yargelis Savigne was much more impressive than the plain numbers of her winning Triple Jump mark of 14.56m indicates. It did constitute a new best mark for this year but what was really remarkable was that she took off some 40-50 centimetres before the foul line…effectively a 15m-jump! Unfortunately Savigne after her third attempt felt a muscle twinge and was forced to abstain from taking more jumps.
And still the best event quality wise based on previous merits was the men's High Jump which featured the reigning Olympic and World champions, Stefan Holm and Donald Thomas, the athlete on top of the 2008 World list, Ivan Ukhov, plus Linus Thörnblad and Jamie Nieto among others. A very tight competition was expected and it looked like that for quite a while but in the end Holm had it won very convincingly.
Ukhov, who appeared worn from his very intense competitive schedule this month, was eliminated already at 2.21m and Thomas went out at 2.28 - not really close in any of his attempts. With the bar raised to 2.31 Holm and Thörnblad were tying for the lead but then Holm began to fly.
Successful second-time efforts at 2.31 and then 2.33m, was followed by three very good but failed attempts at 2.35. The first 2.35 try was especially close where he just barely brushed the bar with his legs on his way down. So in the end this supposedly tight competition had Holm winning by 5 cm over Thornblad, 8 over Thomas and 17 over Ukhov.
“I am very happy with the start of this season although it felt far from perfect. The run-up was good but I didn't get the right kind of lift in the transition from horizontal to vertical. However, there are still many weeks to Valencia,” was Holm's own analysis.
It was such a high quality evening for the packed stadium of spectators (official number 8161) that a good level Pole Vault was almost overlooked. Four made 5.65m and Derek Miles who was the only one without misses so far clinched a decisive victory by his 3rd time clearance of 5.75. At age 35 Miles seems to be vaulting as well as ever.
Unheralded US sprinters Josh Norman and Mike Rodgers provided a very competitive 60m final where Norman got away best but where Rodgers still managed to hunt him down just at the finish line: 6.66 vs 6.68 seconds.
Lennart Julin for the IAAF