A baton blunder by the European team in the 4x100m proved costly as the Americas sit top of the overall standings after day one of the IAAF/VTB Bank Continental Cup in Split.
Europe and the Americas slugged it out like two prize fighters throughout the day but the Americas – who won eight of the day’s 20 events - hold a narrow nine-point lead over Europe overnight. Africa sit third on 148 points with Asia-Pacific fourth on 134.
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But how decisive could that 4x100m prove? Many would have thought the Americas team with their composite team of differing nationalities might have struggled with their exchanges but they were rock solid. The team of Daniel Bailey, Wallace Spearmon, Tyson Gay and Churandy Martina cruised home to win in 38.25.
France drops baton in men's 4x100m
By contrast the French quartet – representing the European continent – messed up their final exchange between Pierre-Alexis Pessonneuax and Teddy Tinmar and failed to finish. The Americas benefited from a 15pt swing and hold a clear, though relatively fragile lead going into day two.
Elsewhere, a crowd of 12,200 inside the Poljud Stadium were greeted to competition records in four events, and the triumph of some familiar and one or two new faces emerge.
The most impressive performance of the day came from Olga Rypakova of the Asia/Pacific team in the women’s Triple Jump. The Kazakhstan athlete launched out to a mighty 15.25m with her first round effort to secure maximum points. It was not only a Competition record, but a World leading mark and an Area record which elevated her to the No. 7 position on the all-time list. A measure of the World Indoor champion’s dominance was that the European champion, Olha Saladuha, of Ukraine was 0.55 back in second.
Maria Abakumova set not one but two Championship records in the women’s javelin. She first delivered this feat with a first round throw of 65.28m before a mighty third round throw of 68.14m earned Europe maximum points and a welcome return to form for the Russian athlete, who finished down in fifth at the European Championships.
Another competition record was set in the men’s 400m as Jeremy Wariner led home an Americas one-two with a super-smooth run. The US athlete stopped the clock in 44.22 to finally eclipse Mike Franks’ 25-year-old Competition record. His Americas team-mate, the Jamaican Ricardo Chambers, took second in 44.59.
The fourth event to witness a Championship record came in the women’s Pole Vault as Svetlana Feofanova cleared 4.70m at the third time of asking to add the IAAF Continental crown to the European title she won in Barcelona earlier this summer. The Russian led home a European one-two with Lisa Ryzih of Germany second (4.60m).
The 400m Hurdles races opened the track programme where we had a couple of unexpected winners. Europe picked up maximum points in the men’s race as David Greene of Great Britain finished powerfully to smash his personal best and record 47.88. The pre-event favourite Bershawn Jackson of the Americas blasted through the first 300m but blundered badly at the final hurdle and the World No.1 from the USA wound up a disappointing third.
In the women’s race it was the Europeans who were expected to dominate, but guess what? The Americas picked up a shock win through the unheralded Jamaican Nickiesha Wilson in 54.42. The pre-event favourite and European champion Natlaya Antuykh of Russia was never at the races and finished a distant fourth. Her team-mate Vania Stambolova of Bulgaria ploughed through the final hurdle when leading and had to settle for third.
Lagat wins - more to come tomorrow?
If you prefer your more familiar faces to triumph, well we had our fair share.
Bernard Lagat completed the first half of what he hopes will be a double for the Americas team with victory in the 5000m. In a messy, tactical race he unleashed his trademark finishing kick to edge Moses Kipsiro (AFR) and win again. He’ll be back tomorrow in an effort to add the 3000m.
It was easy does it for World champion Dwight Phillips as he cruised to victory to pick up maximum points in the men’s Long Jump with a first round leap of 8.34m.
Another consummate winner Meseret Defar (AFR) proved it once again in the women’s 3000m. The Ethiopian distance star landed victory in the 5000m in the 2006 edition of this competition and in a slow race outkicked the opposition to win in 9:09.33. Turkey’s European 5000m champion Alemitu Bekele finished with a flourish to take second but this was to be Defar’s day....again.
Christian Cantwell is another athlete who greedily gobbles up titles for fun and the World Indoor and Outdoor champion triumphed in the men’s shot. A second round 21.87m effort was good enough for eight precious points for the Americas.
Europe claimed top spot in the men’s 100m thanks to a trademark blistering late surge by Christophe Lemaitre of France. The European champion left it late, as usual, to overhaul Daniel Bailey (AME) to win by 0.04 in 10.06 to and maintain his near flawless record at major competitions.
In the women’s 100m the margin between first and second was also 0.04 as Kelly Ann-Baptiste of Trinidad (11.05) finished clear of Shalonda Solomon of the USA as the Americas finished one-two.
Jepkosgei and Montsho score wins for Team Africa too!
The women’s 800m served up one of the races of the day as Samsung Diamond League winner Janeth Jepkosgei claimed victory in a swift 1:57.88 to finish one place higher than in the last edition of this competition in 2006. The winner was perhaps not such a surprise, but credit should go to India’s Tintu Luka (APA) who blasted through 400m in 58.04 and was rewarded with a national record of 1.59.17 for fifth.
Africa earned first spot in the women’s 400m thanks to an eye-catching run from Amantle Montsho (AFR) of Botswana in 49.89.
The women’s 4x100m relay also went to the Americas in 43.07 – some 0.70 clear of the European team represented by the Ukrainian quartet.
There was disappointment for the home fans as the one Croatian representative on day one, Sandra Perkovic, the European champion, had to settle for second in the women’s discus. China’s Yangfeng Li (APA) stole a surprise win with a third round effort of 63.79m.
Tomorrow, though, the crowd will hope for better when the Blanka Vlasic show arrives in town and this absorbing continental clash between Europe and the Americas is set for round two.
Steve Landells for the IAAF
IAAF / VTB Bank Continental Cup
Composition of Teams
- Each team will be allowed to enter two athletes in each event (three in the 1500m, 3000m, 5000m and 3000mSC but only the first two finishers from each team shall score points).
- Only one athlete from any one country may compete in each individual event.
- individual events: 1st: 8pts – 2nd: 7pts – 3rd: 6pts – 4th: 5pts – 5th: 4pts – 6th: 3pts – 7th: 2pts – 8th: 1pt
- relays: 1st: 15pts – 2nd: 11pts – 3rd: 7pts – 4th: 3pts
- teams: Points achieved by men and women will be combined and the overall winner of the IAAF Continental Cup will be the team with the most combined points.