Szczecin, PolandThe 57th edition of the Janusz Kusocinski Memorial on Saturday (25) was the first occasion on which Poland’s longest-running international meet was hosted by Szczecin. The move proved highly successful. A number of top-class marks were produced, with the highlights being Svetlana Usovich’s world-leading 1:58.12 in the 800m and Svetlana Feofanova’s 4.70m vault, as well as the winning efforts of Poland’s two throwing stars: 68.49m by Piotr Malachowski in the Discus and 21.25m by Tomasz Majewski in the Shot Put.
While the top meets in Poland are known for top marks in field events, this time it was a runner who produced a world’s leading mark. The women’s 800m run was fast from the start. Pacemaker Joanna Jozwik managed to stretch the field very quickly, and by the bell, she gave way to the Russian Yelena Kofanova, whose 400 metre split was 56.68, raising expectations of a fast time.
After another 150 metres, Svetlana Usovich took the lead and never looked back. The Belorussian continued to put more distance between herself and her rivals. Running hard until the last metre, she stopped the clock at 1:58.12, 0.15 faster than the previous 2011 best, set by Halima Hachlaf of Morocco.
Liliya Lobanova of Ukraine finished second, also breaking the two-minute barrier with 1:59.94. Kofanova faded towards the end, but just held on for third place ahead of Danuta Urbanik, whose 2:00.84 was a new personal best by over a second.
Feofanova defeats Rogowska
An excellent field was assembled in the women’s Pole Vault, and the competition lived up to expectations. In the end, it came down to a battle between reigning World champion Anna Rogowska and former World record holder Feofanova. Both started with first-time clearances at 4.40m, following that with flawless vaults at 4.60m. At 4.70m, Feofanova, despite hitting the bar hard on the way down, cleared first time again. Rogowska failed and decided to take her remaining two attempts at 4.80m.
Neither of the two was successful, although she came close on the first at what would be a new world lead. Neither of the Russian’s vault at that height looked close, but it was she who could celebrate the win in the end.
Monika Pyrek made a bit of a comeback after a poor start to the season. The three-time World Championships medallist finished third with 4.50m, achieving the Daegu A standard for the first time this season. Tatyana Polnova took fourth place after clearing the same height.
Malachowski also had the best competition of his season so far in the Discus Throw. After opening with 65.25m, he had a huge throw in the second round. This one was measured at 68.49m, a season’s best and the No. 2 mark in the world in 2011. None of his remaining throws went quite as far, but his series also included 67.13m and 66.52m.
None of the other competitors could come close to Malachowski, and the battle for second place was won by Ben Harradine of Australia with 65.34m, ahead of Croatian Roland Varga’s 64.17m.
An eagerly awaited duel took place in the shot put between Olympic champion Tomasz Majewski and Andrey Mikhnevich, who beat the Pole by just one centimetre in last year’s European Championships. This time, Majewski ended up the clear winner. On his best attempt, he reached 21.25m, and three more of his puts would have been good enough to beat Mikhnevich, who finished with 20.91m.
One of the big stories of the meet was the return from injury of World champion Anita Wlodarczyk in the Hammer Throw. By her own admission, the Polish thrower is not yet in top shape. Her stated goal in her first competition of the year was to reach 70 metres.
She did not quite achieve that, but was not far short, either, with a best effort of 69.62m. This proved good enough to take second place behind fellow ex-World record holder Tatyana Lysenko, whose longest throw was 70.18m.
In a post-competition interview, Wlodarczyk remained cautiously optimistic about her prospects this year. “I am aiming to be throwing 75-76 metres by the time of the World Championships,” she said.
The crowd in the stadium had something to be happy about during the men’s Pole Vault as well. The event ended with a win by Poland’s Lukasz Michalski, whose 5.72m also met the World Championships A standard. Behind Michalski, a trio of Russians, Sergey Kucheryanu, Igor Pavlov and Yevgeniy Lukyanenko finished in that order, all with 5.60m.
There was more good action on the track, too. The women’s 400m Hurdles race was dominated from start to finish by European leader Vanya Stambolova, who reached the finish line in 54.73. Behind her, three Ukrainians had a close battle for second place. Hanna Titimets got there in the end in 55.43, just 0.03 ahead of Anastasiya Rabchenyuk and 0.21 ahead of Anna Yaroshchuk.
In the men’s high-hurdles race, Olympic finalist Artur Noga had his typical slow start, but came through strongly to finish in 13.57, beating South Africa’s Lehann Fourie by just 0.01. Noga’s time was his fastest of the year, but fell slightly short of the World Championships qualifier.
The men’s 100m ended with an expected victory for former World champion Kim Collins. However, Poland’s Dariusz Kuc put up a good challenge, closing up on Collins in the second half to finish in 10.25 to 10.20 for the St. Kitts sprinter.
Kuc was in action once again in the 4x100m Relay relay, where the Polish national team produced their best run of the year and ensured themselves a ticket to Daegu with 38.84.
In the women’s relay, European champions Ukraine prevailed with 43.69, beating the Polish squad who ran 43.88.
The Ukrainian sprinters also dominated individually in the women’s 100m. European indoor champion Olesya Povh had a comfortable victory with 11.28, ahead of Nataliya Pohrebnyak 11.35.
The 3000m, an event in which Janusz Kusocinski held the World record, is a traditional feature of the Memorial. This time, the race was won clearly by the Russian Valeriy Smirnov in a time of 7:49.11.
In the 1500m, Benson Seurei of Kenya beat the Ethiopian Mulugeta Wendimu to the line, finishing in 3:36.72, but perhaps a bigger story was the performance of two young Poles. Twenty-two-year-old Artur Ostrowski finished third in 3:37.57, improving his best by exactly nine seconds. Directly behind him was another 22-year old, Szymon Krawczyk in 3:38.09, a personal best by nearly the same margin. Both youngsters finished ahead of the more experienced European indoor medalist Bartosz Nowicki.
Pawel Jackowski for the IAAF