With the withdrawal of Dayron Robles a couple of weeks ago and by Yelena Isinbayeva a few days ago (flu) Blanka Vlasic ended up being the outstanding international star of the inaugural edition of the "Malmö Indoor Gala" staged in the brand new multi-purpose Malmö Arena on Tuesday night (3).
And Vlasic didn't disappoint the 6000 strong Malmö crowd which contained a noticeable Croatian contingent. Having won the competition after 1.96m she went straight towards 2.01 where after two failures she clearly demonstrated in her third attempt that she was very anxious to keep her long string of 2.00+ competitions alive, now at 38 and counting.
This was Vlasic 13th competition in Sweden and she has over 50% success rate (seven wins - as well as three 2nd places) as well as over 50% (seven) of those at two metres or better. Sweden has almost become a second home nation having got her first significant win against senior opposition in Båstad in 2001 and having her PB of 2.07 from DN Galan in 2007.
Vlasic concluded this evening with three attempts, two of them "decent", at the would-be new world season leading mark of 2.04.
We came even closer to a new world lead in the women's Pole Vault. Even though Isinbayeva of course was missed by the spectators they were still treated to a competition providing both top quality and excitement.
At 4.50m Carolin Hingst, Fabiana Murer, Silke Spiegelburg and Monika Pyrek cleared on their first attempts and Anna Rogowska on her second at 4.60. Then at 4.60m it was Murer on her first, Rogowska, Spiegelburg and Pyrek on their second and Hingst on her third, while at 4.65 Murer and Spiegelburg succeeded on their third attempts, and at 4.70 Murer cleared on her first effort.
That 4.70 equalled Murer's indoor Area Record which she set when taking bronze at the World Indoors in Valencia last winter, and was just 1cm below Jenn Stuczynski's world lead this winter. Having won the competition Murer asked for 4.73 and two of her attempts were really good.
Thörnblad catches a bug; Williams clears 2.32m
The main event in advance from the local – as well as the Swedish – perspective was the men's High Jump with Malmö resident Linus Thörnblad the star attraction. But in the afternoon he fell ill with a stomach bug. Thörnblad did come to the arena and tried to warm up but it quickly became apparent that he was not capable of competing.
Which really was sad as the US duo of Andra Manson and Jesse Williams were jumping very well this evening. Especially Manson impressed with only one failure on record when the bar was raised to 2.30m. He was also extremely close in his 1st attempt at that height but in the 2nd round Williams turned the tables by clearing.
Manson joined him in the third round and then had a couple of narrow misses at 2.32 before Williams sealed the victory by slipping over in his third and last attempt equalling his indoor PB. He refrained from trying any further height in this his first meet of the year, but just like his female Croatian colleague Williams really seems to be enjoying competing in Sweden as it was at DN Galan in 2005 he first mastered 2.30.
Hoffa over Majewski
The men's Shot Put featured the three reigning global champions: 2007 World Champion Reese Hoffa, 2008 World Indoor Champion Christian Cantwell and 2008 Olympic Champion Tomasz Majewski. Although none of them managed to hit a really great put they still were consistent at 20m+ with Hoffa finally winning by 7 centimetres from Majewski: 20.58 vs 20.51.
The men's Pole Vault and the Women's Long Jump never found the real spark.
In the vault Lars Börgeling and Dmitriy Starodubtsev cleared 5.50m but neither had any success at 5.60. Börgeling took the win on the count-back while Brazilian Olympic finalist Fabio da Silva had to be content with 5.40 in fourth place also behind Poland's technically brilliant Mateusz Didenkow (also 5.40).
Yargelis Savigne had four efforts good enough to have given her the win in the women's Long Jump. Her longest 6.57m provided the Cuban a winning margin of 15 cm over 2nd placed Briton Jade Johnson. Neither Olympic medallist Brittney Reese nor 2006 European Champion Lyudmila Kolchanova managed to surpass six meters.
With no oval track (the arena can't host a 200m oval) the running events were limited to 60m races with and without hurdles. In the men's Hurdles favourite David Oliver was clearly behind in the beginning but managed to get back into contention at halfway and finally won by 0.06 from countryman Joel Brown (7.60 sec vs 7.66) while Bahamas’ Shamar Sands after taking the early lead had to be content with the third place.
The men's 60m dash turned out extremely close with the top-5 in the final crammed into just three hundredths. Italian ex-400m hurdler Roberto Donati, who was fastest in the heats with 6.67 sec, finally prevailed in 6.68 and Ireland's Paul Hession made it a European 1-2 ahead of American's Josh Norman and Marcus Brunson as well as the 2003 World 100m champion Kim Collins of St Kitts and Nevis.
The women's 60m was also closely contested with Norway's Ezinne Okparaebo holding the early lead but she was late in the race caught by the US duo Rachelle Boone-Smith and Mechelle Lewis. 200m-specialist Boone-Smith proved the strongest in the closing stages.
Lennart Julin for the IAAF