The throwers took centre stage at the Auckland Track Challenge as several competitors stepped up their preparations for the IAAF World Indoor Championships Portland 2016 with varying degrees of success on a warm night at the Trusts Arena on Thursday (25).
Leading the heavy artillery on show was world indoor bronze medallist Tom Walsh who opened his competitive programme for the year with a handy 20.91m to reclaim the New Zealand residents’ record from Kiwi rival Jacko Gill – who was a disappointing late withdrawal following a wrist injury.
With Australia's 21-metre thrower Damien Birkinhead also absent following a groin injury, the way was clear for Walsh, who himself has struggled with a recent hip injury, to claim an emphatic victory and lay down a building block for his assault on the podium at the World Indoor Championships in Portland.
“The first two throws were a bit rusty and so were the last three, but I knew I was in reasonable form,” said Walsh, who unleashed his best throw of the night in round three. “In my mind I had a mid-20-metre to high 20-metre throw in me, so it is good to nail one in the first competition up.
“Coming into tonight the hip was about 90% and it was a little bit rusty to start with, but it was good to get through the competition well.
“Portland will be a great gauge for how I am throwing at this time of the season,” added Walsh, who plans to compete at both the New Zealand Track and Field Championships and the IAAF World Challenge meeting in Melbourne ahead of the IAAF World Indoor Championships.
The 2014 IAAF female athlete of the year Valerie Adams produced her longest throw for 18 months as she secured victory in the women’s shot with a best of 18.85m.
The four-time world champion and two-time Olympic gold medallist was a shadow of her former self in 2015 after undergoing double surgery in late 2014, and last year cut her season short after four competitions.
However, Adams who has been selected for the New Zealand team to compete at the World Indoor Championships, was relieved to be back competing as she made her seasonal debut in her home city of Auckland.
“I’m not happy with it, but I am going to take it,” said Adams, who admits she thankfully felt no pain in her troublesome elbow. “I’m pleased to be here after everything that happened in 2015 and it (the performance tonight) was better than (any competition) last year.
“My warm-ups felt pretty awesome, but I think I tried too hard during the competition. But I have to think positive and I have to build on tonight going into next weekend (when she will compete at the New Zealand Track and Field Championships).
“Rehab (from the double surgery) was hard, but I’m glad it happened last year and not this year.”
The women’s discus also served up a high-quality competition as Australia’s 2009 world champion Dani Samuels drew upon her vast experience to edge past Great Britain's Jade Lally in a high-quality battle.
Samuels took a first-round lead of 63.14m only for Lally – who is currently enjoying a training stint with the Australian – to shatter her PB by more than three metres in round two and set an English record of 64.22m in the process. Yet Samuels responded in round five with a 65.99m effort and closed out the competition with a final-round 66.41m to make certain of the win.
Oceanian record-holder Alana Boyd avenged her defeat to rising teenager pole vault star Eliza McCartney just two days earlier to shade the Kiwi on countback with a best of 4.65m.
McCartney had delighted the home fans at the nearby AUT Millennium to set a national record of 4.71m and defeat the Australian on Tuesday, but on this occasion Boyd got the better of the New Zealander. Both vaulters, who intend to compete at the World Indoor Championships in Portland next month, unsuccessfully attempted what would have been an Oceanian record of 4.78m.
Among the best performers on the track was World University Games 800m champion Angie Petty, who romped to a routine victory in 2:02.32.
Steve Landells for the IAAF