Two weeks ago, Japhet Korir had to dig deep to win the World cross-country title in Bydgoszcz, becoming the youngest-ever winner of the senior men’s race.
That was to be expected. After all, the 19-year-old Kenyan had to shake the kick out of defending champion Imane Merga of Ethiopia.
Less expectedly, Korir had to find a bit over the final lap to win the 5000m at the opening round of the IAAF World Challenge in Melbourne on Saturday night.
Olympic champion Greg Rutherford prevailed in a close Long Jump battle with London silver medallist Mitch Watt and Doha 2010 World indoor champion Fabrice Lapierre, while Stuart Farquhar made it a good night for New Zealand winning a Javelin contest in which two men went over 80m and two more beyond 79.80m.
Having turned his attention to 5000m, his aim for the IAAF World Championships later this year in Moscow, Korir led all the way after a pacemaker took the field through the first four laps. At the bell, however, Liam Adams, who had finished well behind the Kenyan in 23rd place in Bydgoszcz, made a strong move towards the lead.
Korir ultimately turned back the challenge to win, 13:31.94 to Adams’ personal best 13:35.60 – comfortable enough in the end, but closer than the general expectation.
Korir arrived in Melbourne only on Thursday morning after returning home to Kenya following his triumph in Bydgoszcz.
Until the late emergence of Adams from the chasing group, the surprise of the race was the relatively early demise of Australian 1500m record-holder Ryan Gregson.
Gregson had looked comfortable shadowing Korir throughout, but he could find no response when the Kenyan threw in a 63-second lap with four laps to run. He finished fifth in 13:49.30 after running a personal best 13:37 in Hobart in January.
Rutherford retains the bragging rights
Greg Rutherford says his friendship with Mitchell Watt goes only so far.
“We’re friends,” said the Brit after winning the long jump 8.10m to 8.01m, “and there’s never been a bad competition between us.”
There was clearly a “but” coming. “Ultimately,” Ruther ford continued, “he wants to beat me and I want to beat him.”
The pair took contrasting routes to what appeared to be a close contest. Rutherford went 8.09m, 8.10m and 7.81m` through the second, fourth and fifth rounds.
Watt opened with two fouls and then pulled out of a 7.12m third-round effort. He followed up with another foul and then an 8.01m leap before running through his last attempt.
Lapierre was the most consistent of the three, but his best was a 7.99m jump in the second round.
Rutherford was pleased with his early-season form.
“It was a lovely competition. I didn’t think I had it in me to jump that well today, to be honest. I woke up this morning and thought my body was not ready for this.”
Farquhar again over 81m
Stuart Farquhar continued his fine early-year form with an 81.07m throw to win the men’s Javelin. The New Zealander led the world list for a significant time last year with his lifetime best 86.31m in Hiroshima in April.
Farquhar won from China’s Zhao Qinggang, who returned to 80-metre territory with 80.17m to take second place while Australian record-holder Jarrod Bannister finished third with 79.99m. Behind him another local, Hamish Peacock, upped his personal best to 79.80m.
Spearmon looking at one lap
Wallace Spearmon will remember his first visit to Australia. His luggage went west before he got on the plane, finally turning up just before the meeting. He spent most of his time here jet-lagged and in borrowed clothes.
Spearmon won the 200m in 20.79 and then – another misfortune – “did not quite hear the gun” in a 100m won by Josh Ross from Mitchell Williams-Swain, who both ran 10.25. Anthony Alozie was third in 10.28.
Spearmon, three times a World Championships medallist over 200m, had a terrible start but came home hard to take fourth in 10.29.
Afterwards he spoke of his possible switch to the 400m, a move which has the support, he said, of one-lap legend Michael Johnson. He said he would run several to test the water.
“If I run 44.5 in the 400m, I’m going for the 400m,” said Spearmon, whose 400m PB of 45.22 dates back to 2006.
Either way, Spearmon said, he would gain. “If I end up running the 200m, the 100m will get me faster and the 400m will get me stronger.”
Magut and Kuijken also shine at middle-distances
James Magut and Susan Kuikjen added to the visitors’ victory list in the two 1500m races.
Magut kicked home hard to win the men’s race in 3:40.66. He had to find something to hold off James Kaan, who again ran impressively in finishing second in 3:40.98.
Kuijken, who has been based in Australia this summer, led from a long way out to win the women’s race in 4:10.53. Australian champion Kaila McKnight charged home to grab second in 4:10.78 and briefly threaten the Dutch athlete. Kuijken had enough in hand, however.
Toea Wisil of Papua New Guinea took a double in the women’s sprints, but the changing wind denied her the chance of two possible national records. Despite a headwind of -0.7m/s in the 100m, she came within 0.04 of the Papua New Guinea record with 11.41. She was even more dominant in the 200m and her winning time of 23.09 would have smashed her own national record, were it not for the barely-illegal tailwind of 2.1m/s. Wisil trains with Sally Pearson’s coach, Sharon Hannan, on the Gold Coast.
Justin Gaymon, fourth in the US Trials last year, won the 400m Hurdles in 49.34 from Tristan Thomas who ran a season’s best 49.60.
Alana Boyd defeated visiting American Mary Saxer, 4.50m to 4.40m, in the women’s Pole Vault, the best performance in the vertical jumps. USA’s Dusty Jonas comfortably won the men’s High Jump with 2.25m, while four-time national champion Alwyn Jones produced the second-best mark of his life to win the Triple Jump with 16.81m, just two centimetres shy of his PB.
Len Johnson for the IAAF