Russia’s Aleksandr Menkov took the plaudits at the Prefontaine Classic on Friday night (31) when he won the Long Jump with the best mark in the world for almost two years with a leap of 8.39m at the fourth of this summer’s IAAF Diamond League meetings.
The 2013 European Athletics Indoor Championships winner added eight centimetres to his personal best and took the lead in the Diamond race after two of seven meetings.
Menkov fouled his first two attempts before reaching 8.11m in the third round, although he was behind Brazil’s 2012 IAAF World Indoor Championships Mauro Da Silva who had jumped 8.14m just before him.
Another foul followed in the fourth round before he produced his massive winning effort and he also go a red flag with his final attempt.
Slowly but surely, Menkov also is closing on Leonid Voloshin’s long-standing Russian record of 8.46m which celebrates its 25th anniversary in July, having been set in 1988.
It also restored some domestic bragging rights as Menkov has been for several years Russia’s top long jumper since breaking through with what was then a national junior record of 8.16m in 2009.
He also won a bronze medal behind Da Silva in Istanbul last year, but his young compatriot Sergey Morgunov broke the World junior record with a leap of 8.35m last summer, which ended the year as the joint best distance of 2012.
Da Silva finished second in the entertaining competition with a windy 8.22m, which he also reached the fifth round while Great Britain’s 2012 Olympic champion Greg Rutherford reached the same distance in the final round but his second best jump was only 7.97m, compared to Da Silva’s 8.14m.
Rutherford’s two immediate predecessors fared less well. Panama’s 2008 champion Irving Saladinho was fifth with 7.91m while USA’s 2004 gold medallist Dwight Phillips continues his comeback from injury and jumped 7.71m for eighth place.
Australia's 2012 Olympic Games silver medallist Mitchell Watt fouled on three occasions and failed to register a valid jump.
Obergfoll maintains her US unbeaten streak
The women’s Javelin was another of the three Diamond League field events showcased on Friday night.
Germany’s Christina Obergfoll kept her unbeaten streak on US soil alive on a cool, windy night in Eugene winning the women’s Javelin competition at the Prefontaine Classic, an IAAF Diamond League meeting, in a new meeting record of 67.70m.
Twice Obergfoll has emerged victorious in New York and she was the champion a year ago at this meeting to take her tally to four Diamond League meetings, four victories.
The former European record holder, who has won silver medals at five major championships but never gold, also moved up to second in this year’s world lists and leads the Diamond Race with eight points after two of the seven meetings in her event.
There had been anticipation of a battle between Obergfoll, the London Olympic 2012 Games silver medallist, and reigning World champion Mariya Abakumova, who leads the world this year with 69.34m, but that fizzled when the Russian fouled on her first three throws and she could muster only 60.29m for fifth place.
Australia’s Kim Mickle claimed second with 63.80m while South Africa’s Sunette Viljoen threw 63.00m to finish third.
“I am really satisfied with today’s result,” said Obergfoll. “We had pretty strong headwinds, which is actually not so good. I like more of a tailwind. The other girls threw it pretty high which is a problem when you have a headwind. Yes, I am the lucky one.”
“In the third round I was in the lead with 63.95m and then in the fourth round I threw 67.70m. I was not afraid (of being beaten) really, I saw the others throwing and knew I could throw further just like last week in New York. I just did my own competition, struggling with myself.”
New Zealand shot putter Valerie Adams has been unbeaten since August 2010 but it looked like that streak might come to an end at the Pre Classic after China’s Lijiao Gong took the lead in the third round with a 20.12m effort.
On her fifth throw the giant New Zealander reached 20.15m to edge back in front, although she evidently hadn’t been following the competition too closely. When she threw only 19.88m in the sixth round, she left the ring with her hands over her face.
“I really thought I was beaten,” she said later, laughing after being reminded of her actions. “Seriously, I didn’t actually think I had won. I didn’t pay attention. Obviously for me I was very disappointed with myself.
“A win is great but I am still disappointed that I threw only that far. Today I feel a lot flatter than normal. You have always got to take the positive. You are not going to throw a PB every day so today is just one of those days. You have to take it and move on to the next competition.”
She downplayed any suggestion that motivation was hard to come by after being so dominant for so long.
“No it doesn’t get difficult to be motivated,” she declared. “Today was an example of how much people are chasing me. I felt really fit today and the Chinese obviously had some really good throws out there. I am disappointed with my throws but I am really happy with the win.
Gong held onto second place while Michelle Carter of the US threw a season best 19.65m to earn third place.
Bekele still can go through the gears
The year the Ethiopian federation had planned to use the Pre Classic 10000m as their trials for the 2013 IAAF World Championships but changed their minds in the weeks leading up to the event and then on Thursday, Great Britain’s 2012 double Olympic champion Mo Farah decided to drop down to the shorter of his gold medal distances but the event still promised much.
Ethiopia’s World record holder and two-time Olympic 10000m champion Kenenisa Bekele, his younger brother Tariku, the 2012 Olympic Games bronze medallist, along with their compatriot Imane Merga, hoped to go well under 27 minutes and so solidify their positions on the 2013 World Championship team but those hopes faded when the pack passed halfway in a desultory 13:33.51.
The lead went back and forth between the Kenyan trio of Vincent Chepkok, Emmanuel Bett and Bedan Karoki but nobody made a decisive move.
On the last lap, the elder Bekele went to the front in a long sprint for home but, with 200m remaining, Merga attacked and drew close to the Ethiopian legend but could not overhaul his compatriot who is rebounding from a difficult two years of repeated injury problems.
Bekele held off Merga, winning in a world leading 27:12.08 just 0.29 seconds ahead of the 2011 IAAF World Cross Country Championships gold medallist and man who also took the silver medal at the event in Bydgoszcz, Poland, back in March.
“We decided to run under 27 minutes but in the end we didn’t because from the beginning the pace was slow,” commented Bekele. “Nobody pushed it. It is very tough for one person to push alone. I am OK, yes. I am happy that I won the race.
“I didn’t expect this time. Really we planned to run 26:45 but the time was not quite good,” said Bekele, who just shrugged his shoulders when asked if he would be prepared to run another 10000m if the federation demanded it.
Germany’s World record holder Betty Heidler of Germany won the women’s Hammer competition, part of the IAAF Hammer Throw Challenge, with a throw of 75.21m in the fifth round, which was not far off her world-leading mark of 75.80m set in March.
However, she trailed Poland’s Anita Wlodarcyk for four rounds after Heidler’s predecessor as World record holder threw 74.73m in the second round, a distance which held up for second place. Russia’s Olympic and World champion Tatyana Lysenko was third with 72.62m.
In the non-Diamond League middle distance events, Kenya's James Magut clocked world-leading 3:55.24 in the Mile and USA's Phoebe Wright won the women's 800m in 2:00.85.
Paul Gains for the IAAF