Usain Bolt produced the second-fastest performance ever in the 300m while his Jamaican compatriot Asafa Powell clocked a world-leading 9.83 in the 100m to highlight the 49th Golden Spike meeting held on a rainy night in this eastern Czech city.
Bolt's appearance at this IAAF World Challenge meeting, hot on the heels of his 19.76 200m outing in Shanghai on Sunday, was touted as an assault on the World best* of 30.85 set by Michael Johnson at altitude in Pretoria a decade ago. Running on a soggy track, the triple Olympic champion came up just shy in his first attempt over the rarely run distance clocking 30.97, only the second performance under the 31-second mark and the fastest at sea level.
"I probably went too hard in first 200 metres," Bolt said, before conceding that he wasn't in the best physical condition for this longer distance.
Another Jamaican, Jermaine Gonzales, was a distant runner-up in 32.49, just outlegging Belgium’s Jonathan Borlee who was third in 32.50.
Powell comfortable with Ostrava rains
The strong rains which postponed the track events for some 20 minutes didn't hinder Powell in the 100m, where his track record of 9.85 was set in cold and wet conditions in 2005. Indeed, ignoring the conditions, Powell powered home with a dominating 9.83 dash to take the world lead from Bolt who clocked 9.86 in his 100m opener last week in Daegu. Powell was nearly as fast in the heats – before the rain – running 9.88 despite shutting down considerably over the final 15 metres.
“The weather conditions did not mean a lot,” said Powell, who also clocked 9.09 and 9.07 for 100 yards, both World bests* well inside the 9.21 set by American Charles Greene way back in 1967.
More importantly, Powell’s tantalizing performance, coupled with his wind-assisted season-opener of 9.75 in the IAAF Diamond League opener in Doha on 14 May, sent a clear message to Bolt, and American rival Tyson Gay, that the twice World bronze medallist is ready for some fireworks when the trio meet later this summer.
Powell’s next outing is set for the IAAF Diamond League meeting in Oslo on 4 June.
Well back, Lerone Clarke (10.18) and World junior champion Dexter Lee (10.20) rounded out the top three for a Jamaican sweep.
World leads by Frydrych, Melkamu and Biwott
Powell's was one of four world-leading performances in front of yet another capacity crowd at Ostrava's municipal stadium. The others came in the women's 10,000, the men's 3000m and men's Javelin Throw, courtesy of Meselech Melkamu, Yusuf Biwott, and Petr Frydrych. It was the performance of the latter, coming early in the programme, that sparked imagination of the appreciative crowd.
Frydrych, just 22 and coached by World record holder Jan Zelezny, produced an impressive 88.23m in the fourth round, a career best follow-up to his runner-up finish in Shanghai on Sunday. Frydrych displayed consistency too, with a third round 85.42m effort and an 85.89m in the sixth.
Two seasons ago, Frydrych could boast only a 74.13 PB, and last year, despite reaching the finals in the Berlin World Championships where he finished tenth, the Klatovy athlete exceeded eighty metres in only four of his 18 competitions.
Melkamu’s effort in the 10,000m also came early in the meeting, in her season’s debut over the distance. The African record holder, who took silver at last year’s World championships and opened her season with a personal best of 14:31.91 in the Shanghai 5000m where she finished third, shadowed Kenyan Pauline Korikwiang through the waning stages before sprinting to the win in 31:04.52. Korikwiang was second in her debut over the distance, clocking 31:06.29, with Portugal’s Jessica Augusto (31:19.15) rounding out the top three, also with a personal best.
In the Zatopek Memorial 3000m, Kenyan Biwott handily sprinted past pre-race favourite Bernard Lagat to score a victory in 7:31.68, a personal best for the 23-year-old. His compatriot John Kemboi Cheruiyot also ran by Lagat, the World indoor 3000m champion, over the final 20 metres to finish second in 7:32.16, also a personal best. Lagat, who came up short in his bid on Bob Kennedy’s US record, was nonetheless rewarded with a 7:32.49 career best.
Joseph Ebuya, the World Cross Country champion, was never a factor over the final two laps, and finished a distant seventh (7:38.34) in a race where the first nine finishers all clocked under 7:40.
Fraser dashes 11.04
The rain, falling hard at times, impacted some events more than others.
Like her compatriot Powell in the men’s 100m, World and Olympic champion Shelly-Ann Fraser didn’t seem too bothered when the women’s race went off, as she powered to an 11.04 victory, considerably faster than her 11.29 season opener in Shanghai. Bahamian Chandra Sturrup was a solid second in 11.13, with Jamaican Sheri-Ann Brooks (11.17) third.
The men’s 800 was postponed by the showers, but neither the conditions nor the delay affected pre-race favourite David Rudisha. The world leader had little company en route to his 1:44.03 run, nearly a full second ahead of fellow-Kenyan Boaz Lalang (1:45.02).
"I’m happy with this time, even though I was hoping to run faster,” said Rudisha, who impressed with a 1:43.00 world lead in the IAAF Diamond League opener in Doha. "I wanted to break the meeting record (1:43.24) but the weather was against it.” Rudisha races next in Oslo as well.
Pole Marcin Lewandowski was just a tick behind Lalang in 1:45.04 for third.
The women’s race featured a tight finish, with Dutchwoman Yvonne Hak sneaking by Lithuanian Egle Bulciunaite just a step before the line to win 2:00.53 to 2:00.55.
Robles and Clement clear hurdles winners
Two of the three hurdles races displayed little drama with clear victories by Dayron Robles and Kerron Clement.
Despite the rain, falling at its hardest just before the gun sounded, Cuba’s Robles, who set the 12.87 World record on this track in 2008, notched a quick 13.12 victory, well ahead of Czech Petr Svoboda’s 13.55.
“I’m happy with the time, considering the weather,” said Robles, who opened his season with a runner-up finish to David Oliver in Daegu.
Two-time World 400m Hurdles champion Clement looked strong over the final straight to win easily in 48.69, defeating Briton David Greene (49.05) and Jamiacan Isa Phillips (49.16).
The women’s 100m Hurdles was considerably closer, with Canada’s Priscilla Lopes-Schliep closing fast to win with a 12.69 season’s best ahead of Jamaican Delloreen Ennis-London (12.73). Americn Danielle Carruthers was third in 12.77 while Lolo Jones, struggling early on, finished fourth in 12.85.
Rosolova the big surprise in the 400m
There were also some surprises and upsets, beginning with an unexpected victory by Czech Denisa Rosolova in the women’s 400m. For years a long jumper and multi-event athlete, Rosolova, who hails from the greater Ostrava area, has recently put all of that variety behind her and has now concentrated on the 400m. But one indoor season of one-lap experience could not have presaged her shocking 50.85 win here tonight, all while running in a comparatively tight lane two.
Among those she took down were Jamaica’s World and Olympic silver medallist Shericka Williams, who was second in 51.13, and Olympic champion Christine Ohuruogo, who faded to fourth down the homestretch clocking 51.58.
“I only wanted a PB,” the 23-year-old said. “My goal was to break 52 seconds.”
Howard-Lowe takes High Jump, Vlasic well-beaten third
In the women’s High Jump, Blanka Vlasic’s return to Ostrava didn’t quite go as the Croatian planned. Struggling early, the two-time World champion needed three tries before topping 1.92m, to only finish third.
Instead it was American Chaunte Howard Lowe who continued her strong early season form winning at 1.98 before bowing out with three tries at 2.01 which would have equaled her PB.
Lavern Spencer of St. Lucia was second, her first attempt success at 1.92m making the difference. For Vlasic, it was her lowest finish since her fifth place showing at the European Indoor Championships in March 2009.
Ratej defeats Spotakova
Another surprise came in the rainy women’s Javelin Throw competition, with Martina Ratej of Slovenia’s early 64.68m effort carrying through for a victory over Olympic champion and World record holder Barbora Spotakova, whose best was measured at 62.94m. Ratej’s been on a roll this year, improving her national record twice, most recently to 67.16m in Doha.
As has become tradition in Ostrava, the Hammer Throw competitions, both part of the IAAF Hammer Throw Challenge, were contested on Wednesday, the day before the main programme.
World champion and World record holder Anita Wlodarczyk took the victory in the women’s contest with a 75.74m heave, bettering Germany’s Betty Heidler, who also threw beyond the 75-metre line with a 75.25 best.
In the men’s competition, Krisztian Pars of Hungary took top honours with a 79.15m best, ahead of Dilshod Nazarov of Tajikistan, who threw 78.69.
Ed Gordon (organisers) and Bob Ramsak for the IAAF
* The IAAF does not officially ratify World records in the 300m and 100 yards.