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While headline act Usain Bolt captured much of the attention, it was victories by local stars Barbora Spotakova and Vitezslav Vesely that stole much of the applause at the 51st edition of the Golden Spike in Ostrava, Czech Republic, on Friday (25).
Bolt, who arrived at this IAAF World Challenge meet as the 100m world leader at 9.82, was nowhere near that mark but did manage to salvage a 10.04 victory after trailing former World champion Kim Collins for the first 60 metres.
Despite his powerful finish, it was an ignominious result as Bolt recorded his slowest career time in a 100m final since he added the distance to his international repertoire in 2007. The multiple Olympic champion could easily have started his powerful finish earlier, but he sized up the situation quite well and seemingly took a conservative approach.
"I did not feel very comfortable," said the double sprint World record holder who'll be looking to duplicate his double Beijing Olympic triumph in London in just over two months. "I wasn’t nervous, but it obviously wasn't the right day today. I cannot explain what happened, I have to talk to my coach and look on the tape. I can just say, I wasn't as explosive as I should be and as I normally feel."
Collins was next across the line in 10.19, ahead of American Darvis Patton (10.22), Jamaican Lerone Clarke (10.26), and Britain’s Dwain Chambers (10.28).
Strong early season consistency for Spotakova, solid opener for Lavillenie
Olympic champion and World record holder Spotakova is always an important name in Ostrava, and she came through early on in the programme with a consistent performance that will certainly please coach Jan Zelezny.
Her opening throw seemed to float forever. When it finally landed at 66.84m, it was only two centimetres short of Mariya Abakumova’s world-leading throw from two weeks ago in Doha. That was only the start for the defending Olympic champion. Two throws later, she solved the capricious wind for a world-leading 67.78m which held up as the winner. It also broke the meeting record of 67.72m by Christina Obergfoll from four years ago.
"It is a wonderful feeling," Spotakova said. "I was hoping to win here, but to achieve also the world lead and meeting record is fantastic. I fulfilled all my goals. I hope some metres more are left for other meetings."
Abakumova, one of Spotakova’s main nemeses in recent years, had only a few good throws in her series, the best being 64.34m in the fifth round as she took second on a countback against the same mark of Australia’s Kathryn Mitchell, which was a PB by almost two metres. Martina Ratej of Slovenia (62.39) and Sunette Viljoen of South Africa (61.84) followed in fourth and fifth.
A little more than two hours later, the evening's Czech domination of the event continued when Vitezslav Vesely defeated some of the giants of his event just as he did in Shanghai last weekend. This time we prevailed in good weather with an 85.67m throw, a season best. Two-time Olympic champion Andreas Thorkildsen also threw a year best of 84.72 for second, while Dmitriy Tarabin of Russia was a distant third at 81.37.
In the Pole Vault, it was advantageous to take jumps as late as possible after the dancing winds settled down and became more predictable. That proved to be a winning formula for Renaud Lavillenie who did equal amounts of passing and jumping in the early going. His second-jump success at 5.78m, followed by a first-leap clearance at a world lead-equalling 5.83m brought him victory. But he wasn’t finished.
The Frenchman then asked for a world-leading 5.90m and succeeded on his third attempt, after which he had three unsuccessful tries at 6.00m.
"It was great start to the season, the first competition and I have already done a world lead," said Lavillenie. "It was a little bit difficult to jump because of wind. I believed I could jump six metres because I felt very good on 5.90."
Karsten Dilla of Germany matched his personal best of 5.72, as did Britain’s Steve Lewis, with Dilla taking second on a countback.
22.38 season’s best for Campbell-Brown
As expected Jamaica and the U.S. figured prominently in the sprints. In the women’s 200m, defending Olympic champion Veronica Campbell-Brown came out of the blocks quickly and scored a gun-to-tape victory in a season-best 22.38 against a headwind of 0.3. The Jamaican was trailed by Americans Bianca Knight and Tiffany Townsend who clocked 22.85 and 23.18, respectively.
The 400m witnessed a sweep for the U.S., with Sanya Richards-Ross taking the women’s race and Lashawn Merritt the men’s.
Richards-Ross and Christine Ohuruogu were a study in contrasts as they left the blocks, with the American aggressively charging forward and the Briton seemingly content to use a more relaxed start. Through the back straight, however, Richards-Ross lost some of her advantage as Ohurougu pulled ahead of the American as the pair entered the final curve. At that point, a powerful finish by Richards-Ross off the final straight brought victory in 50.65, as Ohuruogu clocked 51.19 in second.
Defending Olympic champion LaShawn Merritt had this race under control from start to finish as he moved solidly in front over the back stretch and then coasted home in 45.13, shutting down ten metres before the finish. A battle for second developed just to Merritt’s outside, as 18-year-old Dominican Luguelin Santos and Costa Rican Nery Brenes were neck and neck over the final metres with Santos finally prevailing, 45.76 to 45.84.
Wallace Spearmon won the men’s 200m in a gun-to-tape run in 20.14 comfortably ahead of Marvin Anderson (20.41).
Jelimo notches comfortable two-second victory
If the women’s 800m was to have been a battle between Olympic champion Pamela Jelimo and former World champion Caster Semenya, the script was left on the floor. Jelimo followed pacer Dawn Hunt closely as they passed the 400-metre mark in 57.65. All the while, Semenya was near the back of the pack, some 10-12 metres behind Jelimo.
The Kenyan accelerated well over the final back stretch as Semenya started her own kick, of sorts. But there was no doubt that Jelimo would easily win, which she did in 1:58.49. The South African’s final sprint brought her past many runners in the final 80 metres as she captured the runner-up spot in 2:00.80.
Fantu Magiso of Ethiopia, who had tried to chase Jelimo with 300 metres remaining, finished third in 2:01.03 as Semenya pipped her just a step before the finish.
In his first outdoor competition of the season, Poland’s Adam Kszczot won the men’s race in 1:44.90 ahead of Briton Andrew Osagie (1:45.24).
Porter and Stambolova impress
Britain’s Tiffany Porter made a strong impression in the 100m Hurdles as she blasted away from the start and to race only against the clock, which she stopped in 12.65, equalling the Golden Spike meeting record. All the while, Priscilla Lopes-Schliep of Canada was eyeing the finish line as her 12.80 took second ahead of Americans Lolo Jones (12.94) and Queen Harrison (12.96).
In the women’s 400m Hurdles, Bulgarian Vania Stambolova took the lead off the seventh hurdle and sailed to a 54.15 victory well ahead of Czech Zuzana Hejnova (55.28). World champion Lashinda Demus of the U.S., who had a short-lived advantage over the first few hurdles, faded badly down the homestretch to finish a distant sixth.
In the men’s high hurdles, Dexter Faulk was away from the start first and he parlayed this early advantage into a dominating 13.13 win, equalling his PB from the Ostrava meeting three years ago. A secondary race was developing behind Faulk as Jeff Porter of the US pushed hard at the end to take second in 13.29 ahead of countryman Ryan Wilson (13.35) and two Britons, Andy Pozzi (13.36) and Lawrence Clarke (PB 13.42).
Elsewhere, Canadian Dylan Armstrong won the Shot Put with a 21.29m best ahead of defending Olympic champion Tomasz Majewski of Poland (21.01m). Germany’s David Storl, the Daegu World champion, was fourth with 20.50m on only two legal throws.
Eighteen year-old Isiah Koech won the 3000m in 7:37.14 ahead of Kenyan compatriot Cornelius Kangogo (7:39.73) and Briton Andy Baddeley (PB 7:39.86).