Maria Mutola continues to look stronger and stronger. With three victories in the IAAF Golden League under her belt, the Mozambican looks unlikely to lose her grip on the two lap race any time soon.
Paced through 400 metres in 55.97 by her cousin Tina Paulino, Mutola just stormed away from the rest of the field into the second lap and crossed the line in a world leading 1:55.55 – over four seconds ahead of Kenya’s Faith Maccaria, second in 1:59.67 and Britain’s Hayley Tullet, third in a personal best of 2:00.49.
The favourite for the men’s 800 metres, Denmark’s Wilson Kipketer was less successful. Kipketer stayed in the centre of the field running up to the bell, then as the pacemaker, Francis Marwa (KEN) broke away at 500 metres (50.80 at 400 metres), the pace increased and Kipketer was running on the inside of a tight group of leaders. Coming off the final bend and into the home straight, the Dane tried to kick but he was unable to reel in the two South Africans, Hezeliel Sepeng and Mbuluane Muluaddzi as they sprinted for the line, with Muluaddzi first across in a meeting record of 1:44.42., Sepeng in 1:44.53 and Kipketer in a season’s best of 1:45.03.
Kipketer seemed unperturbed afterwards: “We will see what happens in Paris. I have been taking things much easier this season and Paris is my focus. We will see then what happens.”
Israel’s Aleksandr Averbukh set a world leading mark and new meeting record of 5.93 metres to win the men’s pole vault competition after his closest competitor, USA’s Nick Hysong was unable to clear 5.78. With no failures to 5.73, Averbukh cleared 5.83 at his third attempt before asking the bar to be placed at 5.93. After two failures at this height, the Israeli cleared it at his third try for a resounding victory.
Suzy Favor Hamilton, who heads the IAAF World Rankings for her event continued to show her form in the women’s 1500 metres, setting a new meeting record of 4:02.89, her second best performance this year, as she finished over a second ahead of Great Britain’s Joanne Pavey (4:03.89). Favor-Hamilton took over command of the race as they raced through the bell and built up a 5 metre lead that she held across the finish line. The pacemaker had taken the pack through 400m in 1:05.14, 800m in 2:09.94 and Favor-Hamilton led through 1200 in 3:15.61.
In a closely contested women’s long jump, Ukraine’s veteran triple and long jumper Inessa Kravets showed that she still had plenty of spring in her legs as she carried off the women’s long jump.
With another grand dame of the horizontal jumps, Heike Drechsler withdrawing at the last moment after a couple of warm-up runs down the runway, the 36-year-old laid down the gauntlet with her second round clearance of 6.53, but then dropped down to 6th place in the table, as she was overtaken by Jade Johnson of Great Britain (6.69), Elva Goldbourne from Jamaica with 6.68, Olga Rubylova from Russia (6.58) and Vaszi Tunde from Hungary (6.58). With no improvement from the other contenders the positions remained unchanged until the 5th round, when Kravets unleashed a great bound of 6.76 metres to take the highest place on the podium.
The evergreen Frankie Fredericks may have slowed the frequency of his competitions, but the Namibian has lost little of his sparkle on or off the track. This evening, the 36-year-old saw off the on-form Francis Obikwelu (POR), nine years his younger and Brazil’s Claudio Sousa to win the men’s 200 metres in 20.24 seconds into a 0.4 m/s headwind.
“I am feeling good,” said Fredericks afterwards. “I am running a little bit less than in the past but otherwise everything is great. I was a bit tired after the Golden League Meeting in Paris, so I took a couple of weeks off to just train very hard and now I am feeling good.
“The 200 metres in Paris? I think that it is looking very open, it should be good. Capel is looking pretty strong of course, but the dark horse is the Greek, Kenteris. I am looking forward to it.”
The women’s 200 was won easily by Belgium’s Kim Gevaert. Fast out of the blocks, she held her lead right through the race, finishing in 22.66, well clear of Belarusian Natalya Saffronikova in second place with 23.00. Australia’s Lauren Hewitt was third in 23.28.
A season’s best of 13.39 seconds gave Jamaican Maurice Wignall the honours in the men’s 110 metre hurdles, ahead of Americans Arend Watkins and Micah Harris . Minutes later his compatriot Brigitte Foster, the season’s leader in the women’s 100 Hurdles held off the challenge of local favourite Glory Alozie and Donnica Merriman from the USA winning the sprint off the final hurdle to cross the line in 12.62 seconds (Merriman 12.69, Alozie 12.75).
American Matt Hemingway won the men’s high jump on countback as three of the competitors cleared the winning height of 2.30 metres. Hemingway was given the advantage over Mikhail Tsetkotv (RUS) and Jamie Nieto (USA).
Manuel Martinez gave the home crowd some satisfaction in an evening singularly lacking in Spanish successes, when he put his shot out to 20.96 metres for a new meeting record with his first attempt, an effort he was not to improve on subsequently. The USA took second and third places, with Christian Cantwell (20.89 from his sole legal throw) and Kevin Toth throwing 20.87 at his second attempt.
In an evenly matched Javelin Throw competition, the top place on the podium went to Hungary’s Nikolett Szabo for her third round throw of 62.12 metres, a season’s best for the 23-year-old. Second place was taken by Russia’s Tatiana Shikolenko, who had opened the competition with a 61.55 metre effort that she was unable to better in the rest of the series. Eve Laverne from the Bahamas was third with 59.68 metres.
Szabo’s compatriot, the season’s leader and head of the IAAF World Rankings in this event, Robert Fazekas won the other throwing event of the evening, the men’s Discus Throw. Fazekas produced his best throw of the series, 67.07 metres with his fifth round throw, bettering the performance of Lithuania’s Virgilius Alekna with 66.20 metres and Dmitry Sevchenko with 65.02 and Russia’s Dimitry Sevchenko, 65.02 metres.
A spirited run from 24-year-old Benita Johnson gave the Australian victory over Morocco’s Zhor El Kamch after an exciting race which saw the two running side by side for the last two laps. But as El Kamch tired towards the finish, Johnson seized the moment and kicked out for the finish coming out of the back straight. Paced through 1000 metres in 2:52.27 (Susan Mayo – USA) and 2000 metres in 5:46.62 (Rose Kosgei – KEN), Johnson finished in 8:38.45, over four seconds ahead of El Kamch in 8:42.46. Russia’s Olga Yegorova was third in 8:51.44.
The final excitement of the evening came in the men’s Long Jump, when Joan Lino (CUB), who was at that point lying second to the USA’s Savante Stringfellow, with the two sharing the same distance of 8.13 metres, clinched victory with his final attempt, soaring out to 8.20 metres. To roars of appreciation from the crowd, despite the relegation to third place of home favourite Yago Lamela with a best performance of 8.09.