Blanka Vlasic clears 2.05m in Madrid (Jose Antonio Garcia Molero) © Copyright
General News Madrid, Spain

Vlasic and Lebedeva in a class apart in Madrid – IAAF World Athletics Tour

A superb 2.05 firsttime clearance in the High Jump by Croatia’s Blanka Vlasic and a 7.15m Long Jump effort by Russia’s Olympic champion Tatyana Lebedeva capped a great night of athletics at the ‘Meeting de Atletismo Madrid 2007' held yesterday (21 July) at the ‘Vallehermoso’ stadium.

Meeting de Atletismo Madrid 2007 is a Grand Prix status meeting as part of the IAAF World Athletics Tour 2007.

This ‘night of jumps’ also saw other remarkable performances such as a 17.51 Triple Jump leap by Portugal’s Nelson Evora and a 7.01m women’s Long Jump by his compatriot Naide Gomes, both setting National records in the process.

Vlasic not far from World record

The 23-year-old Croatian began her contest with a comfortable jump over 1.84. After a slight scare at 1.92m, which took her two attempts to clear, Vlasic had a clean card up to and including her 2.05m. So there were expectations that the 20-year-old Stefka Kostadinova’s World record of 2.09 could be threatened. With the delighted spectators clapping Vlasic’s every step to the bar the World Indoor silver medallist delivered three decent attempts – especially the second.

“I knew a 2.05 height was in my legs and then asked the bar to be raised at a would-be WR of 2.10,” said Vlasic. “I couldn’t do it but I leave Madrid extremely happy and look forward to getting in Osaka my first major medal outdoors. The crowd really helped me to jump that high tonight.”

By succeeding at 2.05 Vlasic managed to add one centimetre to her own world leading mark this season - which was also her outdoor national record - and matched her indoor PB set in Banska Bystrika last 14 February 2006. Yesterday’s second spot was shared by Sweden’s reigning World champion Kajsa Bergqvist and Spain’s Ruth Beitia, both athletes managing 1.95 before failing at 1.98.

Lebedeva confirms “I’ll go for the double in Osaka”

Olympic champion Tatyana Lebedeva was a more than convincing winner in the women’s Long Jump. On the day of her 31st birthday the Russian ace opened with a valid 6.84 attempt which was tied by Portugal’s Naide Gomes in round two.

Lebedeva then responded with a huge SB of 7.15 (+1.0) in the third round to regain the lead. The contest reached its pinnacle in the following round when Lebedeva backed her top spot with a 7.10 leap in a tailwind of 2.2 and Gomes produced a massive national record of 7.01 aided with the maximum allowable wind of 2.0m/s. That figure bettered her previous best of 6.89 indoors when taking the European title in Birmingham last March. The 27-year-old Portuguese’s effort in round five was measured at 6.92m in what was her best ever Long Jump contest.

The fight for the third place was fierce as Russia’s Oksana Udmurtova got the better of Spain’s Concha Montaner with the former prevailing by just one centimetre, 6.85 verses 6.84, a SB for the European indoor silver medallist Spaniard.

Lebedeva’s 7.15 was her furthest effort for three years as she last exceeded 7.00m when winning the Olympic title in Athens.

An extremely happy Lebedeva said: “Today’s circumstances were perfect. Firstly, my name appeared on the video scoreboard to congratulate me on my birthday, and then I felt great and the wind was the best possible. I’ll skip the Triple Jump event at the Russian champs  (Tula, early August) as I have already been given a spot in my specialist event and will only contest the Long Jump there but I’m aiming for the double in Osaka, I think it’s a tough but reachable target. Should I have to choose, I would prefer the Triple Jump title.”

“My next appearances will be on Sunday (22 July) in Tallin at Long Jump and then I’ll do the Triple Jump in Montecarlo next Saturday (28 July).”

As for Gomes she declared: “After so many times producing efforts in the 6.70-6.90 range this NR of 7.01 is marvellous for me. In addition that’s an enormous confidence booster thinking of the Worlds where I’ll definitely go for the medals.”

“I’ll compete at the Portuguese champs next weekend. I’m only focused now on the Long Jump because an injury in my left leg didn’t allow me to perform well the combined events so I was forced to leave them for ever.”

Evora produces NR of 17.51

There was some interesting depth in the men’s Triple Jump with no less than five athletes surpassing the 17m mark headed by the 23-year-old Portuguese Nelson Evora who managed 17.51 with a tailwind of 1.8 in the final round to better Grenada’s Randy Lewis runner-up effort in a windy 17.40. Pre-event favourite Aarik Wilson of the USA had to settle for third despite a fine 17.30 leap. Yesterday’s was Evora’s second PB in this month and proves nobody should write him off the battle for the medal hunt in Osaka.

"I think that the favourite for Osaka is Sweden’s Christian Olsson but I now rank fourth in the season’s list and I don’t rule out anything," the Lisbon-based athlete said. "I like this track, so it’s a shame for me it’s going to be demolished shortly. My next appearance will be at my country’s National Championships next weekend."

Commanding 800 victories for Saad Kamel and Mutola

The men’s 800 aimed for the first clocking of the year below 1:44 as the classy field included Bahrain’s Youssef Saad Kamel, the American pair (1-2 at the US Trials) of Khadevis Robinson and Nick Symmonds and also a strong European contingent. Paced by his former countryman Kenya’s Joseph Mutua through the 400m covered in 50.57, Kamel exhibited a most impressive final burst of speed to win in a SB of 1:44.49 and a full half a second advantage over Robinson and Symmonds, 1:45.03 and 1:45.06 respectively. Spain’s Manuel Olmedo was fastest among the Europeans to clock a PB of 1:45.15 in fourth, 0.17s clear of his countryman and national record holder Antonio Reina, himself getting the better of Latvia’s Dmitrijs Milkevics timed at 1:45.34 while European 1500 indoor champion Juan Carlos Higuero of Spain produced a PB of 1:45.87.

The women’s event was billed as a clash between former World and Olympic champion Maria Mutola and Morocco’s reigning World and Olympic silver medallist Hasna Benhasi, but the ‘Maputo express’ gave no option to her rivals and after a cautious first lap delivered a lethal final kick over the last 110m to romp home unchallenged in 1:58.80. Benhassi made a ‘come from behind’ race – she was last at the bell – to take second in a SB of 1:59.47. Both athletes will clash again next Saturday (28 July) at the EAA permit in Zaragoza (Spain). Also dipping under 2:00 was Australia’s Tasmyn Lewis with a 1:59.80 clocking to her credit.

Alekna, 11 out of 11!

Lithuania’s double World and Olympic Discus Throw champion Virgilijus Alekna completed a perfect card of eleven outings unbeaten this season by unleashing a 68.74 fifth-round release well clear of Spain’s Mario Pestano runner-up thanks to a 66.33 third round throw which placed him in the lead for the delight of the crowd until Alekna’s fifth try. Remarkably Rutger Smith who had snatched the Shot Put barely a few minutes before managed to take third in 63.28. 

Stuczynski sidelined again

There was some disappointment in the hours prior to the meeting as it was released that America’s Jennifer Stuczynski would withdraw from the women’s handy Pole Vault line-up. As organisers confirmed yesterday the American reported from Munich that she was not recovered from his lower back problem which already prevented her to clash with Yelena Isinbayeva at the IAAF Golden League meeting in Rome (13 July). In her absence the event seemed to be a Russian affair but finally the win went to Australia’s reigning Commonwealth champion Kym Howe from Russia’s Svetlana Feofanova. Both vaulters cleared 4.62 at their first try but the Russian European indoor champion had a previous foul at 4.42 which decided the event in favour of Howe.

A first round release of 21.12 metres by World silver medallist Rutger Smith of The Netherlands promised so much in the men’s Shot Put, an event which featured the top-five throwers of this year. But that was to be the winning toss as no-one else exceeded the 21m barrier with America’s Reese Hoffa taking second spot in 20.81 ahead of Denmark’s Joachim Olsen’s 20.64. World leader Christian Cantwell was a disappointing tenth with a 19.51 effort.

Elsewhere...

In a photo finish, Commonwealth 400m champion John Steffensen edged American champion Angelo Taylor with both athletes being credited with the same time 45.05, a SB for the ‘Aussie’ while World 100m titleholder Lauryn Williams finished second in the women’s 200m behind her fellow American Rachelle Smith with respective times of 23.12 and 23.14 into a strong headwind of 2.7. Ron Bramlett headed a clean sweep of medals for the USA in the men’s 110m hurdles being timed 13.44 (-1.9) one hundredth ahead of David Oliver himself another 0.01s clear of Aries Merritt.

World indoor champion Ivan Heshko of Ukraine took a tactical 1500m in 3:37.57 from Qatar’s Bashir Dahame Najen’s 3:37.79. In the women’s event Russia’s Olesya Chumakova was dominant thanks to a 4:06.89 clocking marginally ahead of Morocco’s Ibhissam Lakhoud (4:06.98) while the longer discipline contested yesterday, the men’s 3000m Steeplechase was taken by Kenya’s Julius Nyamu in 8:23.81 getting the better of American Steve Slattery, runner-up in 8:24.29. The women’s Javelin Throw was taken by Nikola Brejchova of the Czech Republic thanks to an opening effort measured at 61.92m. The winner backed her leadership with a third round throw of 61.75. Spain’s European bronze medallist Mercedes Chilla came runner-up with a 60.12 performance. Finally, Poland’s Anna Jesien had a narrow win in the women’s 400n hurdles in 54.85 from Romania’s European U-23 champion Angela Morosanu’s 54.91.

NOTE. the men's 100m. Auto-timing failed with a draw being declared between Joshua Ross and Francis Obikwelu.

Emeterio Valiente for the IAAF

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