Anita Wlodarczyk in Szczecin (Marek Biczyk) © Copyright
General News Szczecin, Poland

Wlodarczyk and Alekna underscore London medal aspirations in Szczecin

The 58th edition of the Janusz Kusocinski Memorial, which took place in Szczecin on Saturday (21 July), was one of the last opportunities to see top-class athletes in action before the Olympic Games.

Nearly half of the Polish Olympic team showed up to test their form, and the competition also featured many top international athletes. The most significant results of the evening came in field events, as Anita Wlodarczyk threw the hammer 76.81m, Virgilijus Alekna took the win in the Discus Throw with 68.50m and Steven Lewis improved the British record in the Pole Vault to 5.82m.

Wlodarczyk near 77 metres

The women's Hammer Throw, the first event of the meet, was expected to be a battle between two former World champions, Anita Wlodarczyk and Yipsi Moreno. In the end, however, there was not much of a battle. In the second round the Pole effectively sealed the win with a throw of 76.81m, her longest since setting a world record in June 2010.

Wlodarczyk showed the result was no fluke by ending the competition with three successive throws of 74.89m, 75.59m and 74.53m, and will now travel to London as a serious medal contender.

"I have been in heavy training and I am still lacking a bit of speed," Wlodarczyk said. "I expect to be in better shape at the Olympic Games."

Moreno finished a distant second with 71.90m, while Poland's other Olympic team member Joanna Fiodorow took third with 69.23m.

Lewis improves UK Pole Vault record to 5.82m, others struggle

The men's Pole Vault featured no less than three World champions, but as it turned out, none of them proved the best on the day. Britain's Lewis went into the lead after first-time clearances at 5.52m and 5.72m. Brad Walker and Steven Hooker cleared the latter height as well, but were behind the Briton on countback at that point.

Lewis started his attack at 5.82m with a failure, but on his second attempt, despite rattling the bar, he went clear. With that vault, he improved Nick Buckfield's 14-year-old national record by two centimetres. None of his three attempts at 5.92 was close, but that was enough for a clear win. Neither the American nor the Australian were able to go higher than 5.72, and thus the two took second and third place, respectively.

Przemyslaw Czerwinski and Lukasz Michalski took the next two places, both having cleared 5.62m. There was disappointment for the reigning World champion Pawel Wojciechowski. The Pole, still fighting for inclusion in the Olympic team, had only had successful attempt at 5.42m, followed by three failures at 5.62m.

To make it to London, Wojciechowski needs to clear at least 5.72m by 30 July. And in his comments after the competition the World champion said he was not yet sure if he would have another go at qualifying, as his leg injury was still not fully healed.

Other men who did not have a good day included the world leader Renaud Lavillenie and Malte Mohr, third on the world list this year. Struggling in the breezy conditions, both no-heighted; the Frenchman at 5.62m, and the German at 5.42m.

7th win of the season for Alekna

There was also disappointment for another Polish star in the discus throw. Piotr Malachowski, competing with a heavily bandaged elbow, had a series of modest throws by his normal standards and it was only with his final throw of 64.29m that he managed to get into the top three, a mere two centimetres ahead of Robert Urbanek.

The 40-year old double Olympic champion Virgilijus Alekna showed he was still a strong contender for Olympic glory with a strong series capped by 68.50m in the third round. The Lithuanian took the win by over 3.5 metres from Australia's Benn Harradine (64.92m) for his seventh victory in 11 starts this season.

Olympic champion Tomasz Majewski did not face international competition of the same calibre, and he took an easy win in the shot put with 21.04m. Visibly unhappy with his performance, he nonetheless stated after taking the win that he was optimistic about the Olympic chances. "I know what technical problems need to be fixed and I know how to fix them. I have won one Olympic title already, so I know what it takes," Majewski said in the interview.

In the men's Hammer Throw competition, the expected Polish win materialised, but not without a fight. Pawel Fajdek, number three in the world this year, had only two valid attempts, and he only hit it right in the final round with 77.50m.

That throw took him over two metres clear of the Ukrainian Oleksiy Sokyrskyy, who had led up to that point with 75.38m. Poland's former Olympic champion Szymon Ziolkowski finished in fourth with 73.81m, just behind another Ukrainian Andriy Martynyuk.

There was another good performance in the field from Olesya Zabara in the Triple Jump. The Russian dominated the competition from the start and closed it in style with her best jump, a wind-aided 14.48m, coming on her last attempt. Another Russian, Yekaterina Kayukova, was the only other woman over 14 metres with 14.07m.

The men's 100m race was wholly dominated by Jamaican sprinters. In a very close race, Michael Frater prevailed in 10.09, just ahead of Nesta Carter 10.10 and Mario Forsythe 10.11.

The women's race was won by the Norwegian Ezinne Okparaebo in 11.13, a time which would have been a national record had the wind not been +2.3 mps. Finishing a close second was yet another Jamaican, Aleen Bailey, with 11.16.

The men's 800m was notable as the farewell race of Pawel Czapiewski, the Polish record holder and 2011 World Championships medallist, who decided to retire after failing to qualify for the Olympic team.

While Czapiewski finished last in a casual 2:15.40, there was a terrific battle for the win at the front. The American Tyler Mulder built a big lead over the first 500 metres, but started to fade afterwards. In the final straight, it came down to a two-way battle between the European indoor champion Adam Kszczot and the Kenyan Job Kinyor. It was the Pole who just held on for the win with 1:45.78, 0.11 ahead of his rival.

In the women's 400m Hurdles, Polish veteran Anna Jesien looked to be on her way to a win until she was suprised by the attack of the Dane Sara Petersen in the final 50 metres. Petersen reached the finish in 55.68, a new national record, 0.10 ahead of Jesien. Yadisleidis Pedroso of Cuba took third in 55.96.

The main memorial race at 3000m ended with a double Kenyan win. Gideon Gathimba came through with a strong finish to take the race in 7:50.34, nearly a second ahead of John Kipkoech, with Garrett Heath of the USA just behind in third place.

Pawel Jackowski for the IAAF

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