Beijing’s IAAF World Challenge meeting on Wednesday (21) produced three world leads, but just as importantly, a big night for China and Beijing, showing that it retains the ability to stage a major championships and its athletes have the talent to compete well at global level.
Justin Gatlin improved his world lead in the 100m to 9.87. More surprisingly, Ana Simic improved hers in the high jump to 1.98m. And Brianna Rollins ran 12.58 in the 100m hurdles to equal the world lead she shares with fellow US sprint hurdler Kristi Catlin.
Chinese athletes took four wins on the night, capped by the triumph of 17-year-old Wang Jianan in the long jump.
Xue Changrui won the pole vault with a Chinese record of 5.80m and then, in a display of lese majeste, took three unsuccessful shots at 5.94m, which would have bettered the outdoor world lead set by Renaud Lavillenie at the Shanghai IAAF Diamond League meeting last Sunday.
Xie Wenjun made it a Shanghai-Beijing double in the 110m hurdles and Wang Zheng was an easy winner of the women’s hammer throw, securing her first points in this year's IAAF Hammer Throw Challenge.
Just as importantly, seeing Beijing will host the 2015 IAAF World Championships, the Birds Nest stadium showed it retained much of the magic that filled the stadium for the 2008 Olympic Games and an impressive crowd turned out to watch the event. The top tiers of the stands were not used, but the bottom two were two-thirds full. The local victories gave them plenty to cheer about.
Not all was ‘up’ on this night. Ihab Abdelrahman El Sayed, days after his 89.21m stunner in the men’s javelin in Shanghai, limped off the runway this time with an ankle injury and a best of 74.03m in three injury-hampered attempts.
Never could we call 2.36m a failure, but Ivan Ukhov, with four competitions this year at 2.40m or higher, cleared ‘only’ that height in the men’s high jump, stopping after just one failure at 2.40m.
Gatlin tops 100m again
Justin Gatlin predicted a world lead in the 100m, and duly delivered. After his 9.92 in Shanghai, he made it two wins, two world leads from two starts in China with a 9.87 in the Birds Nest.
Again he gave fast starters Michael Rodgers and Kim Collins no chance, blunting their biggest weapon with a fast getaway of his own. In front at the half-way point, Gatlin exploded away impressively in the second half to beat Rodgers (10.03) by a metre and a half with Collins almost another metre back in 10.11.
Impressively, Chinese record-holder Zheng Peimeng (10.18) and Su Bingtian (10.19) were the next two across the line, showing they can mix it in this company.
Gatlin had one win over Usain Bolt last year, at the Rome IAAF Diamond League meeting, and was asked whether he was sending a message with his impressive early-season form.
Not particularly, said Gatlin, but he added: “I think he knows I’m one of his toughest rivals in terms of being mentally strong. But I’m trying to focus on my own running. My aim is to be a better athlete each year.”
Wang continues strong hammer form
China had a win in the hammer in which Wang Zheng threw 75.23m, the second-best mark of her career after her Asian record of 77.68m from earlier this year.
Her mark is the best individual performance so far in the 2014 IAAF Hammer Throw Challenge, but ranks her fourth overall behind the three US women who have contested two legs in this year's challenge.
Wang, who finished fourth at last year's World Championships, found that her 75.23m here was easily enough to finish well clear of Martina Hrasnova’s 71.89m.
USA's Amber Campbell was the only other woman to surpass the 70-metre line, doing so by three centimetres, while world and Olympic champion Tatyana Lysenko finished down in seventh with 68.72m, a season's best but more than 10 metres shy of her PB.
Incidentally, the world all-time hammer list on the IAAF website now has more than 2000 performances listed from 255 athletes. 88 of those have exceed 70 metres, with the top 19 all having PBs in excess of 75 metres.
Rollins and Cambell-Brown impress in women's sprints
Rollins had three metres to spare on Kellie Wells in the women’s 100m hurdles.
“It feels great,” said the world champion after tying her season’s best with 12.58. “I ran a really relaxed race and got the victory. That’s all that matters.”
Rollins said consistency, not the world record, was her first aim.
“I don’t think about the world record, I just think about my own race.”
Xie Wenjun ran 13.31 to hold off the finish of world silver medallist Ryan Wilson, who drove home hard after a poor start to take second in 13.37. Kevin Craddock edged Dayron Robles for third, both men clocking 13.56.
Veronica Campbell-Brown may be working hard on her technique, but that trademark scuttling style is still unmistakeable. She was in control of the women’s 100m from early in the race and then defied the efforts of 200m winner Simone Facey to run her down over the final metres.
Campbell-Brown won in a season’s best 11.14 from Facey’s 11.19. Facey had earlier won the 200m in 22.67, a race in which Tiffany Townsend broke down with a leg injury half-way along the straight.
Simic world lead, Xue national record
Having set one world lead and personal best in winning in Shanghai on Sunday, Ana Simic stayed on a roll with another world lead/PB combination in Beijing. She and Svetlana Radzivil were tied for the lead when both cleared 1.95m on the second attempt, but Simic’s final-try clearance at 1.98m gave her the win. Ruth Beitia was third at 1.92m.
Simic also won with a personal best in Beijing last year. “I love China,” she said, perhaps a touch superfluously. Two metres is her goal for the year.
Ukhov started early in the men’s high jump, taking 2.15m, then 2.25m, 2.32m and 2.36m. But after one miss at 2.40m, he called it a night.
Xue Changrui had the men’s vault won when he was the only competitor clear 5.70m. He then went to 5.80m, clearing that on the second try to set a national record before failing at 5.94m.
Sergey Kucheranyu beat Yang Yansheng, the previous Chinese record-holder, on count-back at 5.60m for second place.
Wang Jianan, a 17-year-old from Laoning Province, jumped 8.09m and 8.08m (against a personal best of 8.10m), to lead a Chinese 1-2-3 in the men’s long jump.
World indoor silver medallist Li Jinzhe, the favourite, produced 8.00m, 8.00m and 7.95m on his three valid attempts but was erratic on the board. He took second place, a centimetre ahead of Huang Changzhou. Russia’s Pavel Shalin was best of the rest, finishing fourth with 7.94m.
A 20.22m effort from Christina Schwanitz was enough to see off Gong Lijiao’s 19.61m in the women’s shot put, but after El Sayed’s performance in Shanghai, the men’s javelin was relatively subdued, Olympic champion Keshorn Walcott taking the event with a distance of 83.94m – the third-best mark of his life – and only two others beyond 80 metres.
In keeping with the tenor of the night, there was a Chinese record in the men’s 800m; Teng Haining’s 1:46.32 in fourth. The race was won by Andre Olivier in 1:44.88.
The women’s 1500m produced the night’s best finish, Rababe Arafi coming through late to grab the win in a personal best of 4:02.71 from Gudaf Tsegay, 4:02.83, and Luiza Gega, 4:03.12. Tsegay’s time was an African youth best, while Gega’s performance was an Albanian record.
Paul Kipsiele Koech won a close steeplechase from Kenyan teammate Jairus Birech, 8:06.04 to 8:06.55.
The first three from the Shanghai IAAF Diamond League women’s steeplechase were absent, but 4-5-6 finished in the same relative order, Purity Kirui winning in 9:25.68 from Salima Alami and Birtukan Adamu.
Len Johnson for the IAAF