Sprinters Mike Rodgers and Elaine Thompson were crowned as ‘the best performers’ at the 33rd Meeting de Madrid, the annual IAAF World Challenge meeting in the Spanish capital, but plenty of plaudits should also go to Amel Tuka after his thrilling 800m win on Saturday evening (11).
Held in temperatures soring towards the mid-30s, Rodgers proved to be in outstanding form as he managed a season’s best of 9.88 1.4m/s), his second-fastest time ever and his 10th wind-legal sub-10 clocking of 2015.
The 30-year-old US sprinter had already sent a signal to his opponents that he was in fine form as he flew to an easy 9.97 victory in his semi-final.
Drawn in lane three in the final and wearing his usual white headband, Rodgers battled with Jamaica’s Andrew Fisher down the back straight, held away from the main stand to take advantage of the prevailing wind conditions, before edging in front over the final 20 metres, crossing the line just 0.03 outside his best while his 23-year-old rival recorded a big career best of 9.94 to go under 10 seconds for the first ever time.
Thompson won in a meeting record of 10.90 (1.0m/s) with 2013 and 2014 winner Barbara Pierre coming home second in 11.05, while South Africa’s Carina Horn came third in 11.10 after lowering her best in the semi-finals to 11.06, equalling the South African record.
The Jamaican had to recover from a poor start with Pierre still ahead at the halfway point but Thomson’s apparently easy burst of acceleration over the second half of the race saw her cross the line well clear of Pierre.
In addition, Thompson broke Pierre’s meeting record of 10.92 set two years ago.
After winning her semi-final in style in 11.02, pre-race favourite English Gardner did not show for the final.
Tuka times his finish to perfection
Bosnia and Herzegovina’s Tuka executed a perfectly judged race to capture an entertaining men’s 800m. Spanish record-holder Kevin Lopez was closest to the pacemaker at the bell, reached in 50.88, as Tuka was back in sixth place.
By then the 24-year-old Tuka travelled in sixth also behind the African contingent including Kenya’s Job Kinyor and Bernard Kipyegon plus Burundi’s Antoine Gakeme. Lopez was easily overtaken overtaken by them with some 250m left while Tuka started to move to the front.
With 50 metres to go, the 2013 European under-23 silver medallist passed Kinyor and Gakeme to improve his own national record to a European-leading 1:43.84, 10 days after his 1:44.19 outing in the Slovenian city of Velenje.
Both Kinyor and Gakeme were credited with 1:44.09, a personal best for the Burundian.
Tuka has made a major breakthrough breakthrough this summer, having started the year with a best of 1:46.12 although he grabbed some attention when finishing a creditable and slightly surprising sixth at the Europeans Championships last summer.
“After my bronze medal in Tampere (at the 2013 European Under-23 Championships) I began to train under the guidance of Gianni Ghidini in Verona (Italy), he also coached the 2008 Olympic champion Wilfred Bungei. I now plan a couple more competitions before a training stint in altitude in the north of Italy in my build-up for the Beijing Worlds."
Qatar’s 18-year-old Abdalelah Haroun grabbed a narrow win in the men’s 400m ahead of US champion David Verburg, 44.63 and 44.72 respectively, with Saudi Arabia’s Yousef Masrahi a close third in 44.79.
Bahamas’ Jeffery Gibson captured the 400m hurdles win in 48.89 ahead of the USA’s 2008 world junior champion Jeshua Anderson, who was second in 49.14.
World champion Jehue Gordon could do no better than fifth place in 49.53. “I haven’t run fast this season yet but I’m not especially worried," said Gordon, whose next race will be at the Pan American Games. "I’m still optimistic about my Beijing chances, I’ll be there to defend my title."
Great Britain’s Niall Flannery won in the B race in 49.23.
Kovacs commanding in shot put
After losing out to Germany’s in-form David Storl at the IAAF Diamond League meeting in Lausanne on Thursday, shot put world leader Joe Kovacs bounced back quickly with a 21.22m fifth attempt in Madrid.
It gave him an emphatic win over his friend, compatriot and 2009 world champion Christian Cantwell, who was second with 20.52m, while Cory Martin completed a US clean sweep with 20.43m for third place.
Home star Ruth Beitia, the poster girl of the meeting, unsuccessfully tried 2.01m in the women’s high jump but the two-time European champion was the only woman to go clear at 1.96m, which she did at the second time of asking.
Uzbekistan’s Svetlana Radzivil and St Lucia’s Levern Spencer shared the runner-up spot having jumped 1.94m, a season’s best for both of them.
The women’s triple jump went to Bulgaria’s European indoor silver medallist Gabriela Petrova thanks to a 14.54m final-round effort, backed up with another two leaps beyond 14.50m. Israel’s Hanna Minenko finished second with 14.38m.
Canada’s Melissa Bishop was a surprise winner in the women’s 800m producing a late burst of speed over the final 30 metres to finish ahead of world indoor 800m champion Chanelle Price of the USA, the pair clocking 2:00.13 and 2:00.26 respectively
Emeterio Valiente for the IAAF