Aries Merritt and Robert Harting provide the highlights of the ISTAF meeting in Berlin
Two-time world discus champion Robert Harting has this season given German athletics fans much to cheer about. After winning his country’s first Olympic athletics gold medal for 12 years in London last month, the 27-year-old delighted the 54,000 spectators at today’s ISTAF meeting in Berlin with a 67.40m win.
It was the 33rd consecutive victory for Harting, one of just two athletes in the world – Mo Farah being the other – to concurrently hold world, European and Olympic titles. The last time Harting lost was August 8, 2010.
Today in Berlin Poland’s Piotr Malachowski, one of Harting’s biggest rivals in recent years, was his nearest challenger with 66.17m – a mark that Harting bettered three times within his series – while British record-holder Lawrence Okoye was eighth (62.40m).
But while Harting’s performance drew the biggest crowd reaction, the highest-quality mark of the meeting came in the men’s 110m hurdles, where Olympic champion Aries Merritt notched up his seventh consecutive sub-13 victory. It means the American now ties Dayron Robles’ record for most wind-legal sub-13 clockings within one season, although Merritt also has two further wind-assisted sub-13 runs this year.
Almost half a second behind, Merritt’s team-mate Ryan Wilson was second (13.45). USA also landed a 1-2 in the women’s sprint hurdles as Olympic bronze medallist Kellie Wells edged out Queen Harrison for the win, 12.72 to 12.79.
Olympic champion Felix Sanchez did just enough to win the 400m hurdles, crossing the line in 48.89 ahead of Jamaica’s Leford Green (49.06). Including his surprise victory in London, this was just Sanchez’s fourth win of the season.
Earlier in the afternoon there were two exciting competitions in the men’s shot and women’s javelin as both Tomasz Majewski and Barbora Spotakova – Olympic champions in 2008 and 2012 – suffered defeats.
Olympic bronze medallist Reese Hoffa took an early lead in the shot with 20.86m, but Majewski responded in the following round with 21.31m. World indoor champion Ryan Whiting then threw 21.17m in round three to bump Hoffa down to third, but that did not last long as with the very next throw of the competition the American hit back with 21.37m. With no improvements in the final three rounds, Hoffa held on to the victory.
In the javelin Spotakova trailed world bronze medallist Sunette Viljoen for the first five rounds. The South African had led with her first-round 64.07m, but Spotakova saved her best til last with a 66.83m effort in round six. But Viljoen was not finished and rounded out the competition with 67.52m to snatch back the lead.
The women’s discus was held yesterday afternoon with world bronze medallist Yarelis Barrios defeating Olympic silver medallist Darya Pishchalnikova, 66.59m to 65.47m.
Following his surprise defeat over world record-holder David Rudisha in Zurich earlier this week, Mohamed Aman’s win in the 800m in Berlin was something of a formality. The Ethiopian won in 1:43.62 with Kenya’s Edwin Melly several strides behind in 1:44.36.
It was a closer battle in the women’s event as 2008 Olympic champion Pamela Jelimo was chased hard by Burundian teenager Francine Niyonsaba, but the Kenyan came out on top in 1:58.68 to Niyonsaba’s 1:58.78. Diamond League 1500m winner Abeba Aregawi smashed her 800m PB with 1:59.39 in third, while Marilyn Okoro was top Brit in sixth (2:00.54), finishing ahead of Lynsey Sharp and Jemma Simpson.
After being disqualified for inadvertently cutting a corner in Zurich, Ethiopia’s Sofia Assefa was back on top in the steeplechase, winning comfortably in 9:21.64. Meanwhile, Kenyans filled the top four places in the men’s 1500m with Nixon Chepseba taking the win in 3:33.11.
Jamaican sprinter Kemar Bailey-Cole has been overlooked on many occasions this season. He missed out on making his national team for the London Olympics after finishing fifth at the Jamaican Trials in 10.00 – a time that would have been good enough to make the team for another other country in the world, bar USA. He followed it with a windy sub-10 in Madrid, then won Olympic gold in the 4x100m in London but only ran in the heats.
In Berlin though, the 20-year-old was the top performer in the men’s 100m. Veteran Kim Collins got off to a fast start, but he was chased down by Bailey-Cole, who equalled his PB of 10.00 to win. Collins clocked 10.07 in second while Britain’s Harry Aikines-Aryeetey ran 10.22 to win the B race.
World bronze medallist Kelly-Ann Baptiste was locked in a close battle with Jamaica’s Kerron Stewart in the women’s 100m, but the Trinidadian got it on the line, 11.25 to 11.27.
One of the more unusual sights of the afternoon was a mixed 4x100m relay with each team comprising two women and two men. Stewart and Bailey-Cole formed one half of the victorious Jamaican team (40.58) with USA finishing second (40.71) and Britain fourth in 41.77 – a time that would have only been good enough for third in the women’s 4x100m at the London Olympics.
Elsewhere, Betty Heidler gave Germany another home win in the women’s hammer. All six of her throws would have been good enough to win, with her best of the series being her 75.18m. Bjorn Otto led a German 1-2 from Malte Mohr in the pole vault, 5.78m to 5.68m, while Aleksandr Menkov once again capitalised on the poor standard in the men’s long jump, providing the only eight-metre mark of the competition to win by 20 centimetres with 8.00m. Britain’s Olympic champion Greg Rutherford was a non-starter.
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