Stahl and Perez take discus Diamonds

A ninth-place finish in Paris two weeks ago provided the perfect motivation for Yaime Perez as she lined up to defend her Diamond League discus title. The Cuban put together one of her best series of the year, opening with 65.95m to take an early lead and extending it to 67.24m in round four.

Her two main rivals – fellow Cuban Denia Caballero and world and Olympic champion Sandra Perkovic – struggled to match Perez. Perkovic threw 65.48m in round two, while Caballero’s best of the day was 63.53m, eventually good enough for fourth place.

Perkovic ended her series with 66.00m, her best throw at an IAAF Diamond League meeting this year, but it wasn’t enough to catch Perez, who extended her leading mark to 68.27m with her final throw.

“I’ve been much more consistent the past couple of years and that’s mainly because I’ve been working a lot on the mental aspect,” said Perez. “In the past I was always very nervous at important competitions but now I have this under control.”

Like Perez, Daniel Stahl led from the outset to win his first Diamond trophy. His opening throw of 68.68m stood up as the best mark of the day, but he followed it with four other throws beyond 67 metres.

Defending Diamond League champion Fedrick Dacres was third with 65.27m, one place behind Austria’s Lukas Weisshaidinger (66.03m).

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AFTER THIRD PAN-AMERICAN TITLE, SILVA SETS HER SIGHTS ON HIGHER GOALS

A few weeks have passed since Yarisley Silva became the first woman to win three consecutive Pan-American Games pole vault titles, but the Cuban still has unfinished business – not just for this season but for 2020 and beyond.

At the recent Pan-American Games in Lima, the 32-year-old cleared 4.75m to take gold ahead of USA’s Katie Nageotte and Canada’s Alysha Newman. Along with securing her third successive title, Silva maintained her record of clearing a season’s best at the Games – a trend that began on her debut in 2007.

That’s not to say it was an easy victory, though. The humid winter of the Peruvian capital made the competition more challenging to all athletes. They only had 40 minutes of warm-up instead of a full hour. Needing to start vaulting at lower heights than usual, Silvia struggled with her run-up with the bar at 4.35m, finally getting over it on her third attempt.

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From then on, though, she was her usual self and kept fighting for gold.

“It’s been 12 years of good and hard times,” said Silva as she reflected on her past competitions. “It’s been a road of perseverance, lots of lessons learned and positive things to move forward. I am very happy. I have accomplished goals that many athletes would have hoped to achieve. I feel privileged to have competed in four Pan American Games. I am still strong at 32 years of age.”

Silva took bronze in 2007 at the age of 20 with a national record of 4.30m. Four years later, she beat the then world champion Fabiana Murer to the title in Guadalajara and then defeated the decorated Brazilian again in Toronto in 2015 with a Games record of 4.85m.

USA’s Pat Mason won three consecutive Pan-American pole vault titles between 1991 and 1999. Eight other women, meanwhile, have achieved three consecutive Pan-American Games titles, but Silva is the first to do so in a women’s jumping event.

“All of my Pan-American titles have the same value,” she says. “I have fought hard to win all the Pan Am golds and other titles. I drew a new and positive experience from every competition.”

Ten days after winning the 2015 Pan-American gold, Silva cleared a lifetime best of 4.91m. Three weeks later, she won the world title in Beijing. So, naturally, she takes a lot of confidence from clearing a season’s best in Lima ahead of the IAAF World Athletics Championships Doha 2019.

“It has been a great boost,” she said. “I knew I was in great form, but that height was elusive until Lima. To achieve such a performance when it mattered most gives me a lot of confidence to improve my results.”

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CHALLENGING BUILD-UP

Silva’s win in the Peruvian capital is even more impressive considering the challenges she faced during her preparation in Cuba.

With a new track being installed at her training stadium in Havana, she missed a lot of vaulting sessions. She did not vault at all in between arriving home from the IAAF Diamond League meeting in London on 20 July until her arrival in Lima one week later.

Silva, however, doesn’t like to dwell on such problems.

“I am used to facing and overcoming obstacles along the way,” she says. “I have had a lot of support and my sponsor Puma has provided me the opportunity to compete in many events.”

With all eyes now focused on Doha, Silva is confident in her ability to repeat her world title from 2015.

“I have been world champion,” she says. “I was also the bronze medallist in 2013 and 2017. I want to be world champion again. The ladies are very competitive, but it is how we perform at the right time and the right place that matters most.”

Silva – who usually has nine poles with her at each competition – admits the women’s pole vault has evolved significantly since she started.

“The level is much higher,” she says. “We now see more women at 4.70m or higher. At the 2015 World Championships, we had seven women at 4.70m or higher. More women have taken up the event and we all have the desire to succeed. And this has been a close year with many of us around 4.65-4.80m.”

The 2014 world indoor champion believes her faith has been key to staying among the world’s elite for eight years since her fifth-place finish at the 2011 World Championships.

“My faith has kept me focused on my goals, despite all the obstacles along the way,” she says. “I am also thankful for the hard times. In times of need, you come to appreciate what I have achieved and who your real friends are. You come to realise that you have a lot to learn, nothing to lose. I have overcome any ‘can’t do’ thoughts and how to handle fame.”

The three-time Olympian is also motivated to support the new generation of Cuban pole vaulters, including her 18-year old training partner Rosaidi Robles, who broke Silva’s national U20 record earlier this year with 4.30m.

“I loved seeing Rosaidi compete with me at the Pan-Ams,” said Silva. “I am happy to share my experience, how to overcome difficult challenges. I am excited to teach the younger generation – both men and women – so that they can continue this winning path for Cuba after I retire.”

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CAREER GOALS

Silva isn’t rushing into retirement just yet, though.

With the support of Alexander Navas, her coach for 17 years, the 2012 Olympic silver medallist is focused on two unfulfilled goals: vaulting five metres and winning an Olympic gold.

“My main motivation is to reach five metres,” says Silva, who is fifth on the world all-time list and one of nine women in history to ever vault 4.90m or higher. “I do not know when it will happen.

“I also want the Olympic gold,” she added. “It’s the only title missing in my pedigree. I hope to stay healthy so I can keep my dreams alive.”

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ECHEVARRIA LEAPS WORLD-LEADING 8.65M IN ZURICH

Juan Miguel Echevarria broke the Diamond League record in the long jump, sailing 8.65m to highlight the field event action at the Weltklasse Zurich on Thursday (29), the first of two 2019 IAAF Diamond League finals. 

The young Cuban, who set the event alight last year, seemed stuck in the 8.30m range this season, until landing his winning leap in the opening round. It was Echevarria’s only measured leap of the evening, but still 45 centimetres better than South African Ruswahl Samaai and Tajay Gayle of Jamaica, who both reached 8.20m. The former took second on countback with an 8.17m second-best leap.

“It was a great performance, it showed great strength,” said Echevarria, who arrived with an 8.34m season’s best.

RICKETTS UPSETS ROJAS

Shanieka Ricketts mined the first diamond of the night, notching a thrilling upset win over world champion Yulimar Rojas in the triple jump’s final round. 

Opening with a 14.58m effort, the Jamaican champion took command of the competition with a 14.72m leap in round three, just five centimetres shy of her career best. Rojas, who opened with a 14.60m leap in round one, then played catch up, producing an inconsistent series that played well into Ricketts’ hands.

Rojas came through, however, in the sixth round, reaching 14.74m, to wrestle back a narrow lead. But Ricketts was undaunted. Digging deep, she exploded off the board and leaped out to 14.93m, smashing her career best and moving up to No.2 on the 2019 world list.

“Before the last jump I knew that I had a chance and needed to take that chance,” said Ricketts, a finalist at the past two World Championships. For Doha, she said, her goal is a medal. “I do not care about the colour, I just need a medal.”

Liadagmis Povea of Cuba was a distant third with 14.49m.

There was also final-round heroics in the men's javelin, where world leader Magnus Kirt threw the spear 89.13m to better Chinese Taipei's Cheng Chao-Tsun by just eight centimetres.

Germany's Andreas Hofmann was third with 87.49m.

Magnus Kirt, winner of the javelin at the IAAF Diamond League final in Zurich (Jiro Mochizuki)Magnus Kirt, winner of the javelin at the IAAF Diamond League final in Zurich (Jiro Mochizuki) © Copyright

WORLD LEAD AND MEETING RECORD FOR GONG

Chinese star Gong Lijiao turned in a commanding performance to secure her third straight Diamond Trophy in the women’s shot put.

Gong Lijiao, winner of the shot put at the IAAF Diamond League final in Zurich (Jiro Mochizuki)Gong Lijiao, winner of the shot put at the IAAF Diamond League final in Zurich (Jiro Mochizuki) © Copyright

Chase Ealey of the US took the early lead, reaching a 19.68m career best in the third round but Gong finally responded in the fourth, reaching 19.90m, a world lead, before extending it to 20.31m in the sixth. Her final round heave added eight centimetres to the meet record held by Natalia Lisovskaya since 1985, although it trails the 20.98m indoor mark set by Valerie Adams at Zurich Train Station in 2013.

Germany’s Christina Schwanitz was third with 19.37m.

Likewise, Gong's compatriot Lyu Huihui lived up to her favourite's role in the javelin, leading from her opening 65.52m effort. The world leader improved to 66.88m in the third round to secure her first Diamond League title.

Australia's Kelsey-Lee Barber was second with 64.74m and Czech Nikola Ogrodnikova third with 63.05m.

Lyu Huihui, winner of the javelin at the IAAF Diamond League final in Zurich (Jiro Mochizuki)Lyu Huihui, winner of the javelin at the IAAF Diamond League final in Zurich (Jiro Mochizuki) © Copyright

CLUTCH CLEARANCE FOR KENDRICKS

Sam Kendricks is the reigning world champion and competed like one time tonight, producing a clutch third attempt clearance at 5.93m to secure his second Diamond Trophy in the pole vault.

Armand Duplantis had the upper hand until the decisive height, topping 5.58m, 5.73m and 5.83 at the first time of asking. Kendricks needed a second try at 5.73m before sailing clear, setting up the must-clear scenario going into his final jump. He cleared, the capacity crowd exploded, and the North American record-holder took off on a victory lap down the back turn that would do most 200m runners proud.

“Nothing was decided until the last moment,” said Kendricks, who improved to 6.06m at the US Championships last month. “Right now, before the World Championships, every man is at his strongest, so no prediction for Doha. It will be decided at the last moment.”

Piotr Lisek, who became a father for the first time on Tuesday, suffered through a series of sleepless nights to finish third, also at 5.83m.

Andriy Protsenko put together a solid scorecard to take the high jump with first attempt success at 2.32m, a season's best, before bowing out with three tries at 2.34m.

Defending Diamond League champion Brandon Starc of Australia produced the finest competition of his season, with a perfect scorecard through 2.30m to finish second on countback over Bulgaria's Tihomir Ivanov. Both equalled their season's bests.

World champion Mutaz Barshim struggled, topping just 2.20m before bowing out with three misses at 2.24m.

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Zurich to host IAAF Diamond League Final in 2020 and 2021

The International Association of Athletics Federations has announced the Diamond League Final for the 2020 and 2021 seasons will be held in Zurich in a single-day format as the series undergoes a reformation.

The IAAF announced the format change in March and the one-day finals at the Weltklasse Zurich coincide with the King Baudoin Stadium in Brussels being renovated in the next two years.

Traditionally the finals have been split between Zurich and Brussels.

"Zurich has been the home of many of the most extraordinary moments in athletics over more than 90 years, including 25 world records, and we are delighted that it will host the pinnacle one-day meeting of 2020,’’ said IAAF President Sebastian Coe.

“The Diamond League is vital to our future growth as it provides an annual showcase of the very best in athletics, which is why we must ensure that every contest broadcast to the world is of the highest standard.

"We expect the new Diamond League format to be even more thrilling for our global audience as it builds excitement throughout the outdoor season and reaches a crescendo in Zurich.”

The Diamond League finals will feature a 150-minute international broadcast, an hour longer than regular season meetings.

The regular meets will extend to 90-minute broadcasts.

The 12-leg schedule for the 2020 season will be decided by the Diamond League board in September but any changes will have to be ratified at the General Assembly on October 21.

Beyond 2020, the Diamond League has announced they will run the same core disciplines for men and women.

A total of 24 events will be included, with 12 disciplines, six for men and six for women, being held at each meeting.

Diamond League champions will be crowned in all 24 disciplines.

IAAF Diamond League Final winners will gain automatic qualification to the World Championships.

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Yaime Perez and Denia Caballero 1-2 in Birmingham

The top three places in the women’s discus reflected the 2019 world list with Cuban duo Yaime Perez and Denia Caballero getting the better of world and Olympic champion Sandra Perkovic.

Perkovic enjoyed a brief lead with her second-round effort of 61.97m but it was soon surpassed by Caballero’s 64.59m just minutes later. Perez responded in the third round with 64.87m to take the lead. Neither Cuban improved in the second half of the competition, but Perkovic moved closer with her fifth-round effort of 63.80m.

With one more scoring opportunity left before the IAAF Diamond League final, Perez, Caballero and Perkovic have all done enough to qualify.

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South Africa’s Luvo Manyonga wins London DL long jump

World long jump champion Luvo Manyonga of South Africa set a season’s best distance of 8.37 metres to win the men’s event at the IAAF Diamond League meeting in London on Saturday.

Manyonga, who made an opening jump of 8.11 metres, finished ahead of Jamaica’s Tajay Gayle (8.32m) and compatriot Ruswahl Samaai (8.11m).

Jamaica’s Gayle managed to record a personal best with his jump.

Highly-rated 20-year-old Cuban Juan Miguel Echevarría, the world indoor champion, did not compete at the event.

Olympic silver medalist Manyonga has previously stated that he believes he has the ability to better the world record by American Mike Powell 28 years ago of 8.95 metres. His personal best stands at 8.65 metres.

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Echevarria back on top in Rabat – IAAF Diamond League

Juan Miguel Echevarria struck late to claim long jump victory at the sixth IAAF Diamond League meeting of 2019 after early leader Luvo Manyonga had been carried from the arena on a stretcher after appearing to injure his left ankle at the Meeting International Mohammed VI D'Athletisme in Rabat on Sunday (16).

At that point South Africa’s world champion and Olympic silver medallist was in front thanks to his opening effort of 8.21m, but the 20-year-old Cuban claimed maximum points with a fifth-round jump of 8.34m, a season’s best.

Manyonga knew he was in trouble as soon as he landed after recording 8.02m on his fourth attempt. Sitting in the pit, he immediately began attending to his left foot, and medical assistance was called. As he made his supine way from the arena, he raised a cheery head and waved to the crowd, who responded warmly.

“I am happy for my performance and achieving a season’s best,” said Echevarria, who finished second on his 2019 IAAF Diamond League debut in Stockholm. “I owe my achievement to the crowds and the great atmosphere.”

South Africa’s Ruswahl Samaai finished third on 8.16m – his joint meeting record of 8.38m still intact.

It was a fine day in the field for Cuba as Yaime Perez earned an emphatic victory in the women’s discus with four meeting record throws, the last of them being 68.28m.

That was just 18 centimetres short of the world-leading mark set by her compatriot Denia Caballero, the 2015 world champion and Olympic bronze medallist, who finished second here with a best of 65.94m.

Croatia’s world and Olympic champion Sandra Perkovic managed third place with a season’s best of 64.77m in the second round, but was unable to build on that in the course of what proved a frustrating evening for her as she fouled on all five of her other throws.

Perez, the 28-year-old 2010 world U20 champion, who won at last season’s IAAF Continental Cup in Ostrava, started with three successive meeting records, with Perkovic the only thrower responding before Caballero stepped up with her fifth-round effort.

“I am happy to achieve a season’s best as I am coming back from an eight-month injury,” said Perkovic. “I am completely focused now and hoping to get back into shape in time for the World Championships.”

The men’s discus proved to be as massive a contest as expected, with Sweden’s Daniel Stahl, who heads this year’s world list with 70.56m, earning victory in a meeting record of 69.94m, just 44 centimetres clear of a season’s best by Jamaica’s Fedrick Dacres, who looks like he will be chasing him all the way to the World Championships in Doha.

Lukas Weisshaidinger placed third with 68.14m – also a season’s best.

World indoor champion Sandi Morris produced a dominant victory in the women’s pole vault as she bettered the meeting and African all-comers’ record of 4.75m held by Greece’s world, Olympic and double European champion Katerina Stefanidi with a season’s best of 4.82m.

“I am very satisfied with the result and the victory, but I had a terrible warm-up and I did not feel at 100 per cent,” said Morris. “I also had a problem with the wind. We had a lot of headwind during the competition. It was tough.”

Second placed Anzhelika Sidorova was the first to better Stefanidi’s mark as she cleared 4.77m, but she could go no further and finished second.

Stefanidi herself finished fourth, one of five athletes who had a best of 4.67m.

The men’s high jump saw Ukraine’s Bogdan Bondarenko continue his strong start to the season as he followed up his victory at the IAAF Diamond League meeting in Rome with another win here, although he only needed to clear 2.28m on this occasion.

That was enough to earn the 2013 world champion victory on countback over three others – in order, Naoto Tobe of Japan, authorised neutral athlete Ilya Ivanyuk and Mathew Sawe of Kenya.

Gianmarco Tamberi, his luggage lost and found, was eighth with a best of 2.19m – although the Italian showman elicited one of the biggest roars of the day for so doing.

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NORMAN DEFEATS LYLES IN EPIC 200M SHOWDOWN IN ROME

At a meeting that is named after Pietro Mennea, it was only fitting that the highlight of the Golden Gala came in the discipline that the legendary Italian sprinter was best known for.

There was much hype surrounding the 200m clash between US duo Noah Lyles and Michael Norman at the IAAF Diamond League meeting in Rome on Thursday (6). Lyles was the world leader over 100m, Norman led the world list at 400m. Both men have impressive records at 200m, a perfect ‘meet-in-the-middle’ distance for the pair.

Lyles had beaten Norman in their three previous encounters over 200m, once at the 2015 US U20 Championships, once at the 2016 US Olympic Trials and then again at last year’s IAAF Diamond League meeting in Lausanne.

But here in the Italian capital they were both entering the race in peak condition and at similar stages of their respective outdoor campaigns.

And it more than lived up to expectations.

Although Lyles has the much faster 100m PB, it was Norman who was ahead coming off the turn, and quite significantly so. Lyles is known for having a strong finish, but Norman has the strength of a man who can run well below 44 seconds for 400m.

Lyles did eventually start to close the gap but could never quite get on level terms. Norman timed his dip well to take the victory in a lifetime best of 19.70, moving him to 12th on the world all-time list.

Lyles was just a whisker behind with 19.72 – which, incidentally, was Mennea’s lifetime best. Both men were well inside the previous meeting record of 19.86.

“I’m really happy with the time,” said Norman. “There was a good flow, it was amazing. I didn’t have any expectations coming into this race. I just want to improve myself and not chase a time.

“I changed a few things race-pattern-wise,” he added. “I was a lot stronger today and I tried to hold the composure.

“My coach told me to pull down a little bit because it is a long season. I am just happy now if I am progressing like this.”

Lyles was disappointed but was able to take away some positives.

“This race didn't really go as expected,” said the two-time Diamond League 200m champion. “Winning is what is always expected, but I ran faster than in the last race so I can feel great things will happen.”

Alex Quinonez was a distant third in 20.17, while world champion Ramil Guliyev finished just ahead of Italian hope Filippo Tortu, 20.35 to 20.36.

THOMPSON BACK ON TOP

After being beaten over 100m in Shanghai and 200m in Stockholm, double Olympic champion Elaine Thompson looked more like her old self when winning the shorter sprint here in Rome.

European champion Dina Asher-Smith looked the best over the first half and seemed to be on her way to a third successive IAAF Diamond League victory. But Thompson clawed back the deficit and edged in front over the final 10 metres to take the win in a world-leading 10.89 (0.6).

Elaine Thompson passes Dina Asher-Smith in the 100m at the IAAF Diamond League meeting in Rome (Jean Pierre Durand)Elaine Thompson passes Dina Asher-Smith in the 100m at the IAAF Diamond League meeting in Rome (Jean Pierre Durand) © Copyright

It was Thompson’s first 100m Diamond League win since the 2017 final in Brussels.

Asher-Smith was second in 10.94 while US champion Aleia Hobbs was a distant third in 11.12.

Salwa Eid Naser notched up another IAAF Diamond League victory over one lap of the track. As the stagger unwound entering the home straight, the world silver medallist from Bahrain emerged as the clear leader and continued to pull away from her opponents to win in 50.26.

“It was a hard race,” said Naser. “I was not expecting to run so fast because the season just go started.”

Olympic bronze medallist Shericka Jackson was second in 51.05 with fellow Jamaican Stephenie Ann McPherson finishing third in 51.39.

US 1-2 IN BOTH 400M HURDLES RACES

Rai Benjamin dominated the men’s 400m hurdles, a non-scoring event. The US hurdler already had a clear lead as he entered the back straight and he continued to pull away from the rest of the field. Despite hitting the eighth hurdle, he won by more than a second in a season’s best of 47.58. Compatriot David Kendziera was second in 48.99.

“My technique was good until the ninth and tenth hurdle,” said Benjamin. “But I’m happy that I progressed from Shanghai.”

Rai Benjamin in Rome (Jean-Pierre Durand)Rai Benjamin in Rome (Jean-Pierre Durand) © Copyright
 

There was another US 1-2 finish in the women’s 400m hurdles. Running from the centre lane, Olympic champion Dalilah Muhammad eased away from the other eight women to win in 53.67. Shamier Little was second in a season’s best of 54.40.

“It was another solid win,” said Muhammad. “I'm very happy with the time; it's always great to win, especially with such a strong competition here.”

Sergey Shubenkov gained revenge on Olympic silver medallist Orlando Ortega in the men’s 110m hurdles. Ortega hit one of the early hurdles and was never a factor. Instead it was world indoor champion Andrew Pozzi who led for most of the race. The Briton clipped one of the latter barriers just as Shubenkov was getting into his stride and the 2015 world champion came through to win, 13.26 to 13.29 (0.4m/s).

MIHAMBO CRACKS SEVEN, BUKOWIECKI BREAKS MEETING RECORD

The women’s long jump had been billed as a clash between three global champions – world champion Brittney Reese, world indoor champion Ivana Spanovic and Olympic triple jump champion Caterine Ibarguen. But it was Germany’s Malaika Mihambo, the European champion, who eventually came out on top.

Reese’s opening 6.75m was the top mark for the first two rounds, but she was swiftly relegated to third place towards the end of the third round as Mihambo leapt 6.90m and Ibarguen jumped 6.87m.

The German then improved her leading mark to a PB of 7.07m in round four. Ibarguen didn’t improve, while Reese added a centimetre to her best mark with 6.76m but remained in third.

The meeting record for the men’s shot had stood since 1986. But, like waiting for a bus, two meeting records came along tonight in quick succession.

Brazil’s Darlan Romani was the first to do so, throwing 21.68m in round two to overtake 2015 world champion Joe Kovacs. It added one centimetre to the meeting record of 21.67m set 33 years ago by Ulf Timmerman and equalled in 2010 by Christian Cantwell.

But Poland’s Konrad Bukowiecki responded in round five with an outdoor PB of 21.97m to add another 29 centimetres to the meeting record. USA’s Darrell Hill saved his best for the final round, hurling his shot 21.71m to move into second place.

Chinese javelin thrower Lyu Huihui extended her winning streak to seven competitions, unleashing a throw of 66.47m in round five to move from third to first. She followed it with 65.75m in the final round, the only other mark of the evening beyond 65 metres.

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