In a country that loves its throwing, Marcin Krukowski and Wojciech Nowicki put on an exhibition for local fans on the second evening of the Paavo Nurmi Games – a World Athletics Continental Tour Gold meeting – in Turku, Finland, on Tuesday (8).
In cool, damp conditions, Krukowski signalled his intent in the second round of the men’s javelin with a throw that looked to sail beyond 90 metres, but it was ruled a foul after his hand slipped over the line as he landed on the rain-soaked track.
But minutes later he launched the spear 89.55m to add almost a metre and a half to his Polish record, enough to hand him a comfortable win over 2012 Olympic champion Keshorn Walcott (82.84m) of Trinidad and Tobago and Rocco van Rooyen of South Africa (82.55m), along with moving him to 22nd on the world all-time list.
“I can throw further, I can add some metres,” said Krukowsi. “I didn’t feel I hit the javelin hard, it was a smooth and nice throw. Moving forward it’s about not doing stupid things. I got a small injury in my knee so I lost some timing recently but now I’m getting it back and I feel strong and confident.”
His goal for the Tokyo Games?
“A gold medal,” said Krukowski. “It’s the Olympics and anything can happen.”
His Polish compatriot Nowicki took an impressive win in the men’s hammer with a series of outstanding consistency, going beyond 79 metres on five of his six throws. His biggest, 80.77m, was a season’s best that came in the fifth round and gave him the win by more than a metre from France’s Quentin Bigot, who threw a PB of 79.70m.
“I felt good, the weather was good, the circle was good so I tried to make a good result,” said Nowicki, who will remain in Finland ahead of his next competition in Espoo. “For me this circle is a little better when it’s wet. Today I didn’t imagine I would throw 80 metres; when I woke up I felt 78, 79, but I was happy and I hope to do the same at the Olympic Games.”
Four-time world champion Pawel Fajdek had a night he will be keen to forget, fouling his first five attempts before salvaging third place in the last round with a throw of 78.29m. Sweden’s Ragnar Carlsson set a PB of 76.87m in fourth.
Finland’s Senni Salminen drew the biggest cheer of the night when soaring out to a national record of 14.51m (0.4m/s) in the third round of the women’s triple jump, also smashing the meeting record by 22 centimetres in the process and adding 29 centimetres to her previous best. That handed her victory by a wide margin over Jamaica’s Kimberly Williams (14.29m), with Finland’s Kristina Makela third with 14.26m.
“I knew I was in good shape but 14.51, it’s big,” said Salminen, who fell to her knees in ecstatic celebration once she saw the distance. “I was about to cry during my last jump when I got a standing ovation. The crowd was amazing.”
Finland very nearly had another home win in the final race of the evening as Annimari Korte took second in the 100m hurdles in 12.91, edged by Hungary’s Luca Kozak who clocked 12.90 (0.7 m/s). Belgium’s Anne Zagre was third with 13.13.
There was an impressive home win in the men’s 3000m steeplechase as Finland’s Topi Raitanen came from behind over the last barrier to take victory in 8:19.57, just a second outside the meeting record, ahead of Denmark’s Ole Hesselbjerg (8:20.42). Sweden’s Emil Blomberg was third in 8:21.38.
Kenya’s Cornelius Tuwei outkicked compatriot Ferguson Cheruiyot Rotich to win the men’s 800m, 1:44.42 to 1:44.59, with Poland’s Mateusz Borkowski third in a PB of 1:44.85.
Poland’s Malwina Kopron coped with conditions best in the women’s hammer, with a thunderstorm raging during the competition and a soaked circle proving tricky for throwers. She opened with a season’s best of 75.40m which proved more than enough for victory, a mark she was unable to improve in subsequent attempts. France’s Alexandra Tavernier was next best with 72.80m with two-time Olympic champion Anita Wlodarczyk third with 72.42m.
France’s Mouhamadou Fall rose to the occasion in the men’s 100m, getting the better of USA’s Mike Rodgers to win in 10.26 (0.1m/s), with Rodgers clocking 10.33 and Switzerland’s Silvan Wicki third in 10.36.
Britain’s Imani Lansiquot came from behind to edge victory in the women’s 100m, overtaking Finland’s Lotta Kemppinen to win in 11.40 (-0.7m/s) to 11.41. Italy’s Vittoria Fontana was third in 11.46.
There was another British win in the 110m hurdles as David King set a PB of 13.37 to take victory, with Poland’s Damian Czykier next best in 13.50 and Norway’s Vladimir Vukicevic third in 13.59.
“I haven’t run quicker than 13.50 since 2017 and I’m so happy,” said King. “In Hengelo [where King clocked 13.57] I had some good signs but tonight I started well and finished well, it all came together.”
Ukraine’s Vladyslav Mazur took the men’s long jump with a best of 7.90m, with Finland’s Kristian Pulli second with 7.82m and Colombia’s Arnovis Dalmero third with 7.75m. In the women’s pole vault Elina Lampela gave the 2,500-strong crowd reason for celebration as she cleared 4.41m to take victory ahead of Fanny Smets of Belgium (4.31m) and Switzerland’s Andrina Hodel (4.31m).
Kamila Licwinko of Poland and Australia’s Eleanor Patterson took a joint-win in the women’s high jump, which was staged during a torrential downpour. Licwinko had the better record at 1.88m and Patterson the better record at 1.85m, and they were equal at other heights up to and including their best clearance of 1.93m. Because they had the same number of overall failures, they shared the spoils, with Ukraine’s Yuliya Levchenko third with a season’s best of 1.91m.
Barr breaks meeting record, Stahl and Hussong dominate throws
Ireland’s Thomas Barr and Sweden’s Daniel Stahl produced the standout performances on the first evening of action in Turku.
Barr clocked 48.39 to edge a thrilling race with Estonia’s Rasmus Magi in the 400m hurdles, the Irishman clocking his fastest ever time outside a championship and his quickest since winning a European bronze medal in 2018. Magi led until the final barrier before being passed by Barr on the run to the line, but the Estonian was rewarded with a big season’s best of 48.58, with Dutch athlete Nick Smidt third in 49.64.
“I wasn’t expecting that,” said Barr after taking more than a second off the meeting record. “I thought if everything went right, 48-mid was where I was at but I’ve felt my rhythm come back quickly and I felt really strong over the last few hurdles. It was a brilliant race.”
Barr finished fourth in the 2016 Olympic final and he’s hopeful he can again challenge for a podium position in Tokyo.
“Normally I’m still only warming up at this time of year,” he said. “Considering how compressed this season was, I didn’t have much room for error so I’m back on the horse just in time. Since Rio the 400m hurdles has gotten a lot harder, but in an Olympic final, or in any major championship final, anything can happen, so if I’m there or thereabouts, I’ll be ready to mop up the spillage.”
Stahl proved a class apart in the men’s discus, the world champion – who spent his summers in Turku through his childhood – giving himself more happy memories of the Finnish town when launching a throw of 68.11m to in the fourth round, good enough for a comfortable win over rival Andrius Gudzius of Lithuania (66.88m) and Lukas Weisshaidinger (66.77m).
“It was pretty good, I’m pretty happy with the 68-metre throw,” said Stahl. “I was a little bit tight and I felt a little slow in the first three rounds but then I hit it better.”
Stahl has a long list of competitions in the weeks before the Olympics in Tokyo, where he hopes to emulate his success at the 2019 World Championships.
“I just need to compete more and get that feeling, there’s nothing better,” he said. “I’m really excited now about Tokyo. Everyone is going to get the vaccine and I’m going to get my second one in a couple of weeks so it feels great. Since I started in 2011 my coach and I said we’d target the Olympic Games in 2020 and now that it’s going ahead in 2021, I’m really, really happy about it.”
Christin Hussong continued her fine run of form in the women’s javelin, the German putting the competition to bed in the second round with a meeting record of 66.63m. That was enough to hand her victory with ease, with Latvia’s Lina Muze next best with 61.34m and Madara Palameika third with 60.04m.
“It was a really good throw for me,” said Hussong. “I've thrown over 66 metres five times now (this year) and I think my technique is better than last year – that's the reason why. I'm really happy with that.”
Asked about her hopes for the Tokyo Olympics, Hussong said she has a straightforward mission. “My goal is a medal. Which medal, we'll have to see. There are a lot of girls throwing over 65, 66.”
Two more meeting records fell on the first day of action in Turku.
Bahrain’s Winfed Yavi was a clear winner of the women’s 3000m steeplechase, coasting to victory in a meeting record of 9:17.55 ahead of Ireland’s Michelle Finn, who smashed her PB by nine seconds to run an automatic Olympic qualifier of 9:29.25. Kenya’s Fancy Cherono took third with 9:33.49.
Kenya’s Mary Moraa was a class apart in the women’s 800m, the 21-year-old kicking to victory in 1:59.95, the first sub-two-minute clocking of her career and the first witnessed in Turku.
“My aim was to run under two minutes but I was not expecting it,” said Moraa. “We have national trials next week and I’m confident, I’m very happy and strong and God-willing, I will make the Olympics.”
In the men’s triple jump Portugal’s Tiago Pereira saved his best for last, jumping 16.91m to take the win in his final attempt, which demoted Tobia Bocchi to second, though the Italian was delighted to set a PB of 16.73m. Sweden’s Jesper Hellstrom took third with 16.40m.
Hungary’s Anasztazia Nguyen edged victory in the women’s long jump, her third-round effort of 6.51m giving her the win ahead of Britain’s Abigail Irozuru (6.50m), with Finland’s Maria Huntington third with 6.32m.
Cathal Dennehy for World Athletics