After the storm comes the calm… Following months of battling against menacing storms and waves under dark gloomy skies, Olympic champion Christine Ohuruogu has finally steered her ship out on a sunny patch and calm waters just as time was running desperately short. For tension and pressure were piling up battering her sides and there needed to emerge a way out and within sighting distance of her fast sailing rivals ahead before the turn to London.
By all aspects, that was a turn totally against the flow of her season, even her recent outings. It was only three days earlier that she ended up fourth over 400m in only 51.80 secs on a particularly fast track in Rieti that very much ruled out any chance of recovery or shaking off Daegu’s major disappointment. But you can never discount the heart and the class of a champion to stage a rally even when all hope seems lost. Up against an arguably better line-up in Zagreb, Croatia, she showed glimpses of her glorious past, traveled well round the track and finished solid to set a huge SB and a UK leading mark of 50.85 secs for fourth and get her season alive again – hope was rekindled!
As a matter of fact, she came within touching distance of some leading figures this term like eventual winner Novlene Williams-Mills (JAM) in 50.31 secs, the woman she pipped to the world crown in Osaka in 2007, and runner-up Anastasiya Kapachinskaya (RUS) in 50.40, the world’s fastest with 49.35 secs and a bronze medalist in Daegu, so she is going to take plenty of heart from that as well. She will be feeling competitive again and the gap on the top substantially narrowed which is going to fired her up heading into a top tier affair against new World champion Amantle Montsho (BOT) at the Ivo van Damme in Brussels on Friday, with a point to make and some good scalps for the taking.
Incidentally, her time was the fastest by a British girl since 2009 and got the better of Ksenia Zadorina (RUS), Natasha Hastings (USA) and Olga Topilskaya (RUS) who all held considerably faster SBs prior to the race.
Another British girl that must have left the arena with a grin on her face was Jemma Simpson who, astonishingly enough, tied her two-day old SB of 1:59.59 from the ISTAF in Berlin but climbed up two places into third this time round in the women’s 800m, obtaining an important second Olympic A qualifier in quick succession. After a curtailed summer due to injury, she looks settled back into her stride and racing consistently well which is going to raise that feel-good factor and confidence back in her heading into the winter, something so essential. But really, how often does it happen for an athlete to clock an identical time in successive races over such a distance?
A new-look and surprisingly consistent Maggie Vessey (USA), a Daegu finalist, came thumbs up across the line in 1:58.64 narrowly before new Cuban star Yunesy Santiusti, second in 1:58.70, some way ahead of the Briton but a useful scalp picked up was that of 1:58.30 performer this term Liliya Lobanova (UKR) in the progress. Simpson has got one more top level race lined-up before she bows out of the season and she will be gunning for something really fast as herself vows.
Dayron Robles edges out Jason Richardson in another epic battle over the high hurdles
Andy Turner showed he has still got something left in the tank towards the end of a long summer to clock a solid 13.33 secs (-0.2m/sec) for fifth in the background of a latest enthralling knife-edged battle over the high hurdles as Olympic champion Dayron Robles (CUB) narrowly held off new global champion Jason Richardson once again in a SB of 13 secs dead to hold his ground convincingly at the top this term. But the young American is running the Cuban close and pushing all along, landing a new PB of 13.04 secs as he is bearing down on the landmark of the very great in the event, as the two look to edge away out of the top four in maybe the most hotly contested event around. Astonishingly enough, last season’s invincible number one David Oliver, apparently carrying an injury, looks like moving on the fringes of limelight at the moment to come off well-beaten in third place in 13.20 secs.
Usain Bolt overcomes a modest start to sweep past evergreen Kim Collins to win and a SB of 9.85 secs over 100m
Mark Lewis-Francis edged a rare international win in 10.35 secs (-0.7m/sec) over Moroccan record holder Aziz Ouhadi (10.38), James Ellington two places down in third in 10.42, in a ‘warm-up’ B race to the marquee event at the peak of the program reserved for Usain Bolt. The Jamaican didn’t get to the best of starts but once into his giant stride he stormed past evergreen Kim Collins, enjoying a second and even greener spring to his career, in the second half of the race to come away with a comprehensive win in a SB of 9.85 secs in almost windless conditions (0.1m/sec). Collins, for his part, was rewarded with a SB of 10.01 secs in second narrowly ahead of Richard Thompson (TRI) in 10.03 secs, looking like getting himself again after a slump of form in Daegu. Justin Gatlin came home well behind in fifth in 10.17 secs.
In the women’s dash, Jeanette Kwakye trailed home well off the pace in 11.51 secs but obtained the scalp of European indoor champion Olesya Pohv (UKR, 11.61) as world champion Carmelita Jeter (USA) romped to an easy victory in 11 secs sharp into a slight headwind of -0.5m/secs while late entrant Abi Oyepitan fared slightly better in fifth in 23.27 secs over 200m, dominated by Jamaican Schillonie Calvert in a PB of 22.55 secs (-0.2m/sec). By the way, that was Oyepitan’s faster run since her SB of 23.21 back in mid April, and arguably better given that was on a perfect tailwind of 2.0m/sec instead.
A last-ditch 6.63m in totally still conditions (0.0m/sec) saw Shara Proctor eventually draw out of a shaky patch that culminated in a premature exit in the qualifying round in Daegu and return to normal service, contrary to what her previous rounds had suggested (x, 6.39, 6.26). That proved good enough for runner-up ahead of American rising prospect Janay Deloach (6.48m) and behind Russian Olga Zaytseva‘s first-rounder of 6.73m.
In other events, Anna Chicherova (RUS) effected another countback win over home favourite Blanca Vlasic over 2m, the Croatian going over at the second attempt, to establish herself as a marginal top performer in the women’s high jump this term, Kenyan Nixon Kiplimo Chepseba pulled away to an impressive victory in a PB of 3:30.94 ahead of Ilham Tanui Ozbilen‘s Turkish record of 3:31.37 over 1500m and Reese Hoffa hurled the shot away at 21.73m to see off compatriot Christian Cantwell and Canadian Dylan Armstrong at 21.55 and 21.40m respectively.