Lawrence Okoye and Shara Proctor staged spirited late comebacks to come away impressive winners in the discus and the long jump respectively at the Hanzekovic Memorial in Zagreb, applying a gloss finish to the close of their summer campaigns.

Both athletes seem to be treading on parallel trails in recent weeks as they made their respective finals in style but could not quite follow through to slip outside the top eight places in London so maybe it shouldn’t come as casual they earned their spurs on an identical pattern.

Okoye was enjoying a solid outing lying in third place on a second-round 64.51m, Dutchman Erik Cadee narrowly leading from Piotr Malachowski (POL) through a 65.67m in his fifth, but hardly anything in the build-up had suggested what was about to come as the giant 20-year-old Brit stepped into the ring for a final time.

This time round his throwing came all together to let fly the implement way beyond to a powerful 67.25m, his third farthest mark ever, and stun his rivals at the death as they were barely left with any chance or time to respond in a manner reminiscent of Manchester United’s renowned late winners.

A ‘continent’ best and meeting record on his part, the Croydon thrower marked a return to winning ways for the first time since July and he will be brimming with confidence heading to his last major fixture in Brussels, the formal curtain drawer of the Diamond League series and the Olympic season.

Cadee, closing out the competition with only 63.43m, had to do with second in the end and Malachowski remained third on a fourth-attempt 65.64m while Indian Vikas Gowda came fourth at 64.06 further behind.

Likewise, UK record holder Proctor was stranded down in the 6.50m region and fourth place up to her fifth attempt, a best of 6.58 (-0.2) in round four, as the main action was played out between Natassia Mironchik-Ivanova and season find Chelsea Hayes (USA) at 6.68 (-0.3) and 6.64 (0.0) up front in the long jump pit.

Yet, the Briton somehow drew inspiration to grind out a last-ditch 6.79 (0.3), a meeting record at that, and steal an unlikely victory out of the hands of a shell-shocked Belarusian, who could reach no further than 6.49 in her last effort, to bow out of the term on a winning note and smile – as ever, nothing is over until is over!

Funmi Jimoh was fourth at 6.59 and a very quiet Darya Klishina, a major absentee from London, faltered well below in sixth at just 6.39m.

Martyn Rooney had added a third British win in between in the men’s 400m as he controlled the race through in lane five and never left the final outcome in doubt. Building up nicely round the top bend, he carved out plenty of distance on the field to ease down the home straight to 45.78 secs on top with 1:42 800m man Duane Solomon back in third in a decent 46.39 secs.

Jeneba Tarmoh, a member of the world record-breaking US sprint relay in the Olympics, put up some decent fight over the first 60m or thereabouts but world champion Carmelita Jeter had too much in the final third of the women’s 100m to draw away to a clear victory in 11.06 to 11.30 secs into a slight headwind (-0.6).

Anyika Onuora just managed to dodge last spot by a hundredth of a second from Hayes, before taking up her long jump duties, in 11.59 but fared much better over the 200m to take fourth in 23.17 as sprint superstar Allyson Felix dominated with ease in a professional 22.35 (-0.2), another meeting landmark in the process.

Aileen Bailey and Charonda Williams battled stride for stride down the home straight and it was the Jamaican to sneak the runner-up spot in 22.95 to 22.96 on the line.

In the men’s dash, Ryan Bailey returned to winning ways as he weathered evergreen Kim Collins’s trademark blast as far as around 70m fabulously to power through to a convincing victory in 10.02 secs against the former world champion’s 10.14 at the end, while Mario Forsythe got third in 10.25 ahead of Darvis Patton and Michael Frater who were tied in 10.31.

Nickel Ashmeade, sadly, pulled up around 60m into the race apparently due to a hamstring injury and that could signify a slightly early end to a sound season of his.

Jason Richardson didn’t get off to the best of starts but his neat hurdling saw him swiftly restore order to storm through to a commanding 13.08 secs (-0.4) and well ahead of US record holder David Oliver in the 110m hurdles, the latter leaving a trail of disaster in his wake as he clattered no less than six hurdles with his trail leg on the way – and still managed a very respectable 13.22 secs!

The Olympic silver medallist, as well as the reigning world champion, has been enjoying a fabulous season, having posted 12.98 secs three times, save that he cannot find a way past an imperious Aries Merritt who looks invincible these days.

South African Lehann Fourie was third marginally off his PB in 13.28 followed by Ryan Wilson in fourth in 13.43, Jeff Porter and Beijing silver medallist David Payne tied in 13.55 secs.

Kellie Wells was first out of the blocks but slipped over hurdle two never to recover thereon, Kristi Castlin enduring a nightmare of a race in the adjacent right lane, which opened the way to the in-late-form duo of Ginnie Crawford and Queen Harrison to notch up the top two slots in 12.68 and 12.74 respectively in the women’s equivalent of the 100m hurdles, with Canadian Priscilla Lopez-Schliep third in 12.86 secs.

Reese Hoffa has taken the bit between his teeth since his defeat in London to dominate over double Olympic champion Thomasz Majewski (POL) nonchalantly once more as he pounded the 21m region of the sector relentlessly through the six rounds of the shot put; 21.34. 21.76, 21.56, 21.80, x and 21.70m to tell the tale as any of his valid five efforts would have claimed the spoils comfortably.

“What if” must be turning through the American’s mind, unbeaten since the Olympics, as the Pole could not mount any sort of response at any point to come a distant second over a metre down at 20.70 with world indoor champion Ryan Whiting in third at 20.52m.

Local heroine Sandra Perkovic had no trouble whatsoever to boss the women’s discus on a second-attempt 65.79m, plus two more throws in that province, while in-late-peak Jamaican Rosemarie Whyte was a runaway winner over the women’s quarter-mile in a meeting record and SB of 50.08 secs.

Denisa Rosolova was second in 52.07 and Marilyn Okoro came through strongly in the late stages to grab third in 52.67 secs in another solid performance.

Elsewhere, Olympic champion Taoufik Makhloufi comfortably put away a quality men’s 1500m in 3:32.58 with a familiar surge over the last 300m, Jairus Birech saw off Abel Mutai in 8:11.80 (MR) to 8:12.47 over the men’s ‘chase and Maggie Vessey shadowed the women’s 800m in 1:59.61 although her let-up at the end almost cost her the win to fast-finishing compatriot Brenda Martinez, who shattered her PB into 1:59.63.

Full Results

http://www.zagreb-meeting.com/en/results/

Costas Goulas