DOHA: Two of the reigning Olympic and World champions – Neeraj Chopra and Miltiadis Tentoglou – had to contend for the second place at the Doha Diamond League on Friday.
Jakub Vadlejch – the runner-up in Doha for the past two years – got the better of India’s golden boy Chopra in javelin by just two centimetres, while Jamaican Carey McLeod stunned Tentoglou in long jump with a massive 8.52m leap in his fourth attempt.
Not all favourites had an off day last night though at the Qatar Sports Club Stadium, with Alison dos Santos and Kenny Bednarek breaking meet records with dominant performances.
Brazilian dos Santos broke his own record in Doha, setting two years to win the 400m hurdles in 46.86 secs – the fifth fastest time ever. The 23-year-old former world champion – who struggled with injuries last year – won by more than one-and-a-half seconds from USA’s CJ Allen (48.39) with France’s Wilfried Happio further back in third (49.10).
“This is a very good way to start things – I’m very excited,” said Dos Santos. “It’s going to be a tough year, so to start in this fashion is very positive.”
America’s Bednarek, meanwhile, scorched to a world-leading 19.67sec in 200 metres. The 2022 world silver medallist crossed the line a clear winner, smashing Noah Lyles’ six-year-old meeting record by 0.15. His compatriot Courtney Lindsey was a distant second in 20.01 and Kyree King made it a US clean sweep by placing third in 20.21.
“I feel great about the race. I knew I was in this shape, I just had to put it down on the track,” said Bednarek, who finished second to Canada’s Andre De Grasse at the Tokyo Olympics. “I’m healthy, I’m stronger than ever and I’m ready to go.”
Olympic champion Steven Gardiner was a comfortable winner of the men’s 400m. The 28-year-old, who won the world title in Doha in 2019, finished 0.31 ahead of Muzala Samukonga of Zambia.
The most enthralling contest, however, came in the men’s javelin – where Chopra was a clear fan favourite. The affable 26-year-old – who was inundated with selfie requests from Qatar’s large Indian diaspora an hour after the event had ended – nearly overcame a foul start to snatch victory from Czech Republic’s Vadlejch.
In the final round, Chopra sent his spear flying well beyond the 85-metre line. But he fell just 2cms shy of 88.38m thrown by Vadlejch in round three. “It was a little bit revenge for last year,” said Vadlejch, who lost out to Chopra by four centimetres in Doha last year. “I think it’s a good rivalry and it’s good for the spectators,” the Diamond League champion added.
Chopra, who again missed out on joining the elite 90m club, felt he could have done better. “I’m satisfied with the result but I’m not satisfied with my effort,” he said. “I think I can do something about this and maybe next competition I will throw far.”
Meanwhile, world indoor bronze medallist McLeod upset the small Greece contingent rooting for Tentoglou as the Jamaican wind-assisted leap of 8.52m gave him long jump honours. It was the longest jump of his career in any conditions, but 5.2m tailwind meant it wouldn’t count as a personal or meeting record for McLeod.
“It is a great feeling, in order to win I have to jump something amazing. It was not windy, so it was wonderful. I will just go back home to see how well I can prepare for the next competition. 8.52 is amazing,” he said.
Tentoglou’s best was 8.36m on the night and the 26-year old said: “It was my first competition and I was feeling kind of rusty at the beginning. But every time I was getting better.” Swiss Simon Ehammer was third with a wind-assisted 8.30m.
Kenyan fans, who poured in large numbers, were dancing in delight after world title-holder Mary Moraa held off Britain’s Jemma Reekie to win the women’s 800m by half a second in 1:57.91, her season’s best. Moraa was pushed all the way by Reekie, the world indoor silver medallist. Benin’s Noelie Yarigo was third in 1:58.70. “I can say it was a hard race, all of us were in good shape,” said Moraa.
Another Kenyan Beatrice Chebet was similarly impressive in the women’s 5000m. In the high-quality field – which featured the likes of Ejgayehu Taye and her fellow Ethiopians Medina Eisa and Melknat Wudu – Chebet unleashed a burst of speed with 200m to go to win in a world-leading 14:26.98. Kenya’s Brian Komen came out narrowly ahead of compatriots Timothy Cheruiyot – the former world champion and Tokyo 2020 silver-medallist – and Reynold Kipkorir Cheruiyot with 3:32.43 in the men’s 1,500m.
In the women’s pole vault, Britain’s world indoor champion Molly Caudery won on countback against reigning world champion Nina Kennedy of Australia after they both cleared 4.73.
Meanwhile, European bronze medallist Ditaji Kambundji came from behind to win the 100m hurdles. The Swiss 21-year-old came off the final hurdle well to propel herself past USA’s Tonea Marshall, winning in 12.49. In a race where 0.05 separated the top four finishers, Marshall was second in 12.51 and Poland’s Pia Skrzyszowska was third in 12.53.
In the women’s 100m flat, Britain’s Darryl Neita edged ahead of USA’s Tamari Davis to win by 0.01 in a season’s best of 10.98. Celera Barnes was a close third in 11.02. And in the final race of the night, Ethiopia’s Samuel Firewu was locked in a fierce sprint with world bronze medallist Abraham Kibiwott in the closing stages of the men’s 3000m steeplechase, eventually emerging with victory in a PB of 8:07.25.
Serbian teenager Angelina Topic, the youngest in the field by five years, won the women’s high jump with 1.94m, clearing all of her bars up to and including that height on her first attempt.
Related Story