Olympic javelin champion Sara Kolak from Croatia warmed up for next week’s European Athletics U23 Championships in Bydgoszcz, Poland with a stunning win at the IAAF Diamond league in Lausanne on Thursday, twice extending her national record and finishing with a world-leading mark and European U23 record of 68.43m.
Kolak, who turned 22 just over two weeks ago, beat a high quality-field that included her Olympic predecessor and current world record-holder, Czech Republic’s Barbora Spotakova.
For much of the competition it looked like Spotakova was going to triumph over her rival - who is almost 14 years her junior - after she opened with a huge effort of 67.40m, her best throw since 2014 and itself a world-leading mark, but Kolak gradually reeled her in.
The Croatian improved over the first three rounds: 63.94m, 64.64m and then her first national record of the night, 66.65m to add 47 centimetres to her previous record, set when she won set in Rio.
Neither thrower could improve in the fourth and fifth rounds but, with nothing to lose, Kolak then unleashed the best throw of her life with her sixth effort and improved by almost two metres. Spotaková, despite all her experience, could not respond and regain the lead with the last throw of the competition.
“The performance did not surprise me,” reflected Kolak, who moved to seventh on the world all-time lists. “I want to go step-by-step from here. Stay healthy. Build my strength and make it to the final in London,” she added, expressing a rather modest ambition from her current lofty position on top of the world lists.
“I am writing my own story in my out-of-the-box way. People in Croatia have high expectations and I want to live up to that.”
The competition might come to be seen in the years to come as a pivotal moment in women’s javelin throwing, the occasion when the baton – or, perhaps, more appropriately the spear – was passed from the old generation to the new.
Kolak now takes her head-to-head record over Spotakova to 4-3; a far cry from their first encounter at the Zurich 2014 European Athletics Championships when Kolak failed to make the final and Spotaková went on to triumph.
Reigning European champion Tatsiana Khaladovich finished down in fifth place on this occasion with 62.29.
Lasitskene moves to fifth on world all-time lists
Mariya Lasitskene also had the crowds roaring and clapping in the women’s high jump, when she went over 2.06m, a world-leading mark, a meeting record and also a IAAF Diamond League record.
Competing as an Authorised Neutral Athlete, the world champion equalled her national record into the bargain and extended her winning streak this year to 16 competitions.
Lasitskene had the competition won when she cleared 1.96m on her second attempt - a height none of her rivals could negotiate - then went straight over 2.01m. When the bar went up to 2.06m she cleared that on her second attempt.
The best of the rest, with four women over 1.93m but separated by the count back rules, was Poland’s former world indoor champion Kamila Licwinko.
In a thrilling 200m, two-time European Athlete of the Year Dafne Schippers had to battle hard but won in a European-leading mark of 22.10.
However, some of the biggest cheers of the night were reserved for local hero Kariem Hussein, who memorably won the 2014 European 400m hurdles title in Zurich. He had his best race for two years when he won over the barriers in 48.79.
The first of the five European victories on the night went to Serbia’s Ivana Spanovic, who returned to competition for the first time since her momentous European indoor win on home soil in Belgrade and showed fine form after some minor injury and health problems by winning with a best effort of 6.79m.
In the pole vault, USA’s Sam Kendricks continued his unbeaten year when he cleared 5.93m on his second attempt to win on countback but there was a great return to form for Poland’s 2011 world champion Pawel Wojciechowski who cleared the same height - a personal best and Polish outdoor record - but on his third attempt.
Renaud Lavillenie cleared a season’s best of 5.87m for third place to get a mild confidence boost with the London 2017 IAAF World Championships next month now less than a month away and Sweden’s world junior record holder Mondo Duplantis, who is expected to compete at the European Athletics U20 Championships in Italy next month, will be certainly satisfied with getting over 5.73m.
USA’s Ashley Spencer won a loaded 400m hurdles race in 53.90 but Switzerland’s Lea Sprunger improved again to a European-leading 54.29 for second place, and is now just 0.04 away from Anita Protti’s long-standing 26-year-old national record.
A measure of the strength of Sprunger’s performance in a continental context was that filling the next three positions behind her were Great Britain’s 2014 European champion Eilidh Doyle (54.36), Denmark’s Rio silver medallist Sara Slott Petersen (54.49) and Czech Republic’s two-time reigning world champion Zuzana Hejnova (54.69).