Zuzana Hejnova might be in the latter stages of her illustrious career but the Czech could still be a significant factor in the 400m hurdles this season after an excellent season’s opener at the Josef Odlozil Memorial, the first European Athletics Classic Permit Meeting of 2019, in Prague on Monday (3) evening.
Hejnova was lacking in form last season due to injury but showed a semblance of her best form in the Czech capital last night, winning her specialist event in 55.04 - her fastest time since the Brussels Diamond League in 2017.
The 2013 and 2015 two-time world champion defeated a competitive field by a sizeable margin with Canada’s world finalist Sage Watson edging out European bronze medallist Meghan Beesley for second - 55.76 to 55.89.
Hejnova produced one of three Czech victories on home soil at the Juliska Stadium last night.
World javelin silver medallist Jakub Vadlejch only produced two valid throws but a third round season’s best of 85.75m sufficed for an early season win over Moldova’s Andrian Mardare (83.01m) and Viteslav Vesely (82.85m) while Radek Juska usurped Serbia’s Lazar Anic in the long jump with a final round jump of 7.80m which displaced Anic by two centimetres.
There was nearly a fourth Czech win in the shot put. National record-holder Tomas Stanek set the standard in the second round with 21.19m but former world champion Joe Kovacs from the United States supplanted the Czech with his penultimate throw of 21.29m - the only other throw in excess of the 21m-line during the competition.
It was also a good evening for the French contingent competing in Prague. Axel Chapelle cleared 5.60m to defeat Jan Kudlicka in the pole vault by one clear height and joint European record-holder Jimmy Vicaut began his individual campaign with a runner-up finish in the 100m to Ivory Coast’s Arthur Gue Cisse - 10.01 to 10.07.
Croatia’s Ana Simic cleared 1.94m to win the high jump and there was also a breakthrough performance on the track for 19-year-old Gabriela Gajanova from Slovakia who chased home Morocco’s Malika Akkaoui in the 800m, finishing second to Akkaoui’s 2:00.46 in a lifetime best and European-leading time of 2:00.58.