A crowd of 20,000 were treated to a night they will long remember at the 64th Janusz Kusocinski Memorial in Chorzow, a European Athletics Outdoor Permit Meeting, on Friday (8).
Polish athletes starred spectacularly, with Wojciech Nowicki producing the hammer throw of his life and Justyna Swiety-Ersetic beating one of the sport’s all-time greats in the 400m.
Even though pouring rain meant the event had to be delayed, it did not detract from the quality of athletics on show at the oldest meeting in Poland, taking place at the renovated Silesian Stadium in Chorzow.
Nowicki scores back-to-back wins over Fajdek
Nowicki has been among the most consistent athletes in the world over the past three years, winning four bronze medals at four successive championships since the IAAF World Championships in Beijing in 2015.
But a title will be an achievable target at the European Championships in Berlin based on his brilliant performance on home soil, winning with 80.63m - a distance he reached twice - as he improved his personal best by 16 centimetres.
Importantly, too, for Nowicki is he defeated teammate Pawel Fajdek for the second time in the space of a week. Fajdek, who finished second to Nowicki at the Paavo Nurmi Games in Turku on Tuesday, was second with 80.04m. Tajikistan’s Olympic champion Dilshod Nazarov third with 78.18m.
On three of the four occasions that Nowicki has won bronze – at the 2015 World Championships in Beijing, the 2016 European Championships in Amsterdam and the 2017 World Championships in London – Fajdek has taken gold.
But now his teammate has triumphed here, he will surely head to the German city determined to stop his rival from a successful defence of his European crown. There could be more to come from Nowicki in terms of distance as well.
Speaking to sport.pl, Nowicki said: “I am not entirely happy because I made technical mistakes and my legs were still running in a wet circle.”
Wlodarczyk returns to form with 75.52m
After finishing ninth in Halle at the end of last month, Polish hammer star Anita Wlodarczyk - who had previously not lost a competition in nearly four years - had to settle for second this time but the world record-holder improved her season’s best from 65.71m to 75.52m.
It was not enough to beat American Gwen Berry who won with a national record of 77.78m with her first throw to move to fourth on the world all-time lists with Poland’s Joanna Fiodorow in third with 74.18m.
But as she seeks her fourth European crown in a row in Berlin, Wlodarczyk - who might not be quite the same force she has been in years gone by - will still be the thrower to beat in Berlin. Wlodarczyk moved to second on the 2018 European lists behind Belarusian Hanna Malyshik who was a well-beaten sixth in Chorzow last night with 71.77m.
Swiety-Ersetic upsets Felix over 400m
Swiety-Ersetic, who tops the 2018 European 400m lists with 51.05, took on America’s multiple world and Olympic gold medallist Allyson Felix and the European indoor bronze medallist, who has been a mainstay on Poland's 4x400m team in recent years, defeated one of the all-time greats of sprinting by a comfortable margin.
Swiety-Ersetic just missed her lifetime best as she crossed the line in 51.11 with Felix second in 51.35. “I was thinking more about time than about the place, I did not expect that I would win with it,” said Swiety-Ersetic, speaking to sport.pl. “I am very happy about this victory, especially since I won it at home, there were family and many friends in the stands.”
After success in the Diamond League in Oslo on Thursday evening, Lithuania’s world discus champion Andrius Gudzius was in even greater form as he eclipsed his European-leading mark of 69.13m.
Having triumphed in the Norwegian capital on Thursday night with 69.04m, he reached out to 69.30m in the sixth round for victory over Iran’s Ehsan Hadadi (66.68m) with former global champions Robert Harting (65.13m) and Piotr Malachowski (64.10m) third and fourth respectively.
Gudzius has been a figure of consistency this season, having surpassed 67 metres in all of his eight competitions so far in 2018. He has also won seven of his eight competitions this year with his sole defeat coming in the Rome Diamond League to Jamaica's Fedrick Dacres.
Renaud Lavillenie is heading to Berlin in pursuit of a fourth European pole vault title. Leading the European lists with 5.95m from Austin, Texas in April, the Frenchman won in rainier conditions with 5.91m from Poland’s former world champion Pawel Wojciechowski with 5.71m.