SCINTILLATING FINAL SESSION SEES USA CLAIM ATHLETICS WORLD CUP TITLE IN LONDON
Sitting comfortably in first place in the standings, all eyes were on team USA heading into the second evening of the first edition of the Athletics World Cup presented by Muller. 24 points was the lead they held over France in second, and as intimidating as that lead may have been, the other teams showed no signs of being deterred in their quest to earn crucial points in the race to lift the platinum Athletics World Cup trophy.
Once again, Poland were the first team to score a maximum of 8 points thanks to Wojciech Nowicki winning the men’s hammer throw with a 77.94m opening round effort. Nowicki was very relieved that he was not made to rue the trio of foul throws that followed his winning throw, and his victory ensured that Poland took home gold in both the men’s and women’s hammer throw, thus upholding the nation’s proud history in the event and utter dominance in recent years.
Meanwhile in the pole vault, world champion Sam Kendricks took the opportunity to extend the USA’s lead in the Athletics World Cup standings, edging out Germany’s Raphael Holzdeppe with a 5.83m clearance. Keen to make use of the fantastic conditions at the London Stadium, Kendricks boldly opted to raise the barrier to 6.05m – 5 centimetres above his personal best. Unfortunately he was unable to successfully clear that height, but his vaulting display certainly got the crowd going.
On the stadium’s other runway, the women’s triple jump proved to be a duel between Jamaica and the USA, with the former emerging victorious as a result of Shanieka Ricketts’ personal best leap of 14.61m that defeated Keturah Orji by just 1 centimetre. The 2018 Commonwealth silver medallist, Ricketts is clearly in the form of her life as she then went on to equal her previous personal best with her final jump.
Far from the only athlete to take advantage of the perfect conditions, the USA’s Paul Dedewo cruised to 400m gold in a new personal best of 44.48, a time which was a whole second ahead of South Africa’s Derrick Mokaleng in second place.
Afterwards, Dedewo enthused about the “amazing” stadium, saying that he had “heard stories that London is great for track and field and to witness it first hand it is true”.
China began the evening in last place and their team captain Lijao Gong spearheaded their attempt to avoid the dreaded fate of eighth and bottom place by clinching women’s shot put gold with a clutch throw of 19.90m in the last round, a put which deprived Paulina Guba’s (Poland) of yet another field event win.
The second track event of the evening; the men’s 400m hurdles, ended in chaotic fashion as Jamaica’s Annsert Whyte, who had led for the majority of the race, stumbled across a couple lanes after smashing into the final hurdle and fell back into fourth place as a consequence.
The American competitor, Kenny Selmon, took best advantage of this occurrence and crossed the line in first in 48.97 ahead of Poland’s Patryk Dobek, while the host nation’s Dai Greene continued his impressive comeback from persistent injury woes by finishing in a respectable third place.
Thankfully for Shericka Jackson, she was able to avoid unwanted drama similar to that of her compatriot Whyte as she demonstrated admirable speed endurance to move past Jenna Prandini in the closing stages of the women’s 200m to record a winning time of 22.35 to score a valuable 8 points and prevent Jamaica from sliding further down the table. Claiming bronze and 6 points for Great Britain & Northern Ireland was breakthrough star Beth Dobbin; the Scot clocking 22.95 after running a fine bend.
Jeanine Williams came ever so close to making it two consecutive batches of 8 points for Jamaica in the women’s 100m hurdles but 2014 African Champion Rikenette Steenkamp had other ideas, stopping the clock at 12.88 and ending South Africa’s long wait for 8 points in a track event this weekend. Steenkamp admitted she “came into this not as a favourite, but still not counting [herself] out”, as well as backing the format of the Athletics World Cup with her assertion that she needs “this type of competition to push [her].”
However, Germany suffered the longest wait for an event win until Claudine Vita ended the drought by throwing 62.92m to scrape a women’s discus throw win ahead of China’s Xinyue Su. Vita will be hoping to follow up Athletics World Cup gold with a medal of the same colour at the German national championships next weekend – a competition that she came 3rd in last year.
Julian Weber clearly caught the winning fever from his teammate Vita because he later went on to take gold in the men’s javelin throw, projecting the javelin 82.80m with his opening attempt of the competition. German javelin throwing is in a fantastic place at the moment and Weber’s performance highlighted their enviable strength in depth in that particular discipline.
Despite every nation having their moments on the podium, very little change was evident in the Athletics World Cup standings as the evening approached its halfway stage because despite Poland slightly overtaking France to move into second place, the USA’s lead at the top of the table continued to grow at an alarming rate.
A major factor in Poland rising past France in the standings was Marcin Lewandowski’s triumph in a cagey, tactical 1500m race in a time of 3:52.88. Lewandowski exuded experience as he dealt with fast finishes from the likes of Timo Benitz and Neil Gourley, representing Germany and Great Britain & Northern Ireland respectively.
From a tactical perspective the women’s 800m differed greatly from the men’s 1500m, with the duo of Leila Boufaarirane and Adelle Tracey charging through the opening lap in under a minute. Although they both presided over a large gap between themselves and the chasing group, Raevyn Rogers produced the type of kick that has seen her win no less than 5 US collegiate titles as she sped past Great Britain & Northern Ireland’s Adelle Tracey on her way towards the line in a winning time of 2:00.20. However, her 7 points helping Great Britain & Northern Ireland to move up to third place in the Athletics World Cup standings served as a degree of consolation for Tracey.
The men’s 100m was very evenly matched on paper and the race itself was equally close. The eventual winner, Tyquendo Tracey, won in a lifetime best of 10.03 but only two hundredths of a second separated him from the USA’s Kendal Williams in second place.
Tracey’s gift of 8 points provided Jamaica with a much-needed boost during an underwhelming evening for the Caribbean nation. Despite running a personal best, Tracey still was not completely satisfied, acknowledging that “there were a few flaws in the race” that he intends to work on once he arrives back in Jamaica.
Remarkable consistency was shown by the South African long jump world champion Luvo Manyonga, with his four jumps of 8.51m, 8.48m, 8.50m and 8.50m all being within 3 centimetres of each other. His first jump was more than sufficient for the victory – a comfortable 21 centimetres further than Zack Bazile’s best effort for the United States of America.
The loudest cheers from the home crowd were heard when the Great Britain & Northern Ireland women’s 4x100m quartet of Asha Philip, Imani Lansiquot, Bianca Phillips and Shannon Hylton took a clear win in an efficiently run race despite long jump bronze medallist Tissanna Hickling running a rapid last leg for Jamaica to apply plenty of pressure on Hylton. Morgan Lake’s jump of 1.93m also prompted jubilation amongst the London Stadium audience, with that clearance being enough to secure both a silver medal and 7 points for Great Britain & Northern Ireland.
Vashti Cunningham was ultimately a league above and a height above in the women’s high jump for team USA. Her best mark of 1.96m being a season’s best delighted her on a personal level, while the 8 points she recorded developed upon the USA’s already unassailable lead in the Athletics World Cup standings.
Cunningham was later effusive with her praise of the event, exclaiming that she was “feeling so really good – what a feeling being up there with the whole team holding the flag and trophy”. The enjoyment of the team element was a sentiment echoed by many athletes on both evenings of the competition.
Consequently, the USA’s comfortable men’s 4x400m relay win in an excellent sub 3-minute clocking of 2:59.78 was merely a procession for the overall winners of the inaugural Athletics World Cup whose team captain Queen Harrison lifted the coveted platinum trophy aloft in a grand ceremony made even more spectacular by the array of fireworks that soared up into the London night sky. Not only did they claim the unique trophy, which was presented to them by IAAF president Lord Sebastian Coe, but each member of the American team was presented with a Platinum Winners Medals to wear alongside their traditional medals from the individual events.
At the conclusion of the weekend’s action, the Athletics World Cup presented by Muller’s final standings painted a picture of dominance for the United States of America team who thrashed the other teams with an astounding points total of 219.
That total exceeded second-place Poland’s mark of 162 by a whopping 57 points, while Great Britain & Northern Ireland were third on 155 points. Both those nations will be pleased with their second day showing after improving on their placing from Saturday evening.
Jamaica had to settle for fourth place on 153 points, but the fact that they were only 9 points behind Poland and 2 behind Great Britain & Northern Ireland is a testament to how close the contest was behind the eventual Athletics World Cup winners, the USA.
France’s football World Cup win earlier on in the day did not appear to provide further motivation to a France team who endured a frustrating Sunday evening in the athletics equivalent, only adding 61 points to their total from the previous evening and therefore finishing in fifth place overall.
Looking further down the table, Germany, South Africa and China all struggled to challenge for the higher placings despite a smattering of strong individual performances and they ended on 137, 135 and 81 points respectively.
A resounding success, the Athletics World Cup will surely become a much-anticipated fixture in the world athletics calendar in years to come.
The full results from the Athletics World Cup presented by Muller are available here.