WLODARCZYK SHINES FOR POLAND AS USA STORM INTO THE LEAD ON DAY ONE
Athletics history was made as the first day of the inaugural Athletics World Cup presented by Muller kicked off a battle between 8 nations to take home a first of its kind platinum trophy that is believed to be the most valuable global sporting trophy ever made.
The evening began with a succession of field events, which benefitted the Polish team in particular, who used it as an opportunity to score plenty of early points. They raced into an early lead in the Athletics World Cup standings with a sizeable points total of 30 after only 5 events by virtue of winning three of the five.
Three-time world champion Anita Wlodarczyk cemented her status as favourite in the women’s hammer throw, launching the hammer a whopping distance of 78.74m that was more than 5 metres further than second place in her event, while her compatriot Michal Haratyk won an exciting battle against his American counterpart Darrell Hill with his third-round effort of 21.95m proving more than enough to win the men’s shot put.
Those victories for Poland may have gone according to the form book, but Karol Hoffman’s triple jump success certainly surprised a few people, jumping a season’s best of 16.74 to defeat the much-fancied American champion Donald Scott and 2014 Commonwealth Games gold medallist Godfrey Mokoena. However, both USA and France were hot on their tail thanks to scoring 28 points apiece at that stage themselves.
The home nation, Great Britain & Northern Ireland, benefitted from some strong performances to get the 30,000-plus strong crowd on their feet and they had plenty to cheer about very early on as Holly Bradshaw leaped to women’s pole vault gold with a 4.75m clearance.
The duo of Sophie Hitchon and Meghan Beesley added to those 8 points with second place finishes in the women’s hammer throw and 400m hurdles respectively to add 7 points each to GB & NI’s total. All three of them were quick to honour the brilliant crowd that turned out, with Bradshaw proclaiming that “it really picks you up and energises you”.
Jamaica enjoyed the best start to the track action though, as Janieve Russell added Athletics World Cup gold in the 400m hurdles to the two Commonwealth Games gold medals she won earlier this year in Australia, winning comfortably in a time of 55.10. Stephanie Ann McPherson, who also took home gold from Australia as part of the same 4x400m quartet as Russell, followed her teammate’s triumph by winning the women’s 400m in 50.98 ahead of France’s Floria Guei.
Both of those track victories occurred while Fedrick Dacres secured 8 points in the men’s discus with a big throw of 65.32m. Despite taking the win, world leader Dacres asserted that he was “not pleased at all because [he] thought [he] could have thrown much better. But that’s life, it is a work in progress.”
China struggled to consistently score big points throughout the night, so Chinese national record holder Zhenye Xie storming to victory in the men’s 200m would have been a welcome sight to their fans, crossing the line in 20.25 to fend off newly-crowned South African national champion Luxolo Adams. Xie claimed a big scalp too in the American Ameer Webb, who enjoyed running at the London Stadium last year when he won the 200m at the London Anniversary Games, but he had to settle for third place in a time of 20.51.
Xie’s 200m success was followed by the men’s 110m hurdles, which was won by Pascal Martinot-Lagarde in a season’s best time of 13.22, gifting France with an eventual win after a multitude of second and third place finishes. Andrew Pozzi, who beat Martinot-Lagarde on his way to World Indoor gold in March, was unable to please the home fans after hitting a hurdle hard and consequently ending his race prematurely.
Great Britain & Northern Ireland’s Lorraine Ugen was captain fantastic for the home nation, winning the women’s long jump by a considerable margin as a result of her 6.86m jump, thus securing a second batch of 8 points for her team and increasing her chances of lifting the platinum Athletics World Cup trophy at the end of the weekend.
As a brilliant gesture to mark 100 years since women were given the right to vote, all nations have selected a female athlete as team captain and Ugen certainly dealt with any additional pressure very well.
Germany’s Katherina Molitor was the only other team captain to compete on the opening evening of the event, scoring 5 points for her nation because of her fourth-place finish in the women’s javelin. That event was subject to plenty of last minute drama, as Sunette Viljoen sent the javelin a distance of 61.69m with her last round throw to clinch victory out of Kara Winger’s grasp and obtain South Africa’s only 8 points of the day.
After only managing 8 points across the three events prior, Sofia Ennaoui led Poland’s attempt to rise up near the top of the standings once more as she sprinted home to 1500m glory with a 4:07.66 clocking. Adam Kszczot assisted Ennaoui in that pursuit by virtue of his performance in the men’s 800m, coming second due to a late charge from Clayton Murphy that provided the USA with a long overdue win.
Despite the USA having to wait that long for a win, they led for extended periods of the first day of competition and didn’t have to wait long for their second win as Ashley Henderson held off reigning Olympic champion Elaine Thompson to win the women’s 100m in 11.07. That gave the USA a double figure lead in the Athletics World Cup standings with only a few events to go of the first evening.
Clayton Murphy was one of many athletes to praise the team nature of the Athletics World Cup, remarking that “it was fun to get back to the team competition because I sort of miss that from college. I will be back tomorrow to cheer on my fellow team mates.”
Those two American triumphs clearly motivated their women’s 4x400m relay team who had to rely on Courtney Okolo practically dragging herself over the line to prevent today’s individual 400m champion Stephanie Ann McPherson from overtaking her in the home straight. The photo finish team determined that the US team were the victors by only one hundredth of a second, with a winning time of 3:24.28. USA were a dominant force in the relays, beating Jamaica to the line once more and stopping the clock at 38.42 in the men’s 4x100m relay with Cameron Burrell taking the baton home safely. The American team’s subsequent energetic celebrations provided the audience with even more entertainment.
The last event to conclude signalled another victory for the USA as Jeron Robinson prevailed in the high jump. His 2.30m clearance was only 1 centimetre away from a personal best that he had three unsuccessful attempts at surpassing, but his display was so enjoyable that much of the crowd stayed behind after the conclusion of the track events to try and motivate Robinson for those attempts.
That win means that the USA finish day one of the inaugural Athletics World Cup as the clear leaders on 109 points, ahead of France on 85, both Poland and Jamaica on 77, Great Britain & Northern Ireland on 74, South Africa on 73, Germany on 58 and China on 46. However, the USA’s lead is by no means unassailable and day two of the Athletics World Cup will most definitely be an evening of athletics to remember with a maximum of 136 points up for grabs across the events to come.
Both the results from today’s action and the start-lists for tomorrow’s action are available to view at https://www.athleticsworldcup.org/the-event/results/