Australians Brandon Starc, Linden Hall, Ryan Gregson, Jordan Williamsz and Hamish Peacock travelled to Madrid this weekend to compete in the sixth leg of the IAAF World Challenge.
In a stunning return to form, Starc (NSW) placed second on a countback, clearing 2.30m, and challenged 2.38m jumper Danil Lysenko (ANA), whilst Peacock placed third in the javelin.
Starc, the Commonwealth champion, found himself in a field containing six athletes had had cleared 2.30m or better. Unphased by the substantial credentials of World Indoor champion Lysenko, Starc pushed through early wobbles at 2.14m and cleared 2.26m on his second attempt.
Lysenko kept a clean card throughout the competition, clearing 2.30m on his first attempt. Starc indicated immediately that he hadn’t travelled to Madrid to simply go through the motions, clearing 2.30m on his third attempt.
The Alex Stewart-trained Starc failed twice at 2.32m whilst Lysenko passed the height, contemplating a third attempt at 2.32m, Starc threw the proverbial kitchen sink at Lysenko, taking a gallant final attempt at 2.34m, bowing out of the competition having pressured the Russian Diamond League regular.
Stewart took to social media to share how proud he was of his charge and “a very mature performance”.
In the men's javelin, Tasmanian Hamish Peacock placed third as the Commonwealth Games silver medallist on the Gold Coast threw 77.06m behind Poland's Marcin Krukowski winning throw of 79.23m.
In the middle distances, Hall was back in action for the first time since Stockholm nearly two weeks ago and placed fourth in the 1500m in 4:04.48. Meanwhile, Melbourne Track Club pair Williamsz and Gregson recorded season's bests of 1:47.66 and 1:47.99 in finishing fourth and eighth respectively in the 800m
Hall faced a strong field featuring Gudaf Tsegay (ETH), who ranks second globally this year, following a 3:57.64 clocking in Stockholm. In a European season without a major championship, Madrid provided a competitive environment in which Hall could continue to gain exposure in fast races. The Madrid field passed through 400m, 800m and 1200m in 63-64 second laps, as Tsegay took first in a meet record of 3:59.60.
An encouraging training block followed Hall’s Stockholm Diamond League appearance, “I've had some solid track sessions since Stockholm and we're very happy with how things are tracking. Tonight was my first race in a string of meets I've got lined up over the next month - I'm pretty excited to get into, it's been a long wait since Stockholm.”
Recognised internationally as 1500m specialists, Gregson and Williamsz dropped down to race over 800m, with the World Challenge meet a manageable drive from their high-altitude training camp in Hoyos del Espino.
Williamsz was excited to return to a race he loved as a youth, previously representing Australia in the 2009 World Youth Championship semi-final, “Dropping down was a good opportunity for us to turn the legs over. When you run only a few 800s a year it’s hard to get in a really fast race, but we focused on our main objectives in the B heat, racing competitively and putting ourselves in a position to run fast”.
Gregson’s last individual 800m came in 2015 in Auckland, with a personal best of 1:46.04 set in Melbourne in 2010, the return to two-laps sharpened the 28-year old’s speed.
With the second half of the European circuit looming large, Gregson continued to build momentum in Madrid, following a strong 3:37.68 1500m victory at the Bern Citius Meeting in Switzerland.
Williamsz enjoyed racing in a physical 800m field of 14 athletes, providing a brief interlude from the highlands of Spain and a new altitude training camp venue for the Melbourne Track Club.
“The altitude training camp our coach Nic Bideau has set up is one of the best ones yet. It’s got all the things we need to get some quality work done. It’s hot, remote and the running is challenging, but most importantly, the environment Nic has been able to set up within the group is really good.
Sean Whipp for Athletics Australia
Find out more
IAAF World Challenge Madrid - Results