It would have been difficult to imagine a more ideal afternoon. Sunny September, a perfect setting for a Zagreb Meeting featuring maybe the most stars in its 58-year long history. Seven Olympic Champions, 22 Olympic medallists, one couldn’t have imagined a better invitation to an athletics event in Croatia. Having Hanzek (as the Zagreb Grand Prix is called locally) later than usually because of Beijing paid off. Both because those stars came and because the stands were packed (in my estimation there were about 6000 spectators). We witnessed a great duel in the women’s high jump, which Blanka Vlasic won over Anna Chicherova. Blanka’s coach Bojan Marinovic had been predicting a splendid evening of the Russian high jumper for a long time, and it happened in Zagreb. First, Chicherova cleared 202 cm when she and Blanka were the only ones left in the competition. This was the new meeting record; Blanka and Bergqvist had held the old one with 201. But Blanka had promised a new meeting record and fulfilled this promise only a few minutes later. Then the bar was raised to 204 and Chicherova went for the meeting record again, but also for her personal best. However, Blanka had promised a record, and only a few moments later, she flew over 204. The bar went up to 206, but none of them managed to go clear so a jump-off had to be conducted for place 1. After a few failed attempts while lowering the bar 2 by 2 centimetres, Chicherova quit the competition. Blanka kept on jumping, failing at 202, 200 and 198, although the referees shouldn’t have let her jump, as Chicherova had retired anyway. Still, the evening ended up nicely for the Croatian Champion, as always before.
“I am terribly, terribly tired. I have never had 19 jumps before in my life.”
She couldn’t even answer questions, she asked to leave. Eventually, she did conclude: “I am glad I have won. I would have jumped on as long as necessary to win. I didn’t like the possibility of sharing the first place. There is always only one winner in sports. I need to rest now, I have four days; but I have never jumped so well so late in the season.”
It might have been better if the men’s hammer throw had opened the Meeting in the early afternoon, because Croatia’s Ivana Brkljacic was among the women hammer throwers, wanting to make up for the bad result from Beijing. But, it wasn’t very important, as she wasn’t inspired for great achievements as her field. She tried, but again it took her long to warm up for the right throw, which also didn’t go over 70. The season is over. Yipsi Moreno had one but excellent throw of 76.62 metres, which was both the American and meeting record. At the end of season! Betty Heidler finished second with six rounds of over 70 metres. At the end of season! These are great athletes.
Three-time Olympic Champion Veronica Campbell-Brown showed why she had been announced as the greatest star of the Meeting. She came back to the 100m, the event she hadn’t run in Beijing, and won with 11.10, a modest result for her, besting season’s best Torri Edwards (10.78), who hadn’t recovered from the disappointment in Beijing (eighth place). She finished only fourth in Zagreb.
Beijing gold medallist Nesta Carter, member of Jamaica’s Olympic record holding 4x100m relay team won effortlessly in the men’s 100m with 10.22. He didn’t flail his arms like Bolt or Powell, but he convincingly bolted to the finish line, not disappointing the audience.
The women’s 100m hurdles field was almost like in Beijing; six out of eight finalists were here, all medallists, who finished just like in China: Harper won gold, McLellan silver and Lopes-Schliep bronze. As expected, the results were a bit slower, but still excellent: between 12.65 and 12.85.
Beautiful Olympic bronze medallist Tasha Danvers won in the 400m hurdles with a good result of 54.66. In the women’s 200m, Olympic gold medallist from the Russian 4x100m relay team Chermoshanskaya was bested by the American sprinter Carmelita Jeter, who had the best personal best in the 200m among the entered athletes. Stephen Buckland won in the men’s 200m with 20.57.
The women’s discus throw was also like a rerun of the Olympic final from Beijing: all medallists were here, as were half of the finalists, but the outcome was a bit different. Olympic silver medallist Yarelis Barrios of Cuba set a new meeting record with 64.98, besting the Olympic Champion Stephanie Brown-Trafton. Svetlana Kljuka ran the season’s best in the 1000m with 2:38.02.
Hungary’s Krizstian Pars broke another meeting record in the last event of the evening, throwing the hammer over 80 metres, more precisely 80.04. Olympic Champion Primoz Kozmus finished second with 79.07 and Marco Lingua was third with 77.81.
An evening, which will not be repeated so easily. Five Olympic Champions showed why they were so special. Our Blanka was among them, although it is more and more difficult at the end of season. Hang in there, Blanka, there is only Stuttgart left…