Rain looked to dampen the achievements of the Australian stars representing the Asia/Pacific in the Continental Cup, however the weather cleared perfectly to see a beautiful day in Ostrava and some strong performances.
To kick off the day, Team Asia-Pacific Captain - Jana Pittman played the first of her two joker cards for the day in the men’s high jump with Australian Brandon Starc and Syrian Majd Eddin Ghazal representing Asia-Pacific. The joker means double points for the team.
Unfortunately Starc couldn’t quite replicate his recent career best form. However, he still cleared 2.30m and finished second on a countback behind Donald Thomas of the Bahamas representing Team Americas. Starc collecting 14 points for Asia/Pacific and a personal $15,000 USD cash bonus to end his remarkable season.
1500m Australian record-holder Linden Hall was the next Aussie to represent Team Asia-Pacific, finishing fifth in a slow tactical race (4:18.52).
“I was in front with about a lap to go but unfortunately a bit of fatigue set in, I have raced almost 20 1500s this year, so I think that was reflected in my legs today,” Hall said. Kenyan Winny Chebet took the title in 4:16.01.
Commonwealth Games representative Matthew Denny got his chance in the Continental Cup men’s discus and secured a fantastic second place under the innovative format. He had a best throw of 63.99m on his first attempt and the placing also secured him a payday of $15,000 USD.
“It’s a great competition, it’s a different concept but the crowd got into it and everyone seemed to really enjoy it,” Denny said.
“I’m happy with 63.99m, its near my best and it’s been a long season and we had to prep again to come over here - but it gave me a good insight into knowing that I can perform when I need to.”
With a few vacancies in the Asia/Pacific team due to injury, including Australian Kurtis Marschall, Joseph Millar of New Zealand opted out of the men’s pole vault but did throw the discus after earlier contesting the 200m. Despite never having thrown competitive discus he threw a PB of 27.15m.
“It was brilliant that Joe stepped up for us, good on him, it’s a totally different world for him out there but he had fun and enjoyed it which is the main thing,” Denny said.
The inform Henry Frayne represented Team Asia-Pacific next, after a long year he wasn't at his best but still managed to finish in fourth with a jump of 7.96m.
Genevieve LaCaze took to the track in a stacked women’s 3000m. LaCaze positioned herself well and stuck with the hot pace and leaders until two laps to go but it was Sifan Hassan (NED) for Team Europe in a time of 8:27.50 that got the win, over Senbere Tebiri for Team Africa in second (8:32.49) and Kenyan Hellen Obiri third (8:36.20).
“I knew it would be fast, they are the top three in the world, they were the top three in the Diamond League Final last week, so coming into it I knew it was going to be quick.
“I was well under my PB pace for quite some time, so I knew if I could stay as close to the front pack as possible then I might have got lucky but it was just a bit too long for me, I lost the lead pack but it was a lot of fun,” LaCaze said.
Team Asia Pacific played their second and final joker card of the day with Dani Stevens in the discus. The Commonwealth Champion was contesting her first competition since May, to heal a long-term wrist injury, and finished fifth with a solid 62.74m.
“I’m really excited to be here at the Continental Cup, I’ve had a bit of a break since competing at the Commonwealth Games and was a little bit rusty but I managed to get through it all.”
“Personally, I got that really good feeling when I was out there, yep I love this, I love competing internationally so I’m super pumped to get back and have a break and then get fully set for the World Champs next year and Tokyo in 2020,” said Stevens.
To cap off the day for Team Asia-Pacific, three Aussie men contested the 4x100m relay. Trae Williams (QLD), Jake Doran (QLD) and Jin Su Jung (NSW) teamed up with Joseph Millar (NZL), with the team finishing third in 39.55 seconds. Africa failed to finish both 4x100m relays which means they trail Asia-Pacific with one day of competition remaining.
The Team standings after Day 1 are: Team Americas - 135 points, Team Europe 123 points, team Asia-Pacific - 89 points and Team Africa - 74 points.
Action commences on day two at 22:30 Sunday night with Commonwealth Games high jump bronze medallist Nicola McDermott, the first Aussie in action. Australia have a few good hopes, including Brooke Stratton (long jump), metric miler Ryan Gregson, Canberra javelin thrower Kelsey Barker and in the 3000m inform Stewart McSweyn. Of intrigue will be the new event set down for the next Olympics, the mixed 4x400m relay. After day one Asia Pacific were third, ahead of Africa and they look capable of maintaining that to the finish.
Continental Cup Day 1 Winners (order of event):
W Hammer - DeAnna Price 75.46m (USA/Americas), M High Jump - Donald Thomas 2.30m (BAH/Americas), W 100mH - Danielle Williams 12.49 (JAM/Americas), M 200m - Alonso Edward 20.19 (PAN/Americas), W Triple Jump - Caterine Ibarguen 14.76m (COL/Americas), W 100m - Marie-Josee Ta Lou 11.14s (CIV/Africa), W 1500m - Winny Chebet 4:16.01 (KEN/Africa), W 400m - Salwa Eid Nasar 49.32s (BRN/Asia-Pac), M Discus - Fedrick Dacres 67.97m (JAM/Americas), M 3000m Steeplechase - Conseslus Kipruto 8:22.55 (KEN/Africa), M 400mH - Abderrahman Samba (QAT/Asia-Pac), M Long Jump - Ruswahl Samaai 8.16m (RSA/Africa), W 3000m - Sifan Hassan 8:27.50 (NED/Europe), M Shot Put - Darian Romani 21.89m (BRA/Americas), M 800m - Emmanuel Korir 1:46.50 (KEN/Africa), W Pole Vault - Anzehelika Zidorova 4.85m (ANA/Europe), W Discus - Yaime Perez 65.30m (CUB/Americas), W 4x100m - 42.11s Americas, M 4x100m - Americas 38.05
Complete Australian Results from Day 1:
Men 4x100m relay (Trae Williams Q, Joseph Millar NZL, Jin Su Jung N, Jake Doran Q) 3rd 39.55
Dani Stevens (N) 5th Discus 62.74m
Damien Birkinhead (V) 8th Shot Put 18.52m
Henry Frayne (Q) 4th Long Jump 7.96m
Gen LaCaze (Q) 5th 3000m DNF
Matthew Denny (Q) 2nd Discus 63.99m
Brandon Starc (N) 2nd High Jump 2.30m
Linden Hall (V) 5th 1500m 4:18.82
Anneliese Rubie (N) 8th 400m 52.50
Alex Hulley (N) 7th hammer throw 62.35m
Michelle Jenneke (N) 8th 100m hurdles 13.50