Middle-distance specialist Zoe Buckman provided the highlight for Australian athletes on the first day of the Anniversary Games, being held in the London Olympic stadium with fourth place in the 1500m in front of a capacity crowd.
The Grafton-born runner who now splits her time between US and Melbourne recorded 4 minutes 9.23 seconds behind the 4.08.77s winning time of Kenya’s Mary Kuria and was pleased with her approach.
“Typically in a tactical race I’ve underperformed. It’s so unpredictable. This time I had a good plan in my mind that if I stayed close to the front, I had a pretty good chance of winning.” said Buckman.
For most of the race, the two-time national champion ran close to the rail, in the lead bunch of a field which included Kuria, the African Games silver-medallist, the luckless American Morgan Uceny and countrywoman and phenom Mary Cain, as well as Olympic finalist Ibtissam Lakhouad from Morocco.
At the bell, with one lap to go, Buckman was positioned perfectly, holding her ground in fourth, just behind Dutchwoman Susan Kuijken. Then with 200m remaining, she found a gap on the inside and made a decisive move to hit the front and lead the chasing pack round the final bend.
“I kept my eyes open for an opening and then moving up quickly. In a pace that is slow it’s not going to be given to you. You have to chase after it.” said the 24 year-old.
The Australian was shoulder-to-shoulder with eventual winner Kuria as the two entered the straight before fading over the final 50m as first the Kenyan pulled away, then Lakhouad, followed by American Katie Mckay.
Buckman said “I felt like I had a great chance of winning. I was trying to judge the pace right and save something for the last 50m. I feel like there’s room for improvement.”
It was the Nic Bideau-coached athletes’ best race since she arrived in Europe five weeks ago and augurs well for a similar racing style that lies ahead at the world championships.
“It was a tactical race and good experience for Moscow. If I run the right race there I’ll be a good chance of making the final.”
In other events, Kelly Hetherington ran her fourth fastest ever 800m 2.02.22s to place ninth behind the meet record of American Brenda Martinez 1.58.19s.
Canberra’s Lauren Boden recorded her fourth time under 56 seconds this season placing ninth in the 400m hurdles in 55.93s. Winner Zuzana Hejnova recorded a 2013 leading performance and new Czech Republic record of 53.07s.
Former American Jackie Areson, found the going tough in the 3000m to place 15th in 9.08.02. In the now rarely-run event Shannon Rowbury (USA) won with a time of 8.41.46.
Sydney’s Brandon Starc could only manage the opening height of 2.16m in another captivating high jump competition. Bohdan Bondarenko won the competition with 2.38m then had the bar raised to 2.43m. The Ukraine motioned to the crowd to be quiet before missing the first attempt, then asked for the bar to be raised to a perplexing 2.47cm. A 2cm improvement to the world record of Cuban Javier Sotomayer proved too ambitious as he missed both at attempts.
The 23 year-old has been in outstanding form this year, leaping 2.41m in Lausanne, the highest jump in the world since 1994.
Jamaican superstar Usain Bolt won the final event of the night running a season’s best 9.85 seconds in the 100m to easily beat American Michael Rodgers (9.98) and compatriot Nester Carter (9.99).
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