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Coronavirus in sport: Athletics is back on track as Spotakova shines

Barbora Spotakova

Bengaluru, June 2: Victories by javelin aces Barbora Spotakova and Jakub Vadlejch highlighted the opening meeting of the Czech Athletics Federation's 'Back on the Track' series which kicked off in the central Bohemian city of Kladno as athletics returned to action, following a long break due to the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.

Athletes were banned from tracks, helplessly watching the 2020 Tokyo Olympics being postponed until next year and the European Championships cancelled.

But the sport sprang back to life at the event, which was part of a massive nation-wide effort dubbed Together at the Start, an initiative that witnessed meetings organised in 173 cities, with some 17,000 athletes, across all age groups, competing.

Spotakova, who has held the javelin world record in the event for nearly a dozen years, prevailed in the most fiercely contested head-to-head. The two-time Olympic and three-time world champion opened with a modest 57.31M effort, but took command of the competition with a 63.69M throw in the second, her best toss since May of last year.

Nikola Ogrodnikova, the 2018 European silver medallist, fouled on her first two attempts but fought back with a 62.92M effort in round three.

Neither improved over the next three rounds, however, leaving Spotakova with the win. The 38-year-old, also reached 62.81M in the final round.

In the men's competition, Vadlejch produced just one measurable throw, an 84.31M toss in the first round, good enough for the victory. Given that he only threw farther on three occasions last year, his 2020 debut bodes well.

Petr Frydrych, one of the rare few who wasn't making his 2020 debut - he threw 79.27 in Pilzen eight days ago - was second with 78.18M.

"I really like this idea and obviously it has made quite a splash," said Spotakova.

"I think we even showed a decent performance, the corona crisis didn't derail us and in spite of everything we're pretty well prepared," she added.

As expected, Tomas Stanek dominated the shot put, his best a 21.13M throw in the second round, to debut at No. 5 on the early season world list.

Jan Kudlicka won the pole vault with a second round clearance at 5.40M and Marek Barta won the discus with 62.95M.

(With AFP/World Athletics Media inputs)

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Story first published: Tuesday, June 2, 2020, 11:21 [IST]
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