Monday, September 18, 2023

A Few Days in Sorrento

by Mark Cullen

It would be hard to conceive of Sunday’s Prefontaine Classic as a more fitting end to a season that stands out as one of the most memorable.

Could it get any better than a 5,000 meter world record in Prefontaine’s signature event by Ethiopia’s Gudaf Tsegay in a mind-bending 14:00.21?

Or how about Mondo Duplantis’ 20-5 ¼ world record pole vault – on his first attempt! Has this become his Eugene calling card?

The Diamond League finale was preceded by what many are calling one of the greatest World Championships.

In turn, this Diamond League championship compares favorably to any held before.

(It might be helpful, if you have the time and inclination, to first read my report of Saturday’s stat-fest at Hayward Field, below.)

 Australia's Matt Denny Wins the Discus
photo by Marta Gorczynska for Diamond League AG

Typical of the excitement was the men’s discus - held, seemingly, just after brunch on Sunday with its 11:30 am start.

Nothing like a final-throw win to wake up the crowd and stir the competitive juices.

Not to mention topping a field that included World and Olympic champions.

“I’ve always gone to the majors with the goal to win,” said Australia’s Matthew Denny, newly crowned Diamond League discus champion.

The 27 year old had made World and Olympic finals four times, but this was the first time he left as major meet champion – or medalist. 

However, as 10 x national champion, as well as World University and Commonwealth Games gold medalist, he’s had plenty of practice ascending the podium

“I thought we could be on for a PB here,” understated the surprise titlist, who won with a last-round heave of 68.43 (224-6), a personal best and national record.

“This really cements my point that I can be the best… and that’s my goal for Paris.”

Denny thinks the winning throw in Paris will be in the 71-72 meter range. “That’s the goal and this gives me great confidence going into next year.”

Denny was ready for what was to come on Sunday.

“I had a lot of energy in me,” he said. “I was pretty twitchy and I was just ready to compete. I knew that I could potentially put something together.

“I wasn’t going to count Daniel (Stahl) or Kristjan (Ceh) out. I’m just so happy to finish on such a high note for this season because it’s been a great season, and I wanted to finish it the right way.”

Making the mental transition from Budapest to Eugene was not, for Denny, the same strain it was for a number of other athletes who found it difficult to sustain energy and focus and to bridge the three-week gap from one major championship to another.

Denny credits new coaching and a revamped team for a renewed and energized perspective.

“I’ve been really refreshed this year in the way that I conduct my whole process of training,” he said. 

“After Worlds I had a little break with my wife and we went to Sorrento in Italy. I did some band work, but not full sessions, and it just recharged me.”

“I got 4th at Worlds and I got the national record,” he said, “but I’m in the game to win World Championships. It’s hard to be satisfied with 4th.”

“So, to turn it around and reignite it… I had a whole point to make this year. We wanted to finish this year on a stamp and we did that.”

“I feel refreshed,” Denny reiterated.

It showed.

A few days in Sorrento will do that.

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