News & Updates

11 February 2024 • Track and Field

Discus star Connor Bell defeats Denny in Adelaide showdown

Connor Bell inflicts defeat on Aussie rival Matt Denny with a meet record throw in Adelaide. Credit: (Alisha Lovrich).

Connor Bell earned a huge victory tonight in a front of a top-class international field at the Adelaide Invitational (10 Feb) – a World Athletics Continental Tour Bronze meet – by inflicting defeat on Diamond League final winner and Commonwealth champion Matt Denny with a meet record mark of 65.93m.

Bell, 22, who finished tenth at the 2023 World Championships, made his decisive strike in round four, by hurling the 2kg implement to the winning mark – and third longest of his career, just 30cm shy of his national record set in Melbourne last year.

Denny, who finished fourth at the 2020 Tokyo Olympics, opened the competition to lead with a 64.58m effort and extended his advantage in rounds two (65.04m) and three (65.14m).  After a first round foul and second round 60.85m, Bell found his range in round three with a 64.95m. But it was the Aucklander’s fourth round toss which would prove unassailable despite a strong challenge from Denny who went out to his best of the day in round six with a 65.74m effort. Great Britain’s Nick Percy (63.09m) rounded out the podium.

A delighted Bell said: “A meet record, season’s best and an improvement on my season opener. I’m always happy with a throw of 65m. I will let this meet pass over as I’m now looking on to Melbourne (The Maurie Plant meet on Thursday 15 Feb). I’m also now really looking forward to focusing on refining my technique over the next week.”

James Preston took another step forward in his exciting season by registering the third fastest time of his career 1:45.50 – just 0.20 shy of his PB – as he narrowly missed out on top spot in a compelling men’s 800m.

The 26-year-old Kiwi who opened his campaign with a 1:45.89 clocking – his fastest ever time in New Zealand at the Potts Classic in Hastings – was rewarded for an aggressive approach as he zipped out of the blocks to sit second behind the pacemaker. After 400m was reached in 52.34, Preston kicked on, opening up a sizeable gap on the field and entered the home stretch with a five-metre lead from 18-year-old Australia talent Peyton Craig. Despite an outstanding two-lap race by Preston the teenager gradually closed the gap on the Kiwi and timed his run to perfection to edge the Wellingtonian by 0.09 in an Oceania U20 800m record, but it was another hugely encouraging performance by the New Zealander who is chasing an Olympic entry standard time of 1:44.70.   

New Zealand athletes claimed a confidence boosting one-two in the men’s pole vault as James Steyn produced the second best performance of his career with a 5.45m clearance to defeat countryman Nick Southgate (5.35m).

Steyn, 24, entered the competition at 5.15m and survived a hiccup to clear his opening height at the second time of asking. He cleared 5.25m on the first attempt before progressing with a second time clearance at 5.35m. The Auckland-based vaulter found his rhythm to clear 5.45m with his first effort – soaring to his best height since posting his PB of 5.50m set at the 2019 Australian Championships – to secure victory. The reigning New Zealand champion missed out on his three efforts at 5.52m.

Southgate, the seven-time national champion, also impressed in second, wriggling clear at 5.35m for his joint fourth best height of his career to finish clear of a quality international field with Charlie Myers of Great Britain in third (5.25m).

New Zealand 200m champion Georgia Hulls finished strongly to finish second in the women’s 200m A race, clocking a time of 23.49 (-1.5m/s). The two-time World Championships representative was in mid-pack entering the straight but a powerful final 70m propelled the 24-year-old sprinter to the podium – 0.01 clear of Commonwealth finalist Ella Connolly of Australia. Home favourite Torrie Lewis, 19, who blasted to an Australian 100m record of 11.10 in Canberra last month, once again revealed her precocious talent to win in 23.05. New Zealand 200m record-holder Rosie Elliott claimed eighth in a season’s best of 24.04.

Hulls earlier placed ninth in the women’s 100m A race, clocking a season’s best of 11.70 (1.0m/s). behind Australia’s Ebony Lane (11.35).

Laura Nagel scalped more than a second-and-a-half from her lifetime best to record 4:09.92 for sixth in the women’s 1500m and advance to seventh on the all-time NZ lists. It was an excellent performance from the national 1500m and 5000m champion who on Sunday (11 Feb) celebrates her 32nd birthday. One place behind Nagel in seventh was Dunedin-based Rebekah Aitkenhead who recorded the second fastest time of her career in 4:11.79. Australian Claudia Hollingsworth took out the victory in a meet record time of 4:04.45.

Livvy Wilson (North Harbour) enjoyed a confidence boosting victory in the women’s 100m B race, stopping the clock in a wind-aided 11.66 (2.2m/s). The three-time New Zealand 100m bronze medallist held off the challenge of Aussie Hayley Reynolds who finished 0.04 adrift. In the men’s 200m A race Kiwi Tommy Te Puni, the national 200m bronze medallist, placed eighth in 21.56 (-0.5m/s) as Aussie Calab Law in 20.84 defeated his countryman Christoper Ius by seven one thousandths of a second.

New Zealand triple jump champion Ebuka Okpala placed a solid sixth in the men’s triple jump, registering 15.59m (0.4m/s) as Australian champion Aiden Hinson bounded out to 16.34m (1.2m/s) for the win. Kiwi Anna Thomson was sixth in the women’s triple jump, soaring out to a best of 12.48m (+0.6m/s) to finish behind event winner Kayla Cuba of Australia (13.77m).

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