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Three podium places for Diamond Aussies

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Ian Chadband / AAP News

Three Australian team members earn podium spots ahead of Birmingham Games.

Nina Kennedy, Matt Denny and Nicola Olyslagers have headed a fine evening’s work by Australian athletes at the Diamond League meeting in Rabat.

The trio all earned podium spots in the Moroccan city on Sunday while Georgia Griffith also enjoyed a landmark night by running the best 1500m of her career to finish fourth.

Pride of place went to West Australian pole vaulter Kennedy, who returned after a bout of COVID to finish runner-up behind American world indoor champion Sandi Morris, who’s unbeaten in 2022.

The 25-year-old cleared 4.65 metres, the same height as Morris, but chose not to go for 4.85m after her recent illness and ended up settling for second place on countback.

“I was nervous to compete straight after COVID, so this competition for me was about seeing how I was feeling on the day,” the 25-year-old from Perth said.

“That’s why I retired early too – to be safe. I’m only on day 10 after COVID, I am not at 100 per cent so I wanted to play it safe and come out injury-free.

“I am really happy that I beat some big girls in this competition. It’s giving me confidence going into the Worlds. The goal is to medal there.”

Discus thrower Denny, fourth at last year’s Olympics, showed he’s in the mood to do even better this year as he also produced a lifetime best of 67.07 metres.

The 25-year-old from Toowoomba finished behind only Sweden’s Olympic champion Daniel Stahl (67.16m) and the young Slovenian Kristjan Ceh, who produced a final-round winner of 69.68m.

“I’m really happy with today considering we are still in heavy prep mode,” said Denny.

“I shouldn’t be throwing this far right now so I’m really excited for when my peak does start for World Championships (in July).

“Confidence-wise, it’s confirming that I am where I feel I deserve to be and being competitive up against those guys.”

Olympic silver medallist Olyslagers – previously Nicola McDermott before her marriage in April – also finished third in the high jump, defeated by two Ukrainians, Yaroslava Mahuchikh and Iryna Gerashchenko.

Olyslagers cleared 1.93 metres to be beaten on countback by Gerashchenko, while world indoor champion Mahuchikh bagged her second Diamond League win of the season with a 1.96m clearance and then dedicated her victory to her stricken country.

Olyslagers’ Australian rival, world indoor silver medallist Eleanor Patterson, pulled out of her planned appearance, with no reason given by the organisers.

In the metric mile, Canberra’s Griffith ran more than three and a half seconds faster than ever before, clocking 4min 00.16sec to finish behind only a trio of class Ethiopian milers headed by Hirut Meshesha, who clocked the third fastest time in the world this year (3:57.30).

Victorian Linden Hall came home ninth in 4:03.29.

International story of the night was the calamity that befell Olympic 400m hurdles champion Karsten Warholm on his return to action, as the Norwegian suffered a right hamstring injury after clearing one barrier.

“I think it’s a tear,” Warholm said, with real concerns over his world championship hopes with the Eugene meet less than six weeks away.

“I’ll focus on treating it and come back stronger.”

Jamaica’s Elaine Thompson-Herah continued her preparations for the world championships in Eugene in impressive style, powering to victory in 10.83 seconds.

The Diamond League action shifts to Italy on Thursday for the fifth meeting of the season in Rome.

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