Yohan Blake’s 100m victory was the highlight of the 46th edition of the Palio della Quercia on a cool and windy evening in Rovereto, Italy on Tuesday (31 Aug).
Blake clocked 10.06, narrowly missing the meeting record set by his compatriot Steve Mullings who ran 10.05 last year. American Justin Gatlin, the former double sprint World champion and Olympic 100m champion, lowered his seasonal best from 10.17 to 10.09 finishing second. Italian Emanuele Di Gregorio has continued his best ever season highlighted by the 4x100 European silver medal in Barcelona with a third place showing in 10.28. Only five men contested the 100m after two false starts forced early exits for American Ryan Bailey, who clocked 9.88 in Rieti on Sunday, and Italian Fabio Cerutti, the 60m European silver medallist in Torino last year.
Blake slowed in the final metres due to a minor muscle injury. This probably dashed any hopes to break the 10 seconds barrier for the first time in the history of the Palio della Quercia. However, Blake capped an impressive season in which he clocked 9.89 in London and 9.91 in Brussels and 19.78 in the 200m in Monaco.
“It was a bit cold and I got hurt in the final metres. I am happy with my season and I am looking forward to 2011. It will be a big year. It’ s wonderful to train with Usain Bolt, an encouraging guy,” said Blake.
Kelly-Ann Baptiste from Trinidad and Tobago, who clocked 10.84 this year, was pushed by a tornado of +6.7 m/s to 11.13 in the women’s 100m which earned her the win by 0.04 over American Mikele Barber. Japanese record holder Chisato Fukushima took the win in the 100m B-race in 11.65, 0.01 over European 100m finalist and 4x100 gold medallist Mariya Ryemyen in a race slowed by a -3.3 m/s headwind.
Bekele out-duels Almaz in women's Steeplechase
In the women’s 3000m Steeplechase, Ethiopian Mekdes Bekele won a thrilling neck-to-neck battle over Ayana Almaz, who set a new World junior record with 9:22.51 at the Brussels Samsung Diamond League meeting last Friday. The two Ethiopians pulled away from the rest of the field in the early stages of the race and continued to push hard until Bekele launched her kick with 300 metres to go to take the win in the opening running event of the Palio della Quercia in 9:25.09, not far from her seasonal best set in Brussels where she clocked 9:24.17. Ayana crossed the finishline in 9:26.96. Katarzyna Kowalska from Poland finished third in 9:37.33.
Italian fans were delighted by Elisa Cusma’s win in the women’s 800m in an exciting fight against European Under 23 champion Yelena Kofanova in the final straight. Kofanova came off the bend in the lead but Cusma found the strength to launch her winning kick in the final straight to win in 2:00.37 to Kofanova’s 2:00.54.
“I always give everything when I compete in Italy in front of my fans. I enjoy the familiar atmosphere of Rovereto where I have always competed well. I will now take part in two more 800m races in Padua (3 September) and Milan (9 September),” said Cusma. Reigning World champion Caster Semenya finished a very distant ninth in 2:07.16 in a bad day at work.
Obergfoll nabs third straight win
In the women’s Javelin contest, German Christina Obergfoll, the European silver medallist and Olympic bronze medallist, backed up her recent good results by scoring her third win in a row after Zurich and Berlin with a 64.38 in the third round, her only throw over 60 metres. Kimberley Mickle from Australia was the only other thrower able to throw beyond the 60 metres finishing second with 60.14.
Twenty-three year-old Italian Marco Vistalli, who smashed his PB from 45.95 to a surprising 45.38 in the semifinals at the European Championships in Barcelona, produced another surprise by taking the men’s 400m A-race in 45.78 ahead of Olympic bronze medallist David Neville (45.91) and Jamaican Allodin Fothergill (46.04) in a race held in difficult wind conditions.
This year’s European Team Championships winner Tetyana Dektyareva clocked 12.95 to take the women’s 100m Hurdles but she was aided by a strong tailwind of +3.90 m/s. Cindy Roleder from Germany finished runner-up in 13.13.
Petya Dacheva from Bulgaria took the win in a women’s Triple Jump competition disturbed by a strong headwind which prevented good results. Dacheva dealt best with the conditions, jumping 14.12m in the fifth round beating European silver medallist Simona La Mantia from Italy, who leapt to 13.83m. La Mantia’s medal in Barcelona was the most surprising result for Italian athletics at the European Championships, as it came after four very difficult seasons ruined by injury problems.
Aleksander Menkov from Russia was the only jumper able to leap over the eight-metre barrier to take the win in the men’s Long Jump with 8.10m ahead of Denmark’s Morten Jensen (7.85m). Eduard Malchenko won the men’s High Jump with 2.24m on a countback over American Jesse Williams. American Lacy Jansen vaulted 4.41m to win on a countback over German Carolin Hingst, who jumped 4.72m earlier this season.
Alex Korio from Qatar beat Kenyan Paul Lonyangata in the 5000m, 13:17.09 to 13:19.07. Daniele Meucci, a surprising European 10,000m bronze medallist in Barcelona, set his PB of 13:24.38 to take third place. Hillary Mayo Kipkorir finished first in the men’s 1500 metres in 3:38.52.
Diego Sampaolo for the IAAF