12:59.28 meeting record for Vincent Chepkok in Rabat (Said Chidmi) © Copyright
The previous world lead (13:11.00) was set by Ethiopian Hagos Gebrhiwet at the second Samsung Diamond League series stop in Shanghai last week, while the old meeting record (13:01.64) was held by John Kemboi of Kenya since the 2010 edition.
Among the strong results of this edition was Ukrainian Olga Saladuha victory in the Triple Jump with a leap of 14.75m, second farthest of the season behind Colombian Katrine Ibriguen (14.95m) who tonight was a well-beaten second with a jump in 14.48m. Saladuha also set a new meeting record beating the 14.68m former standard set by Russia's Anna Blatbeik in 2010.
This fifth edition, whose program included 17 events including eight for women, witnessed seven meeting records in all. In addition to Chepkok and Saladuha’s performances, American Justin Gatlin (100m), Ethiopian Mohamed Aman (800m), Dominican Felix Sanchez (400m hurdles), Belgian Tom Goyvaerts (javelin, 78.88m) and Moroccan Btissam Lakhouad (800m) also set new meet standards.
This edition was also marked by Moroccan victories in five races: Aziz Ouhadi (200m), Abdelaati Iguider (1500m), Halima Hachlaf (1500m), Btissam Lakhouad (800m) and Meriem Aloui Selsouli (5000m).
But the star of the meeting was undoubtedly Chepkok.
Chepkok ran a great race and took off from the pack on the last lap leaving his compatriot Jacob Korir Cheshari (13:02.94) and the Saudi Al-Moukheld Outaibi (13:03.58) behind.
"This meeting marks the beginning of my season, I am happy with my performance," said the 23-year-old who has a 12:51.45 career best from 2010. "The atmosphere was good and the competition on the track too."
Aman impresses on packed middle distance programme
For his part, the young Ethiopian Mohamed Aman’s 1:43.58 was more than a second faster than the previous meet record of 1:44.68 set by Sudanese Ismail Ahmed in 2008. But it was extremely close, Aman holding off Kenyan Leonard Kirwa Kosencha, another teenager, by just 0.02.
Aman, who cruised to the World indoor title in Istanbul in March, remains the second fastest in the world this season and is displaying good consistency. Eleven days ago he clocked 1:43.51 at the World Challenge meeting in Daegu.
"I’m proud of this positive result," Aman said. "Other competitors were well prepared. This victory will allow me to properly prepare for the forthcoming races and the Olympics."
Moroccan Abdelaati Iguider, the World indoor 1500m champion, won his specialty with a time of 3:34.39 but had to work hard for it over the final 15 metres. There was strong competition from Algerian Taoukif Makhloufi (3:34.76) who finished second while another Moroccan, Bensghir Yassin, former World junior champion, finished third (3:34.76.)
Iguider admitted that the race was "Very difficult. My goal was to run below three minutes 30 seconds, but weather conditions were not favorable." Iguider said he’ll contest several more meetings in the buildup to London.
Other significant results include Moroccans Btissam Lakhouad victory in the 800m with a time of 2:00.22, another meeting record. The previous mark was set last year by her compatriot Halima Hachlaf. Lakhouad, who was fourth in the 1500m at last year’s World Championships, finished third a week ago in the Shanghai 1500m in 4:01.69.
Morocco's Meriem Alaoui Selsouli won the 5000m with a time of 14:45.91. This is the distance she plans to contest at the Olympic Games.
Selsouli, this year’s World Indoor 1500m silver medallist, won comfortably ahead of Kenyan Janeth Kisa (14:57.68) and Priscah Jepleting Cherono (14:59.53).
The Moroccan Aziz Ouhadi won the 200m in 20.50 ahead of Frenchman Dvid Alerte (20.67) and Amr Ibrahim Mostafa Seoud of Egypt (20.72).
As for the headliner this year, former Olympic champion Justin Gatlin could not dip below 10 seconds on the 100m but his 10.12 was also new meeting record. The previous mark of 10.27 was set by Ouhadi one year ago.
Gatlin edged Kim Collins of Saint Kitts and Nevis who clocked 10.17, with Ouhadi third in 10.29.
Gatlin said after the race of his first race in Africa: "The competition was very tough, an ideal preparation for the Olympics."
Another star of meeting was Belgian Tia Hellebaut, the 2008 Olympic High Jump champion, who fell just one centimetre shy of the 1.97m meeting record set by Croatia’s Blanka Vlasic last year.
Hellebaut was nonetheless very pleased with her 1.96m season opener.
"The first competitions of the season are always difficult," the 24-year-old said. She added that competitions in Oslo and Moscow are on her immediate schedule where her goal will be to clear two metres for the first time since 2008.
Sixteen-year old Moroccan Ghizlane Siba, the Arab champion, was ninth (1.75m).
Dominican Felix Sanchez, the 2004 Olympic champion and World champion in Edmonton 2001 and Paris 2003, edged reigning World champion David Greene by just 0.03 in 48.93.
Despite his 35 years Felix still dreams of the podium at the upcoming Olympic Games. "The race was hotly contested. This performance will allow me to a good start towards the Olympics."
Mohammed Benchrif for the IAAF
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