Even after the pounding the season’s lists took at Friday night’s Tyson meeting in Fayetteville, there was still room for improvement, as seven athletes demonstrated with world-leading performances at the LBBW Meeting on this Sunday afternoon in Karlsruhe.
European record but “my start wasn’t perfect”
With superlatives two-a-penny today, the best ones had to be reserved for Ronald Pognon. Coming to Karlsruhe with the year’s top time of 6.51 in the men’s 60 metres, run last week in Gent, the French sprinter proceeded to equal that mark in the heats, and then earned his place in athletics’ history with a 6.45 European record.
Only four sprinters have ever run faster indoors than Pognon did today, and his achievement further adds to Karlsruhe’s reputation for producing fast results.
“I wanted to confirm my performance last weekend in Gent,” the 22-year-old Martinique-born Pognon said. “I’ve had five races this year, and in each one, I have gotten faster. But my start really wasn’t perfect tonight,” he admitted. “It’s a new feeling for me, of course, being the European record holder. But now I’d like to get closer to the world record (6.39),” he added eagerly.
Last year, Jason Gardener came to the Europahalle for the first time, after having heard from so many sprinters about the hall’s “magic”. And on that day, the British sprinter equalled his own continental record for the 60. Today, it was Pognon’s turn to assume the mantle from Gardener.
Finishing behind Pognon were Americans Leonard Scott (6.53) and Dwight Phillips (6.55 PB), the Olympic champion in the Men’s Long Jump.
Mutola a second off the world season lead
Oddly enough, one of those not part of the world-leader barrage was afternoon’s marquee star, Maria Mutola, whose 1:58.49 win in the women’s 800 metres was almost a full second off of the year’s best. The ten-time World and Olympic champion, going to the start for the first time this season, stayed close to the rapid pace of Germany’s Monika Gradzki (27.24 and 56.02) before Brigitta Langerholc, not a designated pacer, found herself in the leading position for the third 200 (1:27.03).
Mutola dug hard over the final circuit, but the honour of a world-leading time evaporated over a final 200 of 31.5.
“The first two laps were quite fast,” the Mozambique runner said of Gradzki’s torrid pace. “It was my first competition of the year, and I feel fortunate to have won,” she added. “It’s always difficult to run fast in the first race of the season.”
Mutola’s programme continues Tuesday night in Stockholm, with the Madrid competition following.
Natalya Tsyganova of Russia took second with 2:00.26, as Belgium’s Sandra Stals ended in third at 2:01.71, with Slovenian Langerholc tenaciously staying the course for an indoor PB of 2:02.29.
Kipchirchir Komen shows no fear - 3:33.08 world lead
The men’s 1500 metres was a big step in the maturation process for young Daniel Kipchirchir Komen of Kenya, who won in a world-leading time of 3:33.08. Impressive as he was in Gent last weekend, the 20-year-old showed the sangfroid of a veteran as he held no fear of Ivan Heshko, who could not overtake the young runner at the end and had to settle for second in 3:33.99.
The Ukrainian played his usual game of lagging back, relying as he does on a powerful kick. Allowing Komen up to eight metres of space for most of the race, Heshko saw the Kenyan trying to sprint away at the 1000 mark, and he quickly adjusted to move up and close the gap to about three metres after 1200, which Komen passed in 2:50.27.
Off the final curve, however, it was all Komen, giving true substance to all of the hype the past several weeks.
“I was quite satisfied to run a new season best,” said Komen with a tinge of youthful nonchalance. “But my main goal for the year is outdoors, in Helsinki. There, I am hoping to win the gold.”
Germany’s Wolfram Müller dipped under 3:40 for third place with 3:39.47, as Abdeslam Kennouche of Algeria was right behind in 3:40.15 for fourth.
Chojecka also goes to top of the world
Poland’s Lidia Chojecka kicked away from a bunched group over the last 400 metres of the women’s 1500 metres and also posted a world-leading time of 4:04.84. The winner of the 3000 in Gent last weekend, Chojecka and the rest of the runners were content to let Konstadína Efedáki of Greece stick with the pacemaker as a gap of almost fifteen metres developed in the early stages.
With 500 left, the Polish runner had pulled up close to Efedáki, but with two laps remaining, most of the field also decided the moment had come for a step-up in tempo, and the closing scramble was underway.
Chojecka never surrendered the lead in the final two laps, although Alesya Turova of Belarus powered off the final curve to pass several runners and take second place in 4:05.94.
The times of Hind Dehiba of France (4:06.41) and Russia’s Anna Alminova (4:07.59), in third and fourth, also surpassed the prior best for this indoor season.
National records fall in the 1000m
European 1500 champion Mehdi Baala enjoyed superb pacing by two fellow Frenchmen in the men’s 1000 metres, and the result was a new French record (and world-leading time) of 2:17.01.
Thomas Planque delivered the first three laps and then handed the chore to Nicolas Aissat, who passed the 600 in 1:21.44. Baala was left to run alone for the final circuit off Aissat’s 1:49.02 as he shaved 0.05 off the national record he already owned.
The reigning World Junior 1500 champion, 17-year-old Abdelaati Iguider of Morocco, also posted a national junior record with his second-place 2:19.33, with Kenya’s Benjamin Kipkurui, the outdoor junior record holder in this event, fading at the end to take third in 2:19.57.
Olijar’s indoor PB and world lead holds off Wignall
If it was Stanislav Olijar’s intention not to compete this year until his form was perfect, he certainly achieved his plans with a world-leading 7.50 win in the men’s 60 Hurdles. It was only 0.01 off the Latvian’s indoor personal best of 7.49.
The former European Indoor champion led everyone away from the start and was never really challenged, although Maurice Wignall of Jamaica was slowly starting to gain ground at the finish.
“It was good, as preparation for the European Championships, to win today against such a good field. I really had not planned to run such a fast time. But I must also admit that my goal is to regain my European indoor title in Madrid.”
Wignall continued his consistent European season with a 7.54 for second, as did Elmar Lichtenegger of Austria, who was third in 7.57.
The women’s 60m Hurdles was won by Vonette Dixon of Jamaica in 7.98, a race which perhaps was made easier when American Lolo Jones hit the second hurdle and abandoned her effort. Jones had dipped under eight seconds at 7.98 for the first time in her career during the heats, and would ordinarily have been expected to challenge Dixon for the win.
Germany’s Nadine Hentschke ended in second, equaling her personal best of 8.04, far ahead of Anay Tejeda of Cuba, with 8.14 in third.
Breuer bounces back to ‘German’ victory - Krasnomovets gets win but misses Madrid
The intra-German dueling of 400 metres runners Grit Breuer and Claudia Marx continued, but this time Breuer was able to get back at her countrywoman after two straight losses last weekend. The only problem for Breuer was that Olesya Krasnomovets controlled the first lap and ended up winning the contest in a world-leading 51.26.
“This was my second indoor race of the year,” said Krasnomovets, adding “but because I did not compete this weekend at the Russian Championships, I won’t be going to Madrid for those championships.” She gave no reason for her absence from the three-day competition in Volgograd.
Breuer produced a season best with 51.77 behind the Russian, and Marx, charging up the inside and gaining on the former European champion at the end, did likewise with a 51.95 for third.
Gevaert - a class apart
It seemed fairly apparent, by her performance in the heats, that Belgium’s Kim Gevaert was the class of the women’s 60 metres, as she smoothly eased to a 7.14 preliminary win.
But in the final, the reigning European indoor champion had to wrestle with a determined Olga Fyodorova the entire way. With a powerful finish, Gevaert prevailed with a 7.18 time, as the Russian clocked 7.21.
In discussing her time in the final, as juxtaposed with her heat time, the Belgian said, “My start in the final was bad. I could have run faster, and this is what I will work on before Madrid where I hope to retain my title.”
Tobias Unger was impressive in his victory in the men’s 200 metres. The Olympic finalist was pressed hard to hold off Joseph Batangdon of Cameroon, and the result was 20.61, representing a lowering of the German’s own European-leading time for the season. The performance also erased a 17-year-old meeting record of 20.72 by American James Butler.
Only US sprinters Wallace Spearmon, at 20.36 and LaShawn Merritt (20.40) own faster times this year. Batangdon ran 20.81 behind Unger for second.
In the women’s one-lap race, Karin Mayr-Krifka of Austria made amends after her last-place performance in the 60 metres to win in 23.01.
Lobinger – season’s best
Tim Lobinger cleared a season-best 5.78 on his first attempt to win the men’s Pole Vault, a competition which also saw 1996 Olympic champion Jean Galfione of France confirm his recovery from Achilles surgery two years ago by taking second place with 5.70.
The women’s Pole Vault field was severely depleted because of Sergey Bubka’s all-star competition yesterday in Donetsk. That allowed the youngest jumper here, 18-year-old (turns 19 on Tuesday) Zhao Yingying, to stand out from the rest with a 4.40 win. The only other vaulter with a substantial cachet, former World Indoor champion Pavla Hamácková of the Czech Republic, ended in fourth with 4.30, as Germany’s Martina Streutz and Krisztina Molnár of Hungary tied for second at that height.
Aldama – a difficult opener
The women’s Triple Jump still is awaiting an explosive performance that has always graced every indoor season. In a close but quite ordinary competition, Natalya Safronova of Belarus saw a third-round 14.17 survive the afternoon for a narrow win over Russia’s Anna Pyatykh (14.15).
The Belarus jumper was not expecting her performance to score a win. “The win was surprising, because I thought two jumpers in the competition were actually stronger. I expected something around third place,” Safronova remarked afterwards.
Carlota Castrejana of Spain, the only other jumper to surpass fourteen metres, finished third at 14.06.
Last year at this meeting, Yamilé Aldama was making her first competitive appearance in Sudanese colours. It was a rough national debut for the former Cuban, as she fouled on her first three attempts.
Nothing seems to have changed for the Budapest silver medallist, so far as jumping in Karlsruhe is concerned. Opening her indoor season today, Aldama again saw red flags on her first three trips down the runway, but her continued participation was assured because the list of competitors was held at eight. She finally found the proper range on jump five, but her best of 13.95 placed only fourth.
The men’s Triple Jump seems even more moribund this year than the women’s event. The fifth-placer in Athens, Brazilian Jadel Gregório did what he could about the situation, pushing the season best out to 17.21 (and also adding a 17.20) to win the event (though Idowu at the British championships the same afternoon improved the world lead to 7.30m). Olympic finalists also accounted for the next three places, led by the 16.80 of Russia’s Viktor Gushchinskiy, who was seventh in Athens.
Ed Gordon for the IAAF
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