Nancy (Tomblane), France - David Rudisha returned to action with a world-leading 1:43.46 800m victory at the “Meeting Stanislas-Nancy” on Friday (24), the second stop of the French Pro Athlé Tour 2011.
Kenyan Rudisha, last year’s World Athlete of the Year after he twice broke the 800m World record in 2010, has been hampered this spring by a foot injury. He opened his season on 3 March in Melbourne with 1:43.88, followed by a 1:44.80 two weeks later in Sydney. Since then, Sudan’s Abubaker Kaki had lowered the world-leading mark with 1:43.68 while pains and doubts had delayed Rudisha’s comeback. Hence, the World record holder sought and found a test meeting to shake out the cobwebs and produce a confidence boosting run prior to his Samsung Diamond League return in Lausanne next Thursday (30). And that’s exactly what he found in Raymond Petit Stadium.
The previous day, after a jog with his inseparable pacemaker Sammy Tangui, he asked for a 50-second first lap. Tangui, as usual, was perfect, as in his tail Rudisha was timed at 200m in 24.8 and at 400m in 50.1. When Tangui ended his duties at 500 metres, Rudisha had a five metres gap over the pack and was only fighting against the clock. At 600 metres (1:16.1), all eyes were on the long and beautiful strides of the Kenyan, whose focused face indicated that this race carried huge importance for him. As he raised the arms after watching the time on the scoreboard, Rudisha seemed more relieved than happy.
“After my injury, I was anxious to start my summer season. I wanted to check if I was okay, and today I ran a good race and a good time,” Rudisha said.
After three months without competition, all questions were answered, and his legendary coach Brother Colm O’Connell was plenty satisfied. “After this race, his mind should be free - that’s exactly what we were looking for.”
Now, Rudisha, 22, can look to the rest of the season with a degree of serenity. “My next races will be Lausanne and the Kenyan trials for the World Championships. The goal is to get my first major title and I hope it will happen in Daegu.”
Frenchman Jeff Lastennet, a distant second in the wave of the King of the event, smashed his personal best with 1:45.56.
Rudisha’s teammate Augustine Choge easily won the 1500m in 3:36.23.
Confidence booster for Diniz
Yohann Diniz made the show in the 5000m Race Walk won in 18:45.98. The time is far from his national record (18:18:01) but it didn’t matter for the European 50Km champion.
“The tactic was to start at a 19:10 base and finish strong to work on my speed, and indeed I covered the last 3km on an 18 minute pace.” The 50,000m World record (3:35:27:20) he established on 12 March in Reims gave him a lot of confidence but it took him awhile to recover.
“Right after the record I felt okay but I took a long break in order to regenerate myself. This performance can bring legitimate ambitions to me for the World Championships, so I will now prepare in high altitude in Font-Romeux and go directly to Daegu.”
Despite early season inconsistency, Lavillenie ‘not worried’
For Renaud Lavillenie, Nancy didn’t erase the concerns brought by two consecutive sub-par performances in New York (no height) and at the European Team Championships where he finished fifth at 5.50m. Furthermore, his main rival, Olympic champion Steve Hooker, had just improved the Frenchman’s world season-leading mark by one centimetre in Chula Vista with 5.84m.
Lavillenie, the European indoor champion in Paris-Bercy with a national record of 6.03m in March, had no difficulty at the first height of 5.53m. He thenlet his rival Jerome Clavier, second in Paris-Bercy, attempt and leap over 5.63m. Clavier couldn’t clear 5.73m, and neither could Lavillenie. Although he was obviously very fast on the run-up, Lavillenie seemed lost in the choice of his pole, choosing a soft pole for the first attempt, then opting for a big one for the second and finally changing again for a softer one for this third.
“I lacked sensations tonight,” reckoned Lavillenie. “I was unable to do what I can do. Physically, I’m starting to be at a good level, my running is good but I lack feeling during the jumps. Yet the weather was good…”
His outdoor results, two victories in six competitions, pale in comparison to this indoor season – just one loss in nine competitions - but the Frenchman claims he is not worried.
“I’m getting prepared for 27 August, the date of the World Championships. It’s two months away. One cannot be in shape for so long during a season. I’m still into heavy training, so the results can be dodgy but my shape will be sharpened soon.”
His coach, Damien Inocencio, concurs. “The peak form is programmed for late August, that’s why this start of the season is not as good as 2010.”
Winner of the Samsung Diamond Race Trophy in the event last year, he is no longer in the favourite’s position. “I haven’t managed to secure a leading position so far, but this can change. Hooker is coming to Europe, but I don’t need him to motivate myself, there is enough competition from my country men!”
In the absence of Romain Mesnil, the recent winner in New York, Clavier was the happy winner of the day. “After my third place in New York, I took a two-week break to train and I was able to perform two technical trainings and one down hill workout,” explained Clavier. “With my 5.81 indoor performance, I already set the French standard for Daegu, and I’m just looking for pleasure in my competitions. I just did it today and this is encouraging for my next competitions: Lausanne (30 June), Paris (8 July) Castres (19), Monaco (22) and the national championships (28-30 July).”
Double silver medallist (100m and 4x100m Relay) at the 2010 European Championships, and the recent 100m winner at the European Championships, Véronique Mang set her best time of the year with 11.22 albeit with the assistance of a 2.3m/s wind.
“I love this track, I felt great and I always want to take pleasure in my races and have fun because I’m a privileged to be an athlete,” said the delighted sprinter.
Her 4x100m Relay teammate and 200m European champion, Myriam Soumaré, third in 11.46, had a bullet start but was transparent for the rest of the race, as she was wearing a strap around her right thigh. “I was probably favouring my leg, but anyway I’m happy with the time, this is my first 100m this season. Last year I opened with 11.80 or so!”
In the 110m Hurdles, Dimitri Bascou won in 13.46 (wind 0.3) in a race where 2005 World Champion Ladji Doucouré stumbled at the start, hit the fourth hurdle, and walked through the finish line.
German Kathrin Klaas threw the Hammer 71.12m and Frenchman Nicolas Gomont long jumped over the eight-metre barrier for the first time (8.07m) with +2.5 wind (and 7.90 with 0.4 wind).
Pierre-Jean Vazel for the IAAF