03 AUG 2003 General News Zolder, Belgium

Satisfied Block finds competition hot in Heusden

Zhanna Block (UKR) celebrates winning the women's 60m final (Getty Images)Zhanna Block (UKR) celebrates winning the women's 60m final (Getty Images) © Copyright

HeusdenTwo days after the rain in Linz in Austria the 7000 spectators at the 24th KBC Night of Athletics were enjoying lovely sunshine at this IAAF Grand Prix II meeting.

Although the weather looked ideal for an athletics meet the high temperature (25 C) was sometimes hindrance, and the light breeze which brought some general relief affected the sprint events.

World 100 metres champion Zhanna Block running only her second 100m and first 200 metres races of the season due to a period of injury was beaten twice into second place. However, the 31 year-old Ukranian athlete was happy with her performances which marked her comeback to competition for the first time since 24 June.

In the 100 metres (-1.6m/s wind ) Block lost by three hundreds of a second with her 11.16 to American Chryste Gaines' 11.13. France’s Muriel Hurtis was third in the 100 metres (11.17) but later in the evening came back to win the 200 metres in a season’s best of 22.51. The European 200m champion overtook a fast starting Block in the final metres of a race which was run into in a 0.3 metres headwind, leaving Block 0.19 seconds behind.  Local heroine Kim Gevaert was a distant third in 22.87.

The most impressive women’s event was the 5000 metres in which Isabelle Ochichi ran a personal best of 14:52.33. Just after three kilometres the 24 year old Kenyan broke away from a leading group of seven with a 69 seconds lap. Only Australian Benita Johnson tried to close the gap, and in the final 300 metres it looked as if Johnson might even catch the long striding African women.Johnson came close just over two seconds behind with 14:54.52.

Ochichi’s compatriot Salina Kosgei was third, clocking a personal best of 15:01.79. Chrys Lavokou of Greece, sixth in 15:15.32, set a national record.

The men's 5000 metres after a very promising fast start (2000 metres in 5:15.47) developed into a close affair between Eritrean Zersenay Tadesse and Swiss Christian Belz. Tadesse (21) outsprinted his opponent winning in a new national record of 13:11.07. Belz was rewarded with a personal best of 13:12.16.

There was another extremely close finish in the men’s 3000m Steeplechase, where Julius Nyamu and Abel Cheruiyot of Kenya fought till the final metres. The more experienced Nyamu won in 8:09.06, the sixth best time in the world this season. The 19 year-old Cheruiyot was just 0.31 behind.

Joseph Mutua fourth in the Kenyan trials some weeks ago won the men’s 800 metres in which Gregory Konchellah (son of the twice world champion, Billy) had brought the lead group to the bell in 49.20 seconds. Mutua won in 1:44.21 beating compatriot Michael Rotich (1:44.75), while rising Dutch star Bram Som, coming from far behind (1.45.60) finished in third place.

Nineteen year old Isaac Songok, second in the Kenyan World championships trials was an impressive winner of the 1500 metres, clocking a personal best of 3:31.54, the fifth time in the world of this season.

Pacemaker Richard Geemi (Ken) did his work excellently with intermediate clockings of 1.52.52 (800 m) and 2.50.09 (1200m), after which it was a battle between four other Kenyans: Songok, Benjamin Kipkurui (3:32.42), Robert Rono (3:33.78) and Laban Rotich (3:34.41).

Double European Indoor 60m champion Jason Gardener of Britain won the 100 metres men in 10.23 seconds, while Stephane Bucland (MRI) took the 200m in 20.33. In both races there was a slight headwind.

The men’s Pole Vault, which was billed as one of the highlights of the meet, saw three men clearing 5.70 metres with South Africa’s World Cup winner Okkert Brits the winner in front Denys Yurchenko (UKR), and Germany’s World Indoor champion Tim Lobinger.

American Timothy Rusan was the only triple jumper who passed 17 metres: 17.06 metres (-0.6 m/s).

Donica Merriman (USA) beat compatriot Melissa Morrison  by just 0.01 of a second in the women’s 100 metres hurdles: 12.73  to 12.74.

Chris Phillips (USA) won the men’s High Hurdles in 13.27. Maurice Wignall, who set a Jamaican record of 13.28 just two days before in Linz, was second in 13.32. Another American victory came via Tyree Washington, the World Indoor champion who took the 400 metres in 44.99.

Two world season bests were set in women’s middle distance races however both events which seldom been run this summer. Algeria’s Nouriah Benidah-Merah, the reigning Olympic 1500 metres champion won the 1000 metres in 2.37.49, and Natalia Evdokimova of Russia was the fastest on the women’s Mile in 4.24.40.