Cuba’s Yeimar López produced the most outstanding performance by far at the ‘Reunión Ciudad de Jerez, Gran Premio de Andalucía’ - EAA permit - which was held on Tuesday (24).
The 25-year-old clocked a massive PB of 1:43.07 in the men’s 800m to prevail over South Africa’s reigning Olympic and World indoor silver medallist Mbulaeni Mulaudzi, runner-up in a fine 1:43.61 time, still a SB for him.
Middle distance events took centre stage yesterday also in the guise of Morocco’s Hasna Benhassi (1:59.29 in the women’s 800) and Spain’s Juan Carlos Higuero (3:34.36 in the men’s 1500).
The Reunión Ciudad de Jerez, Gran Premio de Andalucía is one of a select group of Area meetings at which points can be acquired by athletes to qualify for the IAAF / VTB Bank World Athletics Final, to be held on 13-14 September in Stuttgart, Germany.
López propells himself in the Beijing medal hunt
Paced through the opening 400m in a brisk 49.65 the pre-race favourite Mulaudzi was running closest to the pacemaker at the bell with López tucked behind him. It was with the clock reading 1:08 – at the 540m point – that the talented Cuban overhauled his rival with ease to open soon a sizeable advantage which he maintained until the finish line to romp home in a stunning 1:43.07 time, the second world fastest performance so far this season.
López’s clocking may have been excellent but the manner of his victory was also impressive as he seemed to be relaxed and in full control of his technique even in the final home-straight. Last year’s Panamerican champion shattered his previous best by over 1.5 seconds in the process to come only 0.22s off the Cuban record held by Norberto Tellez.
The Cuban is a former 400m specialist where he holds a PB of 45.11 from the Paris 2003 World Championships semifinals. After the Athens Olympics López moved up to the 800m event – a distance he has often tackled since he took up athletics – due to a series of injuries had hampered him in the lap event. Even so the Cuban managed the 4x400m gold medal at the Iberoamerican Games held in Iquique (Chile) earlier this month.
Behind López and Mulaudzi (1:43.61) the following spots went for Morocco’s Moushinn Chehibi – fourth at the Athens Olympics – and Spanish record holder Antonio Reina (1:46.26) who prevailed over fellow Spaniard and 1500m star Arturo Casado, 1:46.39 (PB).
It is abundantly clear that the men’s 800m has gone through a big transformation in the last few weeks; first, there were 19-year-old Abubaker Kaki and David Rudisha who startled in Oslo with 1:42.69 and 1:43.72 respective outings and now López is sandwiched between them in the world list. Will this young triumvirate make up the Beijing 800m podium? Anyway, the Olympic battle promises to be fascinating.
Higuero leads Spanish 1-2-3 in the men’s 1500m
After setting 3000m (7:43.97) and 5000m (13:22.68) PBs earlier this month, reigning World 1500m indoor bronze medallist Juan Carlos Higuero confirmed his momentum by winning his opening race over his specialist event in 3:34.36 - the fastest European time so far - thanks to a late burst of speed in the last 50m when he pipped former European indoor champion José Antonio Redolat, who at least ran inside the Olympic qualifying standard with 3:35.04 while the minor podium place went for another Spaniard Diego Ruiz in a PB of 3:35.40.
Behind the Spaniards Argelia Kheddar Samir came fourth in 3:35.53 marginally ahead of Germany’s Carsten Schlangen, while reigning World Indoor 3000m champion Tariku Bekele of Ethiopia performed over the distance for the very first time in his career. The outcome was a 12th place in 3:37.26 albeit Kenenisa’s younger brother was at the front until the 1000m point (2:23.5) before fading over the last lap.
Higuero, who will turn 30 years of age next 3 August, does not rule out duplicating his Valencia indoor medal at the Beijing Olympics as he explains: “once Hicham El Guerrouj is not on show the event is wide open and you can either win or be last on a given day. I’ll next compete in Madrid next 5 July to test my speed over 800m”.
Benhassi in a class on her own
World and Olympic 800 silver medallist Hasna Benhassi found no challenge in the women’s 800 and his 1:59.29 was rewarded with the ‘Female performance of the meet’ prize. Paced through the bell in 58.20 the Moroccan proved to be the strongest as she entered the home-straight with a 10m lead over a numerous chasing pack. Her 1:59.29 was a season best and left Britain’s runner-up Jemma Simpson way back (2:00.37) while Monika Gradzki of Germany had to settle for third timed at 2:00.76.
African 1500m silver medallist Assefa Meskerem of Ethiopia and Namibia’s Agnes Samaria fought hard over the last 50m in the women’s 1500m. Finally, the win was taken by the Ethiopian, who lowered more than two seconds her previous best to clock 4:05.67 for Samaria’s 4:05.79. Both Africans had overtaken with 100 to go Spain’s fast improving Dolores Checa who still ran a PB of 4:06.22 in third well ahead of Russia’s former World 5000m champion Olga Yegorova, now 36 years of age, who came fourth (4:07.19) and double (1500 & 3000) European indoor champion Lidia Chojecka of Poland (4:07.65).
The 25-year-old Spaniard took up athletics professionally barely two years ago and has improved her performances to 14:55.71 in 5000m, the fastest by an European this year, and 8:43.00 for the 3000m event. She is a Higuero’s training mate in Madrid.
Spain’s Mario Pestano produced a magnificent series in the men’s Discus Throw with four releases beyond the 65m mark topped by his final 67.27 effort to built a nearly four-metre margin over Hungary’s Gabor Mate (63.56) while Jackson Quiñónez – fresh from a 13.40 win at the European Cup in Annecy - provided another local success by taking the men’s 110m hurdles in 13.53 (-0.3) 0.13 clear of France’s Cedric Lavanne.
Portugal’s Olympic 100m silver medallist Francis Obikwelu clinched an unchallenged win in the men’s 100m clocking 10.14 with a negative breeze of 1.3m/s. The 29-year-old double (100 & 200) European champion made up from a sluggish start (0.179 his reaction time) to pass easily Britain’s Rikki Fifton, runner-up in 10.31. The women’s event witnessed the success of Briton Jeanette Kwakye in 11.36 ahead of her compatriot Montell Douglas (11.50).
In the infield, Gernany’s Lars Borgeling managed a SB thanks a third-time 5.70m clearance to get the better of pre-contest favourite Maksim Mazuryk as the former World Junior champion Ukrainian could not go higher than 5.65 on this occasion.
South Africa’s Karen Mey (SB of 6.93) took the win in the women’s Long Jump by the narrowest of the margins as she leapt to 6.63 for Spain’s Concha Montaner’s 6.62.
European Cup winner Anastasya Rabchenyuk of Ukraine’s had a comfortable win in the women’s 400m hurdles, 55.26 her winning time for Poland’s Malgorzata Pskit’s 55.83 while Russia’s Olessia Syreva took the very last event of last night’s program to clock 15:19.96 in the women’s 5000m with Krisztina Papp of Hungary (15:21.92) in second.
World Javelin champion Barbora Spotakova of the Czech Republic (PB of 69.15 last 31 May in Zaragoza) could not match that standard yesterday but her 64.99 third-time toss was more than enough to prevail over Spain’s European bronze medallist Mercedes Chilla, a Jerez-native who threw 58.26. His compatriot Ruth Beitia managed a 1.96 second-time clearance to take the women’s High Jump over reigning Olympic bronze medallist Vita Styopina of Ukraine.
Emeterio Valiente for the IAAF