15 FEB 2009 Report Karlsruhe, Germany

Friedrich defeats Vlasic as both clear 2.05m, world leads by Jones and Cusma – Karslruhe report

Ariane Freidrich in Gothenburg (Hasse Sjögren)Ariane Freidrich in Gothenburg (Hasse Sjögren) © Copyright

After the running events had long since been completed, high jumpers Ariane Friedrich and Blanka Vlasic kept a packed crowd overtime in Karlsruhe’s Europahalle - and entertainer Sydney Youngblood waiting in the wings - with a gripping duel, as both equaled a world-leading 2.05 with the German winning on a countback.

But that was not all.  Mehdi Baala took a large bite out of his own French 1500 metres record, Lolo Jones hurdled to a world-leading time, and Elisa Cusma surprised with a world-leading 800 performance to further highlight the Silver Jubilee edition of the BW-Bank-Meeting on Sunday afternoon.

The BW-Bank-Meeting is an IAAF Indoor Permit meeting.

Friedrich-Vlasic: the beginnings of an epic rivalry?

Not to be outdone by the nail-biting competition staged by the men in Banská Bystrica only last Wednesday, the main protagonists in the women’s High Jump put on a show of their own here.  The competition provided an interesting comparison between the principal jumpers.  Vlasic, who had felt weak four days ago in Slovakia, opened at a conservative 1.86 and attempted each height thereafter.  Friedrich, by comparison, waited until 1.90 to enter and, after a first-try clearance, passed until 2.00 before jumping again. 

By that time, Vlasic had logged a miss at 1.97 to open the door for the German.  Both jumpers needed two tries at 2.00, the 41st-consecutive competition at that level for the Croatian.  Then, at 2.03, things seemed to begin to move solidly in Friedrich’s favour.   She leaped that PB on her initial try, to which Vlasic responded with a miss and then an immediate pass to 2.05. 

There, Friedrich scored her second PB of the day on her opening leap, but Vlasic responded with the same. 

Under the watchful eye of Heike Henkel, whose fourteen-year reign as the world record holder started on this same Karlsruhe floor, the bar then went to 2.07, coincidentally the same height Henkel had cleared in 1992.  After running under the bar on her first attempt, Friedrich had two respectable but fruitless efforts to close her day.  Similarly, Vlasic had a pair of commendable but unsuccessful essays in an attempt to salvage the competition, which snapped an 11-meet indoor winning string dating back to the 2007 European Indoor Championships.

Was Friedrich’s strategy at the early heights based on a psychological ploy?  “Yes, in a way,” she said.  “We [with her coach, Günter Eisinger] felt our only chance to defeat Blanca was to try something different, because she is such a strong competitor.  By passing so many heights until 2.00, we were forcing her to take many consecutive attempts, and we felt that she might make a mistake.” 

 After one PB at 2.03, one might have expected a second PB for Friedrich to have been difficult, especially after holding the lead in the competition for so long.  “It was not a problem to get the adrenalin for that.  I really wanted to win, and I knew 2.03 would not be enough.”  Perhaps a talisman today came with her bib number of 205.  On the other hand, Vlasic was wearing 209.  Good-luck charms are one-to-a-competition, it seems. 

Baala’s impressive season continues with 3:34.71 1500m French record

There can be no doubt that the current European 1500 champion has lofty goals during this indoor season.  A solid performance in the 1000 in Stuttgart preceded Baala’s French record in the mile in Lievin last Tuesday.  The 1500 was the remaining item on his to-do list in the run-up to the European Indoor Championships in Torino next month.

Jeremy Jolivet of France led the group through 56.25 and 1:56.01 before Kenya’s Vickson Naron Polonet took over, with 2:52.13 at the 1200 mark. 

All the while, Baala stayed close to the pacemakers until 300 metres remained in the contest.  Then, left alone with the departure of Polonet, the Strasbourg native sprinted hard the rest of the way to register a 3:34.71, almost a full second better than his previous national record of 3:35.56. 

Baala covered the last 400 metres in 56.5, and the final lap in 28.3. 

“I’m very, very pleased with this race and this fantastic time,” he said later.  “The Karlsruhe meeting has a special meaning for me.  I live in [nearby] Strasbourg and I often train here in this hall.” 

He also revealed that his inability to lower his own 1000 metres record a week ago still may be an irritation.  “My next stop is Stockholm, where I’ll go again in the 1000.” 

The top six finishers in the 1500 recorded at least a season best or better, with Kenya’s Gideon Gathimba (PB 3:38.39), Wolfram Müller of Germany (3:38.80) and Sudan’s Osman Yahya (NR 3:39.40) all dipping under 3:40. 

Cusma surprises with 1:59.25 Italian 800m record

A similar strategy using a powerful finish led to Elisa Cusma’s first indoor sub-2:00 performance in the women’s 800m. The diminutive Italian stayed close to Ukrainian Tetyana Petlyuk as both ran past the pacemaker at the halfway mark.  The pair continued to run together until the final backstretch when Cusma eased in front going into the final curve.  The reigning World indoor silver medallist could not respond and Cusma emerged with an upset win in a PB and national record 1:59.25.  Petlyuk’s second-place time was 1:59.63, as third place was taken by Poland’s Sylwia Ejdys in a PB 2:01.43. 

The B-race was controlled by Ukraine’s Tamara Tverdostup with a PB 2:02.70 as she easily held off Yevgeniya Zinurova of Russia (2:03.31).

Jones bounces back with 7.82 world leader

Lolo Jones put any memories of Friday’s technical problems in Düsseldorf out of her mind as she powered her way to a world-leading 7.82 time in the women’s 60m Hurdles. 

The World indoor champion from the US led from the gun and skimmed the barriers smoothly as she equaled her career’s third-best time. 

The stadium announcer caught up with Jones moments after the race, and asked if thoughts of her last outing haunted her at all.  “Let’s not talk about Düsseldorf” was her quick retort. 

“I was a little scared I’d hit the first hurdle,” she continued, obliquely referring to her Friday-the-13th experience.   “I think it was a bit of the ‘fear factor’ today that made me go faster.”  Next up for Jones is Birmingham, “where I’m aiming to break the national record (7.74).”    

The number-two hurdler on this year’s list, Canadian Priscilla Lopes-Schliep, was a distant second behind Jones at 7.96, as Christina Vukicevic of Norway clocked 8.00 for a new national record, bettering the 8.02 she ran two days ago. 

Another hurdler finding the Karlsruhe sprint apron to his liking today was Dexter Faulk.  The American lowered his PB in the men’s 60m Hurdles from 7.53 (last week in Stuttgart) to 7.50 with a late-race push. 

After a hot streak the past week with wins in Gent, Liévin and Düsseldorf, Shamar Sands of Bahamas took an unsurprising advantage quickly between the first and second barriers, and it appeared that he would cruise to yet another victory.  But off the final hurdle, Faulk made an incredible surge and nipped Sands at the tape. The Bahamian was a whisper behind at 7.52, as Olympic silver medallist David Payne edged Erik Balnuweit, 7.64 to 7.65, the latter an equal PB. 

A pair of career bests in the men’s 60m was yielded by the Europahalle sprint infield as Italy’s Fabio Cerutti eked out a narrow 6.58 victory, with countryman Emanuele DiGregorio finishing right behind in 6.60.  Americans Mark Jelks (6.62) and Kendall Stevens (6.64) took the next spots, as a blanket finish had the eight finalists all within 0.09 seconds of each other. 

Bungei outkicks Ismail

It certainly was not the fastest example of the men’s 800m, but Olympic champion Wilfred Bungei extracted some revenge from man who defeated him last week in Stuttgart, Beijing runner-up Ismail Ahmad Ismail. Perhaps remembering how Ismail won in Stuttgart (and also how he defeated Yuriy Borzakovskiy Friday in Düsseldorf), Bungei used the slower pace this afternoon to conserve energy for his finishing charge.  It was enough to fend off his less experienced rival and complete his rematch successfully with a 1:47.02 performance against 1:47.34 for the Sudanese. 

The men’s Pole Vault was won by Alexander Straub with an indoor PB of 5.76, ahead of Fabian Schulze’s 5.70.  Schulze passed 5.76 and watched Straub clear on his second attempt, but neither jumper could improve on the day as they exited unsuccessfully at 5.81. 

“Today, everything was super for me,” said Straub, who last year was Germany’s top jumper with a 5.81 best but who unfortunately achieved it after the German Olympic nominations had closed.  “All year until now I’ve had adjustment problems.  But today I just jumped and had fun,” he continued.  “The 5.76 gives me lots of self-confidence going into next week’s national championships.” 

Three competitors exceeded the 17-metre mark in the men’s Triple Jump, but that benchmark distance was not reached until the fifth round.  Osaka silver medallist Jadel Gregorio, already the leader through four rounds, bounded 17.11 on his penultimate effort, and the Brazilian took the win, although not before Valencia silver medallist David Giralt threatened with a final-round 17.07.  Third place went to Giralt’s Cuban countryman Alexis Copello with a PB 17.03.  

The Karlsruhe meeting ended a week of rekindled interest in the men’s 300m, after prior effusions in Liévin and Paris. In the faster of the two sections, World indoor 400 champion Tyler Christopher of Canada easily had the best time with 32.75. 

“I wasn’t satisfied.  I wanted very much to run a personal best (32.53) here today.  The first 100 metres were simply too slow for this.”  Christopher’s next races will be over 400 metres in Stockholm and Birmingham. 

Edwin Kipkorir of Kenya broke away from the field during the second half of the men’s 3000m and ran mostly against the clock in his 7:49.83 victory.  Billed as a race for “newcomers”, Kipkorir fulfilled that requirement with his age of 19. 

A bit of excitement came during the final lap of the contest as a definite non-newcomer, Ali Saidi-Sief, the 5000m silver medallist in Sydney and Edmonton coming back after two seasons of inactivity, put on a final kick and was quickly reducing Kipkorir’s lead.   However, the Algerian failed to overtake the young Kenyan and ended with 7:51.22.  Germany’s Arne Gabius used all of his remaining resources in his third-place 7:51.96. 

Another Edmonton medallist, Women’s 400m winner Ami Mbacke Thiam of Senegal, let Germany’s Jonna Tilgner set the pace for slightly more than 300 metres of the race before shooting to the lead over the last 80 metres for a 52.96 win in the first race of the two-section event.  Tilgner’s 53.85 took second on a photoread with current World youth 400 champion Yuliya Baraley of Ukraine, who logged an indoor personal best with the same time in third place.

The second race saw Nina Gilbert of the US squander a large lead in the second lap of the race and barely hold on to win against her fast-closing compatriot Miriam Barnes, 52.66 to 52.96.  Gilbert was the overall event winner on the basis of combined times. 

Ed Gordon for the IAAF

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