Another 2011 victory for ever-young Virgilijus Alekna, this time in London (Mark Shearman) © Copyright
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Alekna and Lavillenie continue early season consistency in Lille

Lille, FranceRenaud Lavillenie confirmed his good shape with a 5.82m clearance in the Pole Vault while discus thrower Virgilius Alekna threw 69.04, the second farthest of the season, to highlight the Meeting Lille Metropole on Saturday (9), the second stop of the French Pro Athle Tour.
The Pole Vault competition was supposed to be a dual between the Frenchman Lavillenie and Olympic champion Steve Hooker. But the Australian knew quite early that things would not turn out the way he wanted.

"Today the warm-up was not good, I couldn’t find my marks, it was a hard day," he summarised. After two misses at 5.22m, he managed to leap over 5.42m for his last attempt. However, he was unsuccessful at 5.52m, the height at which Lavillenie chose to open. Even though he was eliminated, Hooker stayed in the field to help his rival with the swirling wind. Indeed, the French record holder (6.03m) needed three chances to jump 5.72m and two more at 5.82m.

"I didn’t have the legs to jump higher with the big poles I used today," said Lavillenie, who couldn’t clear 5.92m and improve his current world lead of 5.90 from Ostrava on 25 May. The recent winner in Rome (31 May) and Oslo (7 June) with 5.82m remains unbeaten and proved in Lille to be very consistent.

"I’m better than the last few years, as even though I don’t have a huge margin of progression, I’m able to repeat high quality performances."

Hooker noticed that new trend. "Renaud looked obviously tired but it’s good to jump well in these conditions."

Now full of confidence, Lavillenie can look forward to the next part of his season. "I’ve been able to produce a good streak of jumps, now things are going to be very interesting with the national championships next week and the European Championships at the end of the month."

On the other hand, Hooker is yet to show his form since he jumped 5.72m in Perth in May, followed by no height in Shanghai (19 May), 5.42m in Rome and 5.20m in Munich on Tuesday. "I’ve got time to put these competitions behind me and go back to training."

Alekna: 'Olympics is my only goal this year'

The performance of the day came from the discus ring, as Lithuanian Alekna threw 69.04 in a consistent series. "I had five throws measured over 68 metros, which is my best competition of the year," estimated the double Olympic (2000 and 2004) and World (2003 and 2005) champion. "I’m now going back home to Vilnius in order to prepare for the Olympics which is my only focus this year. At 40, my training hasn’t changed much but I’m no longer able to chase two major competitions in a row, that’s why I won’t participate in the European Championships." Gerd Kanter, the 2008 Olympic champion from Estonia, placed second in 66.05m.

At 800m, Mohammed Aman was eying a 1:42 performance in order to break his Ethiopian record (1:43.37) set last year and the then-world leading mark of Kenyan David Rudisha (1:43.10). The first lap provided the right basis (49.11) but the 18-year-old couldn’t sustain the pace and secured a 1:44.32 win. "I’m disappointed because there was a lot of wind in the back stretch and as a result, this time is not good for me," said Aman. "I’m not going back to Ethiopia and I’ll maybe participate to one race before the Olympics". This might be in the Paris-Saint Denis stop of the Samsung Diamond League, against World record holder Rudisha who illustrated his strong form with a sub-1:42 victory in New York on Saturday. Asked how he would try to beat the favourite, Aman was evasive: "I won’t give my secrets," he laughed. "Running in front or behind, we’ll see during the race how it goes!"

Second place went to Pierre-Ambroise Bosse, 20, with 1:44.97. "I’m so happy, not only because I did the French qualifying standard for the Olympics (1:45.20), but I also break the 1:45 barrier, which means a lot for a 800m runner."

Bouras inspired by Boulmerka

Like Aman, the women's 800m winner Zahra Bouras was not satisfied about her race. "There was 15 girls in 8 lanes, it was too much and there was some panic during the first 200 metros," complained the Algerian. "I couldn’t find my place so I chose to stay behind."

Still in seventh at 600 metres, she injected a powerful acceleration in the last 50 metres to take the win in 2:00:53 over Maryna Arzamasava of Belarus who clocked 2:00.63. A few days after Montreuil, where she ran 1:58.78, Bouras missed another occasion to break Hassiba Boulmerka’s old national record (1:58.72).

"In Montreuil, the race was less crowded but it was raining, and now it was sunny for the field was too crowded. I will find other occasions this year," she promised herself. Her coach and father Ammar Bouras will know how to guide her to her goal, as he was himself the one who led 1500m Olympic and double World champion Boulmerka on the road of greatness two decades ago. "He is planning to make me run 1500m in the future even though I don’t like much this distance," she admitted. "Boulmerka has become an executive woman and is far from Athletics right now, so she doesn’t really give me advice." However, Bouras, 25, will use her as an inspiration during the London Olympics.
Favourite Paul Kipsiele Koech was unchallenged in the 3000m Steeplechase. After passing 2000 metres in 5:22.28, the Kenyan kept increasing his lead during the last kilometre and won in 8:06.71, a time quite far from his 7:54.31 world lead set last week in Rome. Frenchman Mahiedine Mekhissi showed that he is back to form as he displayed a great finish speed for a 8:10.90 second place.
Muriel Ahouré concluded her European campaign by winning the 100m in 11.22 (wind +0.5). "For the first time I competed outside United States, I ran every two days," said the Ivory Cost sprinter. "With all the travels and chilly weather, that’s good training before London Olympics, where I heard that the weather might not be good. There, I’ll be ready to double 100m and 200m even though I prefer the 100m!"

Jimmy Vicaut won the men's race in 10.15 (+1.1) after a 10.18 in heats (-0.6). "I had better sensations in heats and made mistakes in the final," the 2011 World finalist commented. "But this is a good sign a week before the Nationals!"

Vicaut’s training partner Yannick Fonsat lowered his personal best to 45.30 at 400m and beat Jonathan Borlée (45.38).

Pierre-Jean Vazel for the IAAF

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