Another 2011 victory for ever-young Virgilijus Alekna, this time in London (Mark Shearman) © Copyright
General News Bellinzona, Switzerland

Alekna in fabulous form in Switzerland

Lithuanian discus giant Virgilius Alekna was in the spotlight at the second edition of the Bellinzona International Meeting in the Italian-speaking region of Canton Ticino (5).

Alekna, twice Olympic champion (2000 and 2004) and twice World champion (2003 and 2005), proved once again that he is a force to reckoned with at the age of 40 when he threw the Discus to a fabulous 68.79m, which ranks him third in the world seasonal list behind Robert Harting (70.66) and Piotr Malachowski (68.94).

Alekna, Samsung Diamond League’s Diamond Race winner for the event last year and second last week at the Compeed Golden Gala in Rome, missed the Bellinzona stadium record of 69.84 set by German discus legend Lars Riedel in 1996 during the previous Gran Premio dei Castelli meeting.

Alekna won unopposed ahead of Estonian Mart Israel (63.19) and his countryman Andrius Gudzius (62.90). Alekna backed up this result with two more throws over 66 metres (67.71 in the first attempt before his 68.79 in the second round, 65.37 and 66.83).

“It was a very good competition. I improved my previous seasonal best by 2 metres. I competed for the second time in Bellinzona 15 years after my first appearance in this stadium. It was very nice to compete in this beautiful place”, said Alekna.

Fresh Italian 110 metres hurdles record holder Emanuele Abate, who was a World Indoor Championships finalist in Istanbul, clocked 13.35 to edge another World Indoor finalist and European Junior silver medallist Andrew Pozzi from Great Britain by 0.03. Abate missed his Italian record by 0.03 sec. On 13 May Abate broke the Italian record with 13.32 in Montgeron (France) in the same meeting as Marzia Caravelli set the 100 metres hurdles Italian record with 12.85.

“I feel I have no adrenaline after the Italian record. I need a big competition like the European Championsips in Helsinki to find the motivation again. Turin on Friday will be my last race before Helsinki”, said Abate.

Jones wins but Urech is on the road back from injury

The women’s 100m Hurdles grabbed much of the local interest because of the come-back of Swiss hurdles star Lisa Urech who was sidelined by a serious injury following a successful 2011 season. Urech, a semifinalist at the World Championships in Daegu, lined up against USA’s double World Indoor champion Lolo Jones.

The US star won in 12.87 ahead of Urech who clocked an encouraging 13.08 which is the B qualifying standard for the Olympic Games in London. Last year she set the swiss record and the A qualifier for London with 12.62 in Chaux de Fonds.

Third was Italian Micol Cattaneo who ran 13.10 who missed her fresh seasonal best set in Geneva on Saturday by 0.03 sec.

“It was lovely to compete in such a nice place. It is rare for me to run in this intimate meeting. I am getting better and better in every race and I am pleased by that. I will run in Oslo on Thursday. Bellinzona was a good step towards the US Trials in Eugene”, said Jones, who spent the last few days training in Bellinzona.

Urech who was operated on her hip last October was delighted with her first race since last September. “I was nervous before the race. I am happy that I could run my first race after eight months in front of the home crowd”, said Urech.
Jones warmed up at the start of the meeting running the 100 metres heats where she clocked 11.77. In the women’s 100 metres final US Miki Barber won in 11.43 ahead of Great Britain’s Joyce Maduaka (11.56) with a slight headwind of -0.6 m/s.

The men’s 100 metres win went to Gambia’s Sunneh Suwaibou (born in 1990) in 10.27 with a slight headwind of -0.2 m/s. Second was Abdourahim Haroun who improved the Chad national record with 10.28 beating 2009 European Indoor silver medallist Fabio Cerutti (10.41 after 10.31 in the heats).

US Marcus Boyd took the win in the men’s 400 metres in 46.14 beating Cuban 400 metres hurdles specialist Omar Cisneros (47.99 PB) by just 0.04.

In the women’s High Jump, European Under 23 silver medallist Airine Palsyte from Lithuania cleared 1.88m to beat 2009 World Youth champion Alessia Trost from Italy who had to settle for second place with 1.86 (five cm off her fresh Italian Junior record set in May).

Ukraine’s Olena Zhushman defeated 2009 European Indoor bronze medallist Elisa Cusma in the women’s 800 metres in 2:02.87 to 2:03.22. Kenyan Vickson Polonet won a tactical 1500 metres race in 3:41.17 ahead of Senegal’s Mor Seck (3:41.38) and Italian Abdelah Haidane (3:41.88).

Diego Sampaolo for the IAAF