Paris, FranceWith a 45.85 performance, Leslie Djhone broke an 18-year-old 400m national record to highlight the French Indoor Championships in Paris over the weekend.
Other highlights included a strong battle in the men’s Long Jump between Salim Sdiri (8.24m) and Kafétien Gomis (8.21m), Renaud Lavillenie’s 5.85m clearance in the Pole vault, and Ladji Doucouré’s 7.58 in the 60m Hurdles to illustrate their ambitions as the World Indoor Championships in Doha approach.
Djhone surpasses Diagana
(46.02) held by Stéphane Diagana with 45.85 to highlight the French Indoor Championships in Paris this week-end.
Coming into Paris, the defense of his national indoor title was clearly not the target for Djhone, a five-time Olympic and World finalist at 400m. Last year, the outdoor national record holder (44.46) missed by a mere 0.04sec the mark of 46.02 set in 1992 by Stéphane Diagana, the European 400m Hurdles record holder, in the same Palais Omnisport de Paris Bercy venue.
After an easy 46.56 in the Saturday’s heats, he went for a chase against the clock the next day. Curiously, Djhone passed at the half way in 21.80, exactly as fast as in 2009. He really made the difference in the last 100m to dip under 46sec (45.85) and win with a large margin over Nicolas Fillon who clocked 46.89.
“I came here because I lost my bet to break the record for my first race, two weeks ago in Reims,” where he clocked 46.12, Djhone said. “I told myself that if I wasn’t able to break this record this winter, It would be impossible to break the European Record outdoors (44.33 by East German Thomas Schönlebe since 1987). It’s encouraging for the coming season which is my main target, that’s why I won’t run in Doha.”
Djhone’s last indoor race is planned for Friday in Liévin at 300m. However, his training mate Virginie Michanol took the women’s race, smashing her personal best with 52.90 and will go to Doha.
Sdiri and Gomis – a formidable 1-2 punch in Doha?
Among the highlights on Saturday came in the men’s Long Jump where Salim Sdiri and Kafétien Gomis emerged as the season’s top-two jumpers, with leaps of 8.24m and 8.21m respectively. Sdiri, the national record holder with 8.27m (and 8.42m outdoors), was the clear favourite as Gomis’ performances were sub-par so far in 2010. Sdiri opened with 8.03m and improved to 8.24m on his second attempt. He then took risks to go further and jumped 7.84m, fouled twice and then 8.13m to confirm his lead. Meanwhile, Gomis leaped a 7.96m on his first, and then fouled four times in a row.
Unexpectedly, he produced a good take-off on his final chance and threatened Sdiri’s position. His jump was measured at 8.21, a new personal best. “I hope to take my revenge in Doha!” laughed Gomis after the competition. “I had a difficult start yet I tried to enter in the competition. This season was special because I just changed towns and coach, so I came here with a lack of references due to my new environment. Since I came back from a US training camp two weeks ago, I felt dizzy and had insomnia, but strangely enough, I felt good today. My body had the need to express itself, I guess.”
Sdiri also arrived in Paris in a questionable form. “I fell over a hurdle at training a week ago which cracked my wrist and elbow,” Sdiri said, referring to a huge bandage on his left arm. “Before the accident, my training was great as the speed test showed that I had never been that fast on my run-up. After that, I couldn’t train and managed to move my arm only a couple of days ago. It was a relief and I thought I was going to smash my national record.”
“Yet, I’m not fully ready” Sdiri continued, “as I have to correct the latest part of my run-up, as today I was too low and over-striding before my take-off. I know I can jump much farther, but in Doha, I won’t care, if I can win with 7.60 that’ll be just fine!”
Mesnil 5.85, tries 6.01m
The men’s Pole Vault was supposed to stage a duel between Romain Mesnil and Renaud Lavillenie, respectively the silver and bronze medallists in Berlin in August. Mesnil, 32, had usually defeated the newcomer, 23, who jumped 6.01m last June.
However, Mesnil was not a factor in Bercy and eventually placed fourth with 5.50m. Lavillenie cleared this height at his second attempt and let Jerome Clavier and Damiel Dossevi attempt at 5.60m. Neither of those two managed to jump 5.70m, while Lavillenie needed three tries. Having got a rid of his rivals, he mastered a 5.85m bar, and ended the competition with three unsuccessful tries at 6.01m.
“At last I got the French title!” said the new champion. “I had a difficult debut here because I did silly mistakes, using poles that were too soft. It could have caused real troubles in a major event. At 6.01, I took a harder pole, but my run-up was slower, though I had two good attempts. My target is now to maintain my shape until Doha and before that I will take part to two meetings with the aim to be steady at 5.80m.”
Ladji Doucouré confirmed once again that he is a real threat for major championships. Having run only 7.68 in Boston and 7.65 in Birmingham, the 2005 World 110m Hurdles champion and 4x100m Relay was unsure about a victory here.
But as early as the first heat, Doucouré sent a signal of his newfound form with a 7.61 clocking. Garfield Darien took the second heat in 7.66. In the final, Darien lowered his personal best to 7.62, only to push Doucouré to a 7.58 season best.
“I planned to get in shape for the nationals, and now I hope I’ll get faster in Liévin on Friday and again in Doha. I’m still trying to improve my start, because I’m still one tenth off what is required to battle against the very best,” said Doucouré, who has held the national record of 7.42 since 2005.
Darien found that there is still room for improvement in his race. “My start was not great, I didn’t attack the first hurdle, and unfortunately the lane draw didn’t place me side to side with Ladji. My preparation was delayed due to adductor problems and this was only my second competition, so I’m looking forward to run under 7.60.”
The men’s Triple Jump didn’t fulfill expectations until the last attempt. That’s the moment Teddy Tamgho managed to produce a decent attempt, with 17.01m.
“I felt a slight tightness in my back during the warm-up and I couldn’t let it go until the end, I had to overcome the pain to take the title.” Tamgho lead briefly until Colomba Fofana, who was sixth at that point with 16.65m, jumped 17.16m to take the title.
“I took a lot of time to find the proper rhythm on this track,” said Fofana, 32. “The crowed pushed me to give my best and I jumped with my heart. Going to Doha was not in my plans, but I will consider the option now.”
The men’s 60m provided the first-ever meeting between Ronald Pognon, the national record holder with 6.45, and Christophe Lemaitre, the national junior record holder with 6.64 last year, and who ran 6.55 two weeks ago. Pognon led at the start (reaction time 0.134) but was outrun by his rival from the half-way, who crossed the line in 6.56 with a 0.05 margin.
“I give my all to take my first indoor title”, said the 19-year-old. “I knew I had to post a fast time to win. Liévin will be my last competition, I won’t go to Doha in order to prepare the outdoor season and work on my start and acceleration.”
The women’s race was even closer. Myriam Soumaré was the favourite after her 7.19 personal best set in Stuttgart, but attention was equally focused on Véronique Mang’s comeback, underlined by a 7.21 in the heats. Soumaré’s reaction to the gun was poor (0.234) compared to Mang (0.160), but she caught Mang at 30 metres. They were virtually inseparable at the finish, both clocking 7.21, but the photo declared Soumaré as the winner.
Antoinette Nana Djimou Ida scored 4633 points in the Heptathlon only missed the national record held by Marie Collonvillé by 11 points. She lost a ground during the last event, only running 2:23.72 at 800m, after her 8.11 (PB) in the 60m Hurdles, 1.81m (PB) in the High Jump, 13.78m in the Shot Put and 6.43m (1cm off her PB) in the Long Jump.
“I started to have cramps during the shot put, and during the remaining events I was asking myself how I will be able to finish the day,” said Djimou, who will be in the field in Doha. “I made my usual mistake to go out too fast in the 800m and completely faded at the end. I hope to break the record in Doha.”
Laurence Manfredi took the shot put with a 17.46m toss, which was her 30th national title indoors and outdoors.
Pierre Jean Vazel for the IAAF
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