Jacques Freitag in action (Getty Images) © Copyright
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European season recommences with Liège meeting

Barely 48 hours after the flags are lowered at the Stade de France, the invitational season will resume once again on Tuesday evening with the second edition of the Meeting International d’Athlétisme de la Province de Liège, held in the stadium of the Wallonian town of Naimette-Xhovémont. 

The meeting organizers have built on the success of last year’s inaugural meeting with an impressive line up of stars from thirty-three countries who are slowly making the trip from Paris to nearby Brussels for Friday night’s Van Damme Meeting.

As it was last year, the headline event will be the rarely-contested Women’s 600 Metres, which features all three world championship 800 Metres medallists from Paris.  Led by world champion Maria Mutola, who will use the race as a warmup for her “million-dollar run” in Brussels, the athletes will attack the world best time of 1:22.63, clocked by Cuba’s Ana Quirot six years ago in Guadalajara, Spain. 

Mutola will be joined by Britain’s Kelly Holmes and Natalya Khrushchelyova of Russia.

Last year, the Mozambican runner just missed a world best with 1:22.87, but this season, she appears capable of an even faster time.

The men will also contest the 600 Metres, with Kenyans Joseph Mutua and Gregory Konchellah—the son of former world champion Billy—leading the attack, along with Burundi’s Patrick Nduwimana.  The listed world best is 1:12.81, run by American Johnny Gray in Santa Monica seventeen years ago. 

Continuing with unusual events, a Men’s 2000 Metres Steeplechase will be staged, with Kenyans Kipkurui Misoi and Julius Nyamu trying to better the 13-year-old standard of 5:14.43 by their countryman, Julius Kariuki. 

Additional distance events include the Men’s 2000 Metres, with 19-year-old Kenyan standout Isaac Songok and his countryman, Benjamin Kipkurui, plus the Men’s 5000 Metres, with Ethiopia’s Hailu Mekonnen and former steeple world-record holder Bernard Barmasai of Kenya. 

Paris silver medallist Terrence Trammell of the US, now with his injuries seemingly in the background, will lead the Men’s 110 Hurdles against another Paris finalist, Márcio de Souza of Brazil, plus Commonwealth champion Shaun Bownes of South Africa and fellow American Ron Bramlett.  

The Women’s 100 Hurdles will feature Paris and Edmonton finalist Jenny Adams of the US, plus Sydney heptathlon winner Denise Lewis of Great Britain.  Also in the field is Marie-Joëlle Conjugo of the Central African Republic. 

Marie-Joëlle Conjugo???  Mais, oui.  You may not remember her face from her brief appearance (and national record) in Paris, but you certainly have seen her well-waxed loins if you have gazed upon the Paris Championships poster.

World champion Jacques Freitag will head the Men’s High Jump field, also to include Paris finalists Germaine Mason of Jamaica, and American Matt Hemingway. 

The Men’s Pole Vault will offer reigning Olympic champion Nick Hysong of the US, plus former world champion Dmitry Markov of Australia and Paris bronze medallist Okkert Brits of South Africa.  Other jumpers include World Indoor bronze winner Rens Blom of Holland and last year’s winner Viktor Chistyakov, also of Australia.  

A resident of neighbouring Holland, Ghanian long jumper Egnatius Gaisah, the fourth-place finisher in Paris, will highlight that event, as will Chryste Gaines in the Women’s 100 Metres.