SottevillelèsRouen, France Christine Arron's national supremacy in the women's sprint was reconfirmed on the final day of the French Championships that took place yesterday, Sunday 18 July.
The day was also marked by the emergence of a new key player in the women's hurdles as well as two new qualifiers for the Olympics, Laurence Manfredi in the women’s Shot put (18.63m) and Kafétien Gomis in the men’s Long Jump (8.21m) in an event where no fewer than 5 men broke the 8m mark.
Hurtis succumbs again
Despite a lighter schedule than her relay team mate, Muriel Hurtis sustained a new defeat against Christine Arron in the 200m, 22.78 to 22.67 while Sylviane Félix finished third in 22.85.
Hurtis tends to lose her posture while struggling to close a racing gap and this time proved no different. However, that doesn't mean that all worked perfectly for Arron either.
”I felt I lost a bit of my coordination in the end, “confirmed Arron. "My pelvis is not stable enough, it's a point I need to work on specifically at training. My time is satisfying considering the number of races I entered - 5 in three days - and these championships were a very good test in the lead up to Athens.”
"All my efforts will be now be focused on the 100m, as it will be the first event I'll compete at in Athens. After that, I feel that I have nothing to lose by also entering the 200m,” declared Arron.
“I don't monitor the performances of my main challengers because it doesn't help," she added. "You don't start training more because X ran a good time. I prepare myself to be competitive and win. After that, if the others are stronger, they are stronger. But I don't blame myself, because I always give all that I have.”
Djhone – 20.67 PB
In the men's event, Leslie Djhone, 5th over 400m at the Paris World Championships, set a personal best of 20.67, which makes him the favourite in his showdown with training partner Marc Raquil, winner of the 400m in 46.21, to be held Friday during the Paris Saint-Denis Golden League meet.
While Djhone admitted having worked more to improve his strength rather than his speed, Raquil deplored his own current lack of speed : "At the moment, I may be worth 21.50 for 200m, which is far from my best of 20.80. If I can get my level down to 21, I'll be more responsive on the full lap.”
Ferga – surprising defeat
The future will tell if the women's 100m Hurdles is undergoing lasting change in its hierarchy as World Indoor bronze medallist Linda Ferga-Khodadin was surprisingly defeated by former junior talent Reina-Flor Okori, 12.85 to 12.71 in a final assisted by a wind of 2.1m/s.
"It is difficult to run with the barrier of the (Olympic qualification) standard in your mind," confessed Okori, who achieved the mark in the heats on Saturday, "so today at the start I was serene, I wasn't frustrated any more. I knew I could beat the others because they don't have my finish.”
Commenting on her strengths, Okori added: "I'm not too powerful, I can't lift 100kg in half-squat, but on the other hand I have very good foot work and technique".
The 24 year-old who accumulated distinctions as a youth athlete (6.30m in the long jump at 16, two participations in the World junior champs in 1996 and 1998, a European junior gold at 100H in 1999) but has also already gone through harder times (surgery to her left Achilles in 1997 and to her right one in 2002), is back on track for world level competition.
Meanwhile, Patricia Girard put an end to her season before the semi-final, as she couldn't content herself with the prospect of a role limited to a reserve in the women's 4x100 squad at the Olympics.
Long Jump – five over 8m
The prize for the most exciting field event of the day goes to the men's Long Jump, where five men – Salim Sdiri 8.23m, Kafétien Gomis 8.21m, Yann Domenech 8.19m, Emmanuel Bangue 8.12 and Frédéric Erin 8.09m – went above 8m, the first time for Gomis and Erin.
While Sdiri and Domenech had already achieved the standard, the prospect of a trip to Greece gave the competitors wings and little known Gomis, 24 years old, a former high jumper (2.07m) who took up the Long Jump four years ago, will get the last ticket.
And of the rest…
1500m - Bouabdellah Tarhi, the steeplechase specialist, showed mastery to wina highly tactical 1500m race (3:45.05), from which Mehdi Baala was exempted due to medical reasons.
Women’s Hammer - Paris 2003 bronze medallist, Manuela Montebrun didn't have any difficulties in winning her event (71.60), but her current performances still remain a bit below par compared to last year.
400m H - After his victory in 49.45, Naman Keita declared his confidence in his progression, admitting that he never used to run two identical races in the past but has now a race plan well anchored in his mind.
Pole Vault - In the absence of Romain Mesnil, who is recovering from a mild calf injury, the Pole Vault offered a close contest between Nicolas Guigon and Damiel Dossevi who both cleared 5.60m, 15 cm too short, though, for a ticket to Athens.
Javelin – The title went to David Brisseault with a 77.88m throw in an event won by New Zealand's Stuart Farquahar (78.04).
Women's 3000m steeple - Elodie Olivares, winner of the Euro Cup in Bydgoszcz, won easily in 9:48.81.
Solène Désert was the fastest in the women's 400m (51.61), while Sylvanie Morandais took the 400H in 57.06 and Christelle Daunay the 5000m in 15:55.42.
Following the victory of her brother in the men’s Shot Put, Gaelle Niaré dominated the women's High Jump with 1.89m, while Heptathlete Marie Collonville could only clear 1.79m, nine centimetres below her season's best, for third place.
Denis Langlois and Tatiana Denize took the men's and women's 20km walks in 1:24:38 and 1:36:21, respectively.
The next big date for the French elite will be the Paris Saint-Denis Golden League meet on Friday 23, the last opportunity to achieve the Olympic standards, before the announcement of the final team for Athens on Saturday morning.
Carole Fuchs for the IAAF
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