Kim Gevaert wins the 100m in Heusden (Nadia Verhoft) © Copyright
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Gevaert takes emphatic double, while two go under 13mins in 5000m in Heusden

HeusdenZolder, BelgiumIt was a cracking start for another great ‘KBC Night of Athletics’ - IAAF Grand Prix II -  as local heroine Kim Gevaert blasted through the finish in the women’s 100m in 11.12 seconds to set a national record in the very first event of the evening yesterday.

Gevaert’s record breaking race was followed by world class performances in the men’s and women’s 5000m; 11 steeplechasers crossed the line inside 8:20; Gary Kikaya (COD) dived under 45 seconds on the 400m; Chaunte Howard (USA) produced another 2.00m High Jump.

“This is more than we could dream of”, admitted a delighted meeting organiser Christophe Impens, “I know that Paul Eerdekens (former meeting director who died of cancer in January this year) is watching from heaven and that he will be very proud of how his meeting turned out tonight.”

Gevaert lifts the atmoshere from the start

Emma Ania (GBR) and Beverly Mc Donald (JAM) were destroyed by the meteoric acceleration of Gevaert in the first part of the 100m. “Of course I’m extremely happy to win in front of my fans. The track is fast and the conditions were nearly ideal. Finally, I was able to convert my progress in a solid official result” said Gevaert after her 11.12 win. “I feel that I can even do better, because I had a few strides in the finishing part of the race that felt like stumbling.”

Gevaert also claimed victory in the 200m in 22.82, leaving Peta-Gaye Dowdie (JAM) and Lauren Hewitt (AUS) way behind. But she came in struggling a bit in the last metres. “Don’t forget that I’m trying to cope with a hamstring problem. I guess it was on my mind a little bit when I stepped into the blocks for the second time.”

“Today, my injury didn’t disturb me at all, but I’ll have to wait and see the next days. I will only decide next week about my World Championships programme. After all, to deal with the different rounds in a tournament is the most difficult exercise to imagine in our sport.”

In the men’s 100m, Coby Miller win with 10.16, two hundreds ahead of Churandy Martina (AHO), while the 200m was taken by Leo Bookman (USA) in a seasonal best of 20.35, with Martina coming in second in 20.39.

Wigene wins 5000m from the front

The 5000m is always a special event at the KBC Night of Athletics. In the women’s race, it was Norwegian Susanne Wigene who boldly took to the front when the pacemakers dropped out at the 3000m mark. With Kenyans and Ethiopians including Gete Wami following, you wouldn’t have bet much on the winning chances of the tiny Norwegian. Still, in the last lap, the blonde athlete from IK Tjalve out-sprinted them all, and for the second time in her career broke the 15 minutes mark to win in 14:57.21.

“I really am in good shape, front running didn’t disturb me at all tonight. I have always been fast in the last lap and I was confident that I could win today’s race off the lead. Indeed, I have made a huge progress over the last two years and that is the result of many years of hard work and training. I’ve also been in 1500m and in Steeplechase running over the last years, but the 5000m will always be my favourite distance.”

Asian record

In the men’s race, Wigene’s compatriot Marius Bakken ran at the back of the leading pack with three laps to go but then started fading a little. Moukhled Al-Outaibi (KSA) and Hicham Bellani (MAR) were at that stage starting to crank up the pace.

The Saudi got his act together properly in the last lap with a 57 seconds circuit of the track and finished in a new Asian record of 12:58.58, with Bellani also nipping under 13mins with 12:59.67. Kenyan Shadrack Kosgei was third in 13:01.06. In all, seven went under 13:10, with Bakken the last of these in 13:07.63.

“This was my ideal race," said Al-Outaibi. "I ran 13:08 in the Paris Golden League the other day, but I passed in Bekele’s slipstream in 7:39 at the 3000m mark. That was too fast for me."

" I won two medals in the Asian Games in 2002, but I was struck by injuries in the next two years. My coach Sa'ad Shaddad Al-Asmari won a World Championship bronze medal in the steeplechase and I want to win a medal for my country too in Helsinki.”

Kikaya demonstrates highly competitive form

The men’s 400m was set up to offer local Cedric Van Branteghem the occasion to qualify for the World Championships - which he did. Leonard Byrd (USA) went off extremely fast from lane 7, but in the home straight it was Gary Kikaya (COD) who powered through to impressively win in 44.91.

“I’m in good shape and I was in control of the race all the time. In the 400m you have to save energy in order to be strong in the final stages. When you go into the Worlds, there is no alternative but running below 45 seconds if you want to be competitive,” explained Kikaya.

The men’s 800m was surprisingly won on aggregate (across the two races) by Kenyan Cosmas Rono who set a massive personal best of 1:45.24 in the B-heat, while Jason Stewart (NZL) had to settle with a 1:46.19 win in the A-heat.

The women’s 800m was a French affair with Sandrine Thiebaut setting the pace for her team mates Grousselle and Fouquet who came in as first and second. Grousselle showed the stronger stamina and pulled away from the pack to finish in 2:00.84.

Misoi operates with locomotive force in the steeple

With 25 athletes on the start list there was no way the 3000m Steeplechase would take off at a moderate pace. Soon a group of Kenyans were ensuring a pace that in the end would bring the leading group home in around 8:10. However, the latter stages of the race also saw Europeans Pröll (AUT), Vroemen (NED) and Van Koolwyk (BEL) make up ground on the African leaders.

Misoi (KEN) had the talent, the experience and the authority to dictate the race and stacked up the pace gradually and finished a clear winner in 8:08.15. His compratiot David Chemweno was rewarded with a PB of 8:09.09 in his slipstream. The 16-year-old World Youth champion Tareq Mubarak Taher from Bahrain set a stunning national record of 8:16.26 for the distance. The locomotive force of Misoi caused 9 athletes to break their personal performances and another 6 athletes to improve their seasonal best performances.

The 1500m A-race was paced through the 800m in 1:52, with Robert Rono (KEN) and Adrian Blincoe (NZL) the leaders. But it was Wednesday’s Liège winner Elkanah Angwenyi (KEN) who made an irresistible move in the last 150m to take the overall win in 3:35.41. After Paul Hamblyn (NZL) won the 1500m B-race in 3:38.07,

Howard soars over 2m again

When she’s above the bar, there seems to be a moment without gravity, like an eagle flying above a rock. The ease, with which Chaunte Howard cleared all her heights including the magical 2.00m, was once more staggering, while fellow American champion Amy Acuff needs to get her marks right if she wants to become a major contender in Helsinki.

More American success came in the Triple Jump and the Pole Vault with Walter Davis hop, step and jumping to 16.57m, and Timothy Mack confirming his status as Olympic Pole Vault champion, after a difficult season in which he has missed selection for the World Championships, by beating a strong field with a 5.70m clearance.

Jo Van Daele (BEL) had the longest Discus throw of the evening, but the 33-year-old threw 60cm short off the qualifying mark for Helsinki and that made him a disappointed winner with 62.40m.

The Hammer Throw was won on Friday evening (22 July) by Betthany Hart (USA) with 64.72m, in the absence of the best Cubans. The Cuban federation wouldn’t allow any of their Helsinki team members to travel to Heusden and compete so little time before the championships.

Organisers are happy and proud

“We have respected the spirit of the meeting as it has been designed 25 years ago by Paul Eerdekens,” said Christophe Impens with a sigh of relief. “The Night of Athletics has two main objectives. The first is to offer Belgian athletes an occasion to bring the best out of them in a highly competitive environment. Today Rans, Van Branteghem, Van Koolwyk, Desmet and Mourhit qualified for the Belgian World Championships team. The other goal is to build a competitive line up in all events on the track and on the field. We proved that today as well.”

The Paul Eerdekens Trophy for the best national performance of the evening was awarded to Krijn Van Koolwyk, who finished 9th in the 3000m steeplechase in a personal best of 8:17.11.

Ivo Hendrix for the IAAF

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