Giuseppe Gibilisco celebrates winning the men's pole vault (Getty Images) © Copyright
General News Rovereto, Italy

Last tune-up for some World Athletics Final stars before Monaco

Victories by World Pole Vault Champion Guiseppe Gibilisco and 800m man Andrea Longo, and an upset win by Andrea Blackett of Barbados over Sandra Glover in the women’s 400m hurdles highlighted the 39th international EAA Permit meeting in Rovereto's intimate Stadio Quercia last night (10 September).

All four athletes along with much of the rest of the star cast in Rovereto will feature in the IAAF World Athletics Final in Monaco’s Stade Louis II, this weekend (13 & 14 September).

Blackett takes suprise win

Just three days ago in Rieti, Paris silver medallist Sandra Glover ran down World record holder Yuliya Pechonkina in a near PB 53.34, and in Rovereto, it was the 27 year-old Blackett's turn to do the same to Glover. The 1998 Commonwealth champion from Barbados, Blackett stunned the American with a strong surge off the final hurdle to win in 53.71, winning by 8/100s in the fourth fastest time of the season.

"I'm really happy that I've been able to get back into the shape I was in three or four years ago," said Blackett, whose PB of 53.36 dates back to the 1999 World Championships, where she finished fourth. "I've been injured, I've been sick, in 2000 I got chicken pox. I'm just thrilled to finally be back in that shape. Training has indicated that I was in this kind of shape, and I knew it was just a matter of time."

Blackett, who ran a best of just 56.95 in last season, was sixth in Paris on the heels of a bronze-winning performance at the Pan American Games last month, but followed up with a fourth place finish in Brussels last week and could only manage a fifth place finish in Rieti on Sunday. But her strong performance here, one that broke Glover's year-old meeting record, has lifted her hopes as this weekend's World Athletics Final approaches.

"I'm excited," Blackett said, who trains at Rice University in Houston. "I'm glad I was able to go under 54 here today, I'm confident, and I just hope I can put together another good one (in Monaco)."

Gibilisco and Longo confident wins prior to Monaco

The 24 year-old Gibilisco, who became an instant sporting hero in Italy after his World Championship Pole Vault win, thrilled the capacity crowd with a third attempt clearance of 5.80, breaking Ivo Yanchev's nine year-old meeting record by 15 cm.  It was his second win in three days.

Longo, who finished fifth in the World Championships 800m, was run down by South African Hezekiel Sepeng in Rieti on Sunday, after the Italian took the lead with 180m to go. This time, he used the same finishing tactic, but was able to hold off the homestretch challenge of Kenyan Michael Rotich to win by 13/100s in 1:45.11.

 Alone from the bell after a sub-57 second first lap, European champion Jolanda Ceplak won the women's two-lapper with ease in 1:58.26, but the Slovenian, still on the rebound from an Achilles injury that kept her out of the 800m in Paris, didn't have enough in reserve to challenge the oldest women's Rovereto meeting record, Romanian Fita Lovin's 1:57.69 which was set 22 years ago. Tina Paulino (MOZ) was a distant second in 2:00.50, with Brigita Langerholc of Slovenia third in 2:01.32.

20 year-old Jamaican Asafa Powell notched his third consecutive win since his false start disqualification in the Paris quarter final. Running into a negative 1.5 mps wind, Powell clocked 10.33.

”I think in the next meet, I can go under ten [seconds]," said Powell, who beat a strong field in Brussels last weekend in a PB 10.02.

Upshaw uplift prior to World Athletics Final

American Long Jump champion Grace Upshaw put together her most consistent performance of the year to win with a 6.73 leap, a seasonal best that placed her on the verge of the season's top ten.  She was already one of  the automatic qualified athletes for the World Athletics Final.

"Everything was perfect tonight, the crowd, the conditions, everything was great," said Upshaw.  Eighth in Paris after a disappointing 6.47 leap, Upshaw said she's enjoying the relaxed pace after the World Championships. "I'm kind of on cruise control after worlds.  Maybe I should take that attitude to worlds next time."

2001 World Champion Fiona May, who jumped 6.67 in Firenze in June before finishing 9th in Paris (6.46), reached 6.32, finishing fourth.

Elsewhere, Paris fifth-placer and Monaco bound Chris Phillips fought off Brazilian Marcio de Souza's finishing lunge to win the 110m hurdles by 3/100s in 13.43, Kenyan Pius Muli pulled out a narrow 2/100s win over compatriot Joseph Mwangi in 13:15.09, Zakia Mrisho of Tanzania used a strong final 200m to win the 3000m in 8:59.97 over European junior champion Inna Poluskina, and Russian Yaroslav Rybakov won the High Jump on the countback with 2.26 leap.