Kevin López (right) wins in Barcelona (Alberto Montenegro) © Copyright
General News Barcelona, Spain

López and Gorbunova impress in Barcelona

Spain’s Kevin López in the men’s 800m and Russia’s Ekaterina Gorbunova in the women’s produced some of the vintage performances at the 17th ‘Míting Internacional d'Atletisme Ciutat de Barcelona’  (EA Premium meeting) last night (22). The event was the held at the ‘Lluís Companys” stadium, the venue of  last year’s  successful European Championships.


There was also an 8.37m PB Long Jump by Morocco’s Yahya Berrabah, while in the 110m Hurdles Cuba’s Olympic champion Dayron Robles hit a barrier hard and finished last.


Massive PBs for López and Olmedo


The men’s 800m featured a high calibre field comprising Sudan’s Olympic silver medallist Ahmed Ismail Ahmed, America’s Tyler Mulder and the Spanish crème including the newly-minted European U-23 European silver medallist Kevin López and Manuel Olmedo, who clinched the 1500m bronze medal on this track at the Europeans.


Kenya’s Daniel Kandie executed a perfect pacesetting task as he led through the opening 400m in 50.90 with the 2006 European champion Bram Som of The Netherlands and Olmedo being the closest while López travelled in seventh also behind Mulder.


With 220m to go Olmedo took the lead and his attack seemed to be decisive but a coming-from-behind López managed to pip him some 30m left to finally grab the win by inches; their respective times of 1:44.49 and 1:44.56 were a new career best for both while Mulder matched his PB of 1:44.83.


On a curious note, both the 21-year-old López and Olmedo, 28, are Seville-born athletes although the latter lives and trains in Soria under the guidance of Enrique Pascual, the coach who led Fermín Cacho to his Olympic 1500m title on this track back in 1992. A long-standing 800m specialist, Olmedo will contest the 1500m event in Daegu.


A joyful López who is also the European Indoor 800m bronze medallist declared: “It was the perfect race for me: ideal pace, no boxing at all, great field…I knew I had a good time in my legs but not that fast. I’ll next compete at the Spanish champs in Málaga (6/7 August) and then straight to Daegu. As for Olmedo, I wouldn’t like to put any pressure on him (laughs) but he should be into the 1500m medal picture at the Worlds”.


Gorbunova takes fantastic 1500m


The relatively unknown Russian Ekaterina Gorbunova (previous PB of 4:07.04) made a major breakthrough last night as she beat a star-studded field including Spain’s Natalia Rodríguez and Britain’s Hannah England among others.


The pacemaker covered the first two laps in 1:03.54 (400) and 2:09.67 (800), an ideal pace for the quality line-up headed by the 22-year-old Gorbunova, fresh from a fourth place at the Moscow city championships a fortnight ago. Once the rabbit dropped out, Gorbunova took command of the race although the rhythm slowed down a bit (3:15.79 the 1200m split). Even so, the Russian had built a 10-metre gap with Kenya’s Mercy Cherono and Spain’s European 1500m champion Nuria Fernández.


Gorbunova found an extra gear over the closing 300m to romp home in a huge career best of 4:01.02, also an European lead so far this season while Spain’s current World indoor silver medallist Natalia Rodríguez finished like a train to clock her fastest time for the last six years, 4:01.50. England sliced more than two seconds from her previous best to clock 4:01.89 for third and behind this trio there were plenty of personal improvements headed by Cherono’s 4:02.31.


Overwhelming 5000m win for Tadese


The men’s 5000m had been billed as a below-13 minute event and the multiple World Half Marathon champion Zersenay Tadese didn’t let down the spectators and got the target. On a statistical note, the 29-year-old Eritrean’s time fell in the short gap between his 12:59.27 PB and the 13:00 barrier as the Madrid-based star clocked 12:59.32.


The race opened a bit slower than expected as the rabbits went through the 2000m point in 5:15.38 to later increase the pace with a frantic 2:32.69 third kilometre (7:48.07 the 3000m split); From then on, a solitude Tadese flew over the blue track to sign another brisk (4th) kilo in 2:33.66. A final 2:37 1000m had led the Eritrean to a new PB but he faltered over the next couples of laps and had finally to settle for an easy win five seconds ahead of Kenya’s Paul Kipngetich Tanui, (13:04.65) while Paul Kipchumba also of Kenya finished third (13:08.01).


The men’s 1500m witnessed a fierce fight to the line between Turkey’s Ilham Tanui Özbilen and Kenya’s Daniel Kipchirchir Komen with the first prevailing in a photo-finish final, 3:32.94 and 3:32.95 being their respective times; the first figure is a European lead for the Kenyan-born athlete, whose old name is William Tanui Biwott; he received Turkish nationality as recently as last month.


Spain’s 2009 European indoor silver medallist Diego Ruiz lowered his PB to 3:33.18 for third while America’s Lopez Lomong managed a season’s best with a 3:33.59 performance.


The win in the men’s Long Jump went to Morocco’s Yahya Berrabah, author of a fine 8.37 (SB) fourth round leap (0.0m/s wind) to better the newly-minted British record holder Chris Tomlinson, who had a best effort of 8.20 in his second try. Spain’s Luis Felipe Meliz took third in a SB of 8.18.


Bulgaria’s Vania Stambolova could not reach the tough 400m Hurdles & 400m flat double she had set herself. The reigning European 400m Hurdles silver medallist first took that event in style thanks to a 54.38 time head and shoulders ahead of Poland’s Anna Jesien (56.39) but she had to settle for fifth in the flat event 80 minutes later in 51.86 behind Britain’s reigning Olympic champion Christine Ohuruogu’s victorious 51.49.  


Jamaicans clinch sprint events


The 100m and 200m witnessed clear wins for two of the seemingly never ending list of talented Jamaicans who perform so brilliantly across the permits worldwide, Yohan Blake, who took the dash in 10:06 ( -1.1m/s) and Steve Mullings, who stamped his authority on the 200m with a 20.17 effort ahead of his countryman Mario Forsythe, runner-up in 20.42.


Meanwhile, the men’s 110m Hurdles saw a surprise winner as the pre-race hot favourite, the World record holder and Olympic champion Dayron Robles hit the seventh barrier to lose any chance of winning. The Cuban ace led the race at that moment but he finally crossed the finish line jogging for last place. Britain’s reigning European champion Andy Turner was successful again in Barcelona with a fine 13.33 clocking (-0.2m/s) for America’s Joel Brown’s 13.40.


Kenya’s Jayrus Birech Kipchoge took the men’s 3000m Steeplechase in 8:13.52 while Spain’s Ángel Mullera smashed his PB to 8:16.47. France’s Mohamed -Khaled Belabbas came third (8:17.87) and Spain’s Tomás Tajadura also managed the ‘A’ qualifying standard for Daegu being timed 8:19.00.


It’s also worth mentioning the national record set by Cuba’s Yarisley Silva in the women’s Pole Vault. The 24-year-old had second-time 4.66m clearance to take the win ahead of Britain’s Kate Dennison, who added one centimetre to her previous best thanks to a first-time 4.61 success.


Emeterio Valiente for the IAAF