NaimetteXhovémont, BelgiumAs the marquee athlete of the 2nd Meeting de la Province de Liège last night (2 Sep), Maria Mutola made her final track preparation for Friday’s Van Damme 800 metres and its potential million-dollar payoff with the unusual distance of 600 metres.
Unlike last year, when the Mozambican runner came tantalizingly close to Ana Quirot’s world best of 1:22.63, Mutola tonight was being more cautious about throwing herself totally into any kind of record attempt, lest she endanger her chances on Friday.
Off her training partner Kelly Holmes’ pace, Mutola ended with 1:23.13, exactly a half second off the world best. The Paris bronze medallist, Natalya Khrushchelyova was second in 1:23.78.
Holmes continued through to the end and was third (1:25.41), ahead of Mutola’s cousin, Tina Paulino, who was a distant fourth (1:26.75).
“I really didn’t have any time goals tonight. My coach told me to go out and run 55 or 56, and I think that’s about what I hit at the 400,” Mutola said afterwards. “It was good to have this race in preparation for Brussels.”
Regarding Friday, Mutola was trying downplay the media event in her own mind. “It’s the same track, the same race, and the same people. I hope I can put everything together in this last race (of the Golden League).”
In the Men’s 600 metres, Kenya’s Joseph Mutua put on a burst of speed at the end to win in 1:13.72, almost a second off Johnny Gray’s 1:12.81 mark from seventeen years ago.
The cool weather which settled into Paris for the final days of the World Championships followed the athletes northward to Belgium, and the sprint and jump performances were correspondingly affected.
Newly-crowned high jump World champion Jacques Freitag of South Africa moved quickly through the five-competitor field. Already the winner after a 2.24 clearance, the 2.07m-tall Freitag then recorded a first-jump success at 2.30 before taking two shots at a would-be world-leading 2.38.
He reportedly re-aggravated the ankle he broke when jumping in the rain last year, which kept him out of action for a year.
The men’s Long Jump saw Egnatius Gaisah of Ghana, who finished fourth in Paris, come back from a one centimetre deficit against Romania’s Bogdan Tarus to win the event.
Gaisah, who resides in Holland, leaped 8.14 and 8.15 on his final two attempts for an impressive finish on a clammy night. Tarus held second with 7.98, as Joan Martínez of Cuba was just behind with 7.95.
A late addition to the Pole Vault field, Germany’s Tim Lobinger, won the event with 5.70 on a countback against former World champion Dmitry Markov of Australia.
Two hurdlers from the Paris finals last Saturday found a formidable opponent in American Ron Bramlett, who had a small margin midway through the race but did not let up as he pushed all the way to the finish for a 13.51 win.
Chris Phillips, fifth at the Worlds, stayed close with 13.53 and held off a pair of Brazilians, Matheus Inocencio (13.71) and Paris sixth-placer Márcio de Souza (13.73.).
In the women’s race, Jenny Adams of the US, sixth in the World Championships, had a similarly close race, clocking 12.99 to eke out a tight win against France’s Haydy Aron (13.02).
Considering the cool, conditions, the 10.20 win by Marcus Brunson in the Men’s 100 Metres was a notable performance.
A world-leading time came from the men’s 2000 metres, won by Robert Rono of Kenya in 4:57.76 over 19-year-old Isaac Songok (4:58.22). With a third-place 4:58.72, New Zealand’s Adrian Blincoe broke up what would have been a six-man Kenyan phalanx crossing the finish line.
Likewise, the men’s 2000m Steeplechase, being run at the senior level for the first time this season, saw a world-leading time by default. Not surprisingly, Kenyans took the top five places, led by Julius Nyamu in 5:25.47.
In the men’s 5000m, Moses Kigen sprinted out from his fourth-place position at the bell and came home the winner in 13:19.29. His Kenyan countryman, Joseph Kosgei, who had held the lead for most of the final two kilometres, finished second in 13:20.99, with Australia’s Craig Mottram, apparently recovered from a knee injury earlier in the season, right behind in 13:21.52.
Other winners included Natalya Yevkodimova of Russia in the Women’s Mile (4:26.47), Kenyan Elkana Chepsiror in the men’s 800 (1:48.28), and Vida Anim of Ghana in the women’s 100 metres (11.42).