Paul Kipsiele Koech sets World lead in Heusden (Nadia Verhoft) © Copyright
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Paul Kipsiele Koech sets World leading 8:00.57, Hellebaut jumps 2.00m in Heusden-Zolder

Zolder, BelgiumPaul Kipsiele Koech only dropped off World record pace in the last two laps of the 3000m Steeplechase and set a World leading performance of 8:00.57 in cool and windy conditions.

The women’s steeplechase turned into an American duel won by Jennifer Barringer in a national record of 9:22.73 against 9:22.76 for Anna Willard. In the 5000m, won by Mourad Marofit of Morocco in 13:02.84, no less than 10 athletes finished inside 13:10.00.

The local crowd was delighted by victories of Tia Hellebaut, who won the High Jump with a season best of 2.00m and of Kim Gevaert who defeated a strong field in the 100m in 11.20.

The KBC Night of Athletics is one of a select group of Area meetings at which points can be acquired by athletes to qualify for the IAAF / VTB Bank World Athletics Final, to be held on 13-14 September in Stuttgart, Germany.

Paul Kipsiele Koech raises the level

The pace in the 3000m Steeplechase was perfectly set by James Kosgei and by Tareq Mubarak Taher who crossed the 2000m mark in 5:17. Then Paul Kipsiele Koech was left alone in a fight against the clock, with the following group 120m behind. The Kenyan finished just outside a magical barrier in 8:00.57, the best performance in the world in 2008.

“It was tough to race in these rather chilly and windy conditions, but I am very happy with this performance,” said Koech.

Barringer sets American record in the 3000m steeplechase

The women’s steeplechase was a spectacular race that turned into an all American battle. Jennifer Barringer and Anna Willard made it the closest possible finish in a breathtaking sprint duel.

Willard set a personal best of 9:22.76, but lost her national record to Barringer who ran 9:22.73.

“I’m fine with that”, said Willard. “Just after the race I felt a bit angry, but Jennifer is a great competitor and I take a lot of confidence out of this race. I was running in the lead for quite some time today and that affected my finishing speed. I’m in great shape and, going into the Olympics, I know that I’m capable of running 9:15 now. I have more focus and more drive now than I’ve ever had in my sporting career.”

Barringer was very excited about her performance: “I was disappointed after being beaten at the Trials, but I was very relaxed today, the pressure was off and I felt very comfortable. I came into steeplechasing 3 years ago and I have to credit my coaches for these results. I’m going to Beijing now and I will try to run as confident there as I did today. I’m very happy about my kick in this race and that’s what’s going to make the difference in the Olympics.”

Gevaert and Hellebaut set the stadium on fire

The crowd of 7000 in Heusden-Zolder mainly turned out to cheer their local stars and they indeed lived up to the expectations. Kim Gevaert is gradually building up her form and faced a strong field in the 100m. She didn’t seem disturbed by two false starts and stormed to the lead and into the finish in 11.20, into a slight headwind. Chandra Sturrup from the Bahamas came in second in 11.24, just ahead of Carmelita Jeter and Me’lisa Barber from the USA.

“The pain in my Achilles tendon is under control now and my confidence is growing. It was a very tough and difficult race today, I’m glad I’ve won it. The crowd is great, I thank them very much,” said Gevaert.

Tia Hellebaut scored an equally emphatic win in the High Jump. Hellebaut dominated the field and impressively cleared the bar at 2.00m, a season best performance.

“This boosts my confidence. Every athlete wants to be at her very best at the Olympics and that’s what I’m trying to focus on as well,” said Hellebaut. The Belgian fans had a lot to cheer tonight as twin brothers Kevin and Jonathan Borlée finished one and two in the 400m in 45.67 and 45.79 respectively.

Marofit the stronger finisher in high level 5000m

The 5000m is a classic event at the KBC Night of Athletics and that was proved once more this year. A compact field of 13 athletes went into the ultimate stages of the race and ultimately it was Mourad Marofit of Morocco who emerged in the last 200m to win the race in 13:02.84, ahead of Levy Matebo from Kenya and the surprisingly strong Monder Rizki.

The Belgian Rizki was carried by the crowd to a massive PB of 13:04.06 and that will likely earn him an Olympic ticket. The fact that 10 athletes finished inside 13:10.00 and 17 crossed the line inside 13:20.00 just illustrates the exceptional level of the race tonight.

With 49.70 at the bell, the 800m promised something special and Gary Reed was in the mood to make that happen. The Canadian pulled away from the pack like a rocket in the finishing straight to win in a season best of 1:44.46. Ismail Ahmed Ismail from Sudan came in second in 1:44.71 and Nadjim Manseur was third in 1:44.83.

Morgan and Yanit in the winning mood

After winning in Luzern Uceny Morgan also won the 1500m in Heusden-Zolder. The American overtook Mimi Belete in the ultimate stages of the race to win in 4:07.22. Belete is an Ethiopian refugee who lives in Belgium and who is bidding to become a Belgian citizen. The 20-year-old Belete shaved another 2 seconds of her PB to post 4:07.36.

Nevin Yanit, already a winner in Liège this week, confirmed her current form winning the 100m Hurdles in 12.76 ahead of Aurelia Trywianska from Poland in 12.81. In the men’s 1500m it looked as if Daniel Kipchirchir Komen had won, but he was finally beaten down by Algerian Nabil Madi who set a PB of 3:34.53.

Lashinda Demus won the 400m Hurdles in 55.85 and John Capel was the fastest man on the track in winning the 100m in 10.14. Shalonda Solomon from the USA was flying in the 200m that she won in 22.67.

On the infield Damiel Dossevi (FRA) won the Pole Vault with 5.65m, Dylan Armstrong (CAN) was the best in the Shot Put with 20.58m and Dana Veldakova (SVK) won the Triple Jump with 14.10m.

Ivo Hendrix for the IAAF

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