Salim Sdiri long jumping at the 2009 Meeting Lille Metropole meeting (AFP / Getty Images) © Copyright
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Sdiri steps back from sickness to recapture fine vein of form in Lille

Villeneuve d’Asc, FranceSalim Sdiri confirmed his fine shape in winning the Long Jump with 8.17m (nil wind) during the Meeting Lille Metropole, a European Athletic Premium Outdoor Meeting and 3rd leg of the Alma Athlé Tour, the French professional circuit on Tuesday (30 June).

The Meeting Lille Metropole 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 12-13 September in Thessaloniki, Greece.

“I’m super happy because I’ve been struggling for one week”, Sdiri explained. Having under-performed at the European Team Championships in Leiria (only 7th with 7.74, his worst competition of the season), he came back from Portugal with a flue.

“I was sick with high fever, and took antibiotic from Wednesday. I wanted to cancel my participation here. Yet, I managed to sleep and recover during the last couple of nights, so I told myself to use this meet as a workout since I had lost training in the recent days.”

With his fine series (7.75, 8.00, 8.17, 8.10, x, 6.16), the Frenchman completely reassured himself regarding his shape and was enough to beat Australian Mitchell Watt (8.15 with +0.5 wind).

“I’m satisfied of my physical conditions. I just missed about 8.30 because my 8.10 jump wasn’t executed properly”. This might indicated that in spite of the flue Sdiri didn’t lose much of the power he had when he broke the French Record on 12 June with 8.42, taking the 3rd place on the 2009 World Lists behind Dwight Phillips (8.74) and Irving Saladino (8.63).

“This jump was a relief because I produced a lot of good jumps, and I knew I had 8.40-8.50 in my feet, from my foul jumps in competition. I was tired of missing those jumps, so the 8.42 was a validation.”

With the exception of Leiria, Sdiri, 30, has landed over 8m on the other 6 competitions he has taken part, making the 2009 his best season ever so far.

“My mean performance this year is high, with a good consistency. I also try to deliver good jumps from the beginning of the competition, in order to prepare for the World Championships qualification (15-23 August in Berlin), where there is only three attempts. I showed that I’m able to perform well in consecutive meetings, and this will be required in Berlin with the qualification and final competitions.”

“This season is my revenge after my accident (Sdiri was hit by a Javelin in 2007 in Rome). It was hard to comeback and deal with the physical injuries and the administrative issues, but I qualified for the Olympics last year, and this season I’m at the top. I’m now enjoying every competition and I have the rage.”

Salim Sdiri will now jump at the Mediterranean Games in Pescara (2 July), then in Lausanne (7) and Rome (10).

Good crowd - fast sprinting

The great weather attracted 13,500 spectators in Stadium Nord, which produced plenty of good level performances. Indeed, the men’s sprints offered a tough dual between Stephan Buckland (MRI) and Brendan Christian (ANT). Buckland, 32, four days after his 10.21 in Nancy, approached his 8 years old National Record (10.13) with 10.15. Less than one hour later, the photo finish couldn’t separate the two sprinters, as they both crossed the finish line in 20.33 (w+0.5).

The 400m race in Villeneuve d’Ascq race was a repeat of that which occurred in Nancy, with Gary Kikaya, African Record Holder taking the best from French Record Holder Leslie Djhone at the beginning of the race. However, the French provided more resistance in the homestretch and pushed Kikaya to 45.30. Djhone, with 45.47, set the World Championships qualification standard requested by his Federation.

“This is only my second competition this year, but I’m not behind my schedule. Now I have some work to do in order to run under 45sec in Paris (Areva Meeting, ÅF Golden League 17 July),” he said.

Already qualified for Berlin with his 13.44sec in Nancy, 2005 World 110m Hurdles champion Ladji Doucouré was deceived by his performance of the day. The author of the worst reaction time of the race (0.179), the Frenchman forced all the way through the finish to win in 13.62. “I was caught by surprise by the fast gun and my start was catastrophic,” he commented.

Mekhissi-Benabbad beats Tahri over 1500

3000m Steeplechase specialists Bouabdellah Tahri (former European Record holder) and Mahiedine Mekhissi-Benabbad (Olympic silver medallist) lined-up for the 1500m, the last event of the evening. Opening on a slow pace, the race turned into a tactical game as the pacemakers led the pack in 2:26 for the first kilometre, five seconds slower than the requested time. Both athletes showed great shape this week-end, Tahri improving his European Best at 2000m Steeple (5:15.36) and Mekhissi-Benabbad making impressive debut at 1000m (2:17.14). However, in Villeneuve d’Ascq, the later used his superior top speed to produce a superb finish and win in 3:36.22, from Tahri 3:36.40.

Russian women dominated the vertical jumps. Viktoriya Klyugina-Slivka high jumped 1.95, while Aleksandra Kiruashova (4.62) defeated Pole Vault favourite Tatyana Polnova (4.55). Romanian Daniela Grasu threw all her six Discus attempts over 60m, with the best measured at 63.04. Emily Freeman took the 200m in 22.79 from Muriel Hurtis-Houairi, 23.37, and cindy Billaud won the 100m hurdles with 12.97.

P-J Vazel for the IAAF

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