Dwight Thomas (l) anchoring the victorious Jamaican 4x100m Relay at the Penn Relays. U.S. anchor Tyson Gay was fourth. (Kirby Lee) © Copyright
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Sub-45 for Gonzales, Stewart injured in Sotteville

SottevillelesRouen, FranceJamaicans stole the show in Sotteville-les-Rouen for the 2nd meeting of Alma Athlé Tour circuit on Saturday (12), as Jermaine Gonzales took the 400m in 44.79, Dwight Thomas a very tight 110m Hurdles contest in 13.38 and Mario Forsythe the 100m. But unfortunately, Kerron Stewart pulled a hamstring in the bend of the 200m.

Gonzales needed a long time to catch his breath after he broke the 45sec barrier for the first time since 2006. His 44.79 was a new personal best, a time that only Americans Jeremy Wariner and Angelo Taylor have surpassed this year (44.73 and 44.74, respectively in Rome two days before).

The tall (1.92m, 84kg) Jamaican had a cautious start (reaction time 0.246) in lane 4 and progressively stretched his gap on Leslie Djhone and Taylor, after passing 200 metres in 21.8. He then surged away coming off of the final bend and padded his lead through the finish.

“It was a good race,” said the delighted Gonzales. “I was determined to break my personal best. In Rome I couldn’t finish the race because a camera feel in front of me, and this really disturbed me a lot. Today, my plan was to just stay close and finish hard, because I knew my last 200m is stronger.”

Taylor, second in 45.42, explained how tired he was coming back from Rome. “In Italy, I had a very tough race which took a lot out of me. It was hard to go back to back. I’m now going home to Atlanta to prepare myself for the 400m at the US Nationals.”
Also coming directly from Rome was hurdler Thomas, where he set his season best with 13.31. In Sotteville, he was up against Americans David Payne (13.61 in Rome) and Tyron Atkins (13.43 earlier this month).

Payne had the best start and maintained his lead until the eighth barrier where the three ran virtually even. Atkins seemed to make the decisive move but former flat sprinter Thomas was the quickest in the run in as proved by the photofinish, as all were timed in 13.38 (w+1.5).

“My start was shaky and I made a mistake between hurdles five and seven,” the winner analysed. “The start will be the first thing I will work on back home. The fact that I ran good races while being a little bit flat because of my travels shows that I’m in really good shape. The second part of the season will be good.”

“I felt that I hit the sixth hurdle,” Atkins, the runner-up, said. “It kind of fooled me a little bit, but it’s a consistent race overall against a competitive field.”

Payne, who was credited with third, also found sources of satisfaction in the race. “That’s my best race so far this season, finally my turnover is getting fast. I will have to work on the last part of race, since I couldn’t keep the same speed over the last hurdles.”

The women’s race went to Damu Cherry (USA) in 12.86 (w+2.1), from Anay Tejeda (CUB) 12.92 and Kelli Wells (USA) 12.93.

Hamstring injury to sideline Stewart
Kerron Stewart, the huge favourite in the women’s 200m, violently stopped after 80m, limping and holding her left hamstring. According to the medical team on hand, the Olympic medallist at 100m and 200m will have to take a few weeks off to rest. The surprise winner was the Yuliya Chermoshanskaya from Russia, with 23.02.

“I’m a little bit disappointed with the time, as my season best is 22.93, but I felt my legs were heavy as yesterday I flew from home and then I had to drive 12 hours,” the 24-year-old said. The sprinter certainly has some athletics genes to rely on – her father Igor as a former 110m Hurdles specialist (13.7h) and her mother Galina Malchugina was a former World and European medallist at 200m for USSR/Russia, who is also coaching her in Moscow.

“I train alone with my mother, but from time to time other girls from the national team come to visit us for training camps and learn how she is working.” Before trying to break the family’s record set by her mother (10.96 at 100m, 22.18 at 200m), Chermoshanskaya will work on breaking her personal best of 22.53 in order to perform well at the European Team Championships on 21 June (200m and 4x100m) and try to take one of first two spots at the Russian championships to qualify for August’s European Championships.
Jamaican Mario Forsythe (1.82m, 70kg) led the 100m from the start and won clearly in 10.25 ahead of a trio timed in 10.37 - Aziz Ouhadi, Kim Collins and Lerone Clarke.
Morrocan Amine Laalou confirmed his good shape in winning a tactical 800m race. A 1:43.71 performer this year, he took no risks in Sotteville, running in second through 600 metres before easily taking over the race and clocking 1:45.54, from Kenyan Jackson Mumbwa Kivuna, 1:45.96.

“I planned to stay in this position during the race, but this is just a preparation for the 1500m,” said Laalou, 28. “I entered the 800m race to find some speed.”

Fifth at 1500m at the World Indoor Championships in March, the national record holder at 800m (1:43.25) has firm intentions to smash his personal best (3:31.56) at 1500m, an event he only tried last year.

“My target is to run 3:30, 3:29 this season, and my next race will be a Mile in Eugene (3 July).”

Pierre-Jean Vazel for the IAAF

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