Blanka Vlasic in Gothenburg (Getty Images) © Copyright
General News Doha, Qatar

Vlasic impresses, sprint double for Felix in Doha - IAAF World Athletics Tour

Tonight's Qatar IAAF World Super Tour 2007 which is part of the IAAF World Athletics Tour 2007 lived up to all the expectations, with a half dozen meeting records, world leading marks and three valiant attempts at a World record by ‘athlete of the meet’ Blanka Vlasic.

The two-time World Junior champion put on a master class in high jumping for the packed stadium at the Qatar Sport Club in Doha, and that was despite the presence of her current nemesis, Tia Hellebaut.
The Belgian has had the upper hand on Vlasic in the last nine months. Though Vlasic has many more two metres plus jumps than her rival, Hellebaut has taken the European outdoor and indoor title with 2.03 and 2.05 metres respectively, the latter being the best performance at the indoors in Birmingham, UK two months ago. But Vlasic got her revenge, in spades on Friday evening.

2.04 - New Croatian record for Vlasic

She had an early blip, taking two jumps to clear 1.94m, but after that she sailed over every height, including four meeting records, 1.98m, 2.00m, 2.02m, and 2.04m on her third attempt, while Hellebaut stalled on 1.98m, and finished second, with early leader, Ruth Beitia of Spain third on 1.96m.
On a warm and humid night, which she later described as “perfect” for high jumping, the young Croat, still only 23, then had three fine attempts – the second, oh, so close! – at 2.10m, attacking one of the oldest records in the books, the 2.09m World record held by Stefka Kostadinova of Bulgaria since the summer of 1987.

Vlasic immediately went to the animated crowd behind the High Jump fan, who had been giving her vocal (noisy to the race starter!) support throughout her odyssey.

Meeting records for Skolimowska and Hoffa too

The women probably edged the evening, with the hammer providing early entertainment, the lead changing five times in four rounds, and 2000 Olympic champion, Kamila Skolimowska of Poland serving notice on World record holder, Tatyana Lysenko of Russia that she isn’t finished yet. The Pole won with 76.83m, easily a meeting record and a new Polish record on her third attempt, with Lysenko hitting 75.73m on her third and early leader, Ivana Brkljacic of Croatia third, with 74.62m.

Reese Hoffa is on fire this early season. The World Indoor champion was never threatened in the shot, increasing his lead with every round, and putting out to 21.37m on his final attempt, to break his own meeting record.

The middle distances provided their usual terrific entertainment, and the Kenyans can be thanked for that. Wilfred Bungei broke the oldest meet record in Doha, the 1:44.44 of Hezekiel Sepeng, with 1:44.14, in what will probably be his easiest race. He never looked remotely threatened.

Viola Kibiwot Jelegat was not overawed by some bigger names in the women’s 1500 metres, and she dominated the race in the final 600 metres, even pulling away in the straight, to win in 4:05.43, another meeting record.

Kenyans Choge and Kipchoge set World leads

The men’s 1500 metres was what used to be known in club athletics as a ‘mob-run,’ you ambled around a cross country course, and had a sprint at the end… or not. This was a mob of Kenyans, and it was a sprint all the way. Augustine Choge has left his mark on this meeting every time he has run. He set a World junior record in the 3000m here two years ago, split Issac Songok and Eliud Kipchoge in the 3000 metres last year.

This year, he won the three and three-quarter lap sprint known as the 1500 metres. His 3:31.73 was also a World leader, with colleague, Suleiman Simotwo second in 3:31.98, and Yussuf Baba of Morocco having the temerity to beat another half dozen Kenyans for third, in 3:32.13. Eleven men broke 3.40.

Kipchoge, the surprise 5000 metres winner at the IAAF World Championships in Paris 2003 was edged out of a third successive victory in the 3000 metres here last year by Songok. But Kipchoge made no mistake this year. He took over with three laps to go, and was never headed, although Songok did draw level, to take a look at him at one point.

Such was Kipchoge’s confidence that he high-fived pacemaker Charles Bett when the latter dropped out. Kipchoge simply stretched away from his pursuers in the last 200 metres, and Songok couldn’t hang in, eventually finishing fourth. Kipchoge won in 7:33.06, another world lead, Jonas Cheruyiot was second in 7:34.37, and Joseph Ebuya third in 7:34.66.

100/400 double for Felix

There were a couple of ‘experiments’ by US athletes, one which went somewhat astray, and one which can be claimed a huge success, and a pointer to a potential future. Allyson Felix was the success, first edging the 100 metres, in 11.27, then dominating the 400 metres, winning in a world leading time of 50.40.

Felix said she was trying the quarter as a prelude to running the relay for the USA in the IAAF World Championships in Osaka in August. But the way she cruised out of lane seven, built up an early lead, then rebuffed the challenge of former World champion, Amy Mbacke Thiam of Senegal, second in 50.99, and Sherika Williams of Jamaica, third in 51.12, suggested that Felix, whose previous best was 51.12 has a great future at one lap.

Her 100 metres victory came right on the line, and was so close that Bahraini Rakia Al-Gassra, who runs in leggings, a voluminous top and a headscarf thought she had scored a sensational win, and almost took off back down the straight for a victory sprint. In fact, Sheri-Ann Brooks of Jamaica had also edged her, but both shared 11.29, which was nevertheless a new national record for Al-Gassra.

Top throwing - Thorkildsen and Alekna 

Two Olympic champions had a ‘field-day’, literally! Andreas Thorkildsen of Norway threw a world leading 86.39 metres on his second throw, to win the javelin by a metre, in 86.39 metres, another world leader, which was repeated by Virgilius Alekna of Lithuania – Two Olympic golds and Two World golds, and the second furthest ever – won the discus by four metres, with 68.51 metres.

The failed experiment was by Dwight Phillips in the 100 metres. The Olympic and twice World champion in the Long Jump seemed confident that he would qualify for Osaka in the 100 metres as well. Not if he continues like this. He got to the final, but failed to make any impact, as Darrel Brown of Trinidad won in 10.13, from Michael Frater of Jamaica, on 10.19, and Shawn Crawford, 10.20. Phillips clocked 10.34 in seventh.

Pat Butcher for the IAAF

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