Poland’s Anna Rogowska went to the top of the 2014 women’s pole vault list when she cleared a world-leading 4.76m at the Flanders Indoor meeting, an IAAF Indoor Permit meeting, on Sunday (9).
Rogowska required three attempts at her opening height of 4.41m but then had no failures at 4.51m and at 4.61m. She made 4.71m on her third attempt and then delighted the crowd with a second-time clearance at 4.76m. Russia’s Anzhelika Sidorova was second with 4.61m.
“I definitely wanted to jump 4.71m today, because that is the qualifying height to compete at the World Indoor Championships in Sopot,” said a delighted Rogowska, the 2009 world champion outdoors who has also got a silver and a bronze medal from previous IAAF World Indoor Championships to her name.
“These championships are very important for me because Sopot is my home town and I am very focused to take a medal in front of my home crowd. My preparation was a bit disturbed after I fell with my head on the ground in December and broke a bone just behind my ear.”
In the 800m, another Polish runner provided the highlight and continued his preparations for Sopot in fine fettle.
Adam Kszczot took control of the race as he placed right behind the Kenyan pacemaker Reuben Bett.
Bett’s fellow Kenyan Abraham Kipchirchir Rotich was not able to put any real pressure on Kszczot and the Polish favourite cruised to victory in 1:46.32 with Rotich second, 0.16 in arrears.
“The last 200m is always difficult," said Kszczot. "Today I wanted to win the race, the time was not important. I have been training very hard over the last days and I felt a bit tired. The World Indoor Championships in my home country means a lot to me. I love my country from the bottom of my heart. To win a gold medal in Sopot is my ultimate goal. I will be prepared."
Pavel Maslak was outstanding in the 300m. The Czech was dominant from start to finish and reduced the European best in the non-championship event to 32.15, the fourth fastest performance ever. Fance’s Leslie Djhone was the previous owner of the continental mark having 32.47 in 2010..
“I love this track in Gent, for the third year in a row I set a national record here. Of course, I am one of the favourites now to win the 400m in Sopot but winning a medal is my first goal,” said the European champion.
Luguelin Santos, a medallist over 400m at the past two global championships, struggled to impress and finished in third in 33.26. “This is not really what I hoped for today,” said the Dominican Republic runner, “but I am confident that I can raise my level and run a 45.0 for 400m at the World Indoor Championships.”
The men’s 3000m was the most exciting distance event. Kenya’s Vincent Rono paced the field through to 5:05 at 2000m. Isiah Koech then tried to keep the pace high but was surprised by an attack from Paul Kipsiele Koech.
Albert Rop from Bahrain responded to the Kenyans' efforts at the front and then overtook them to come home in front in 7:38.77 with the two Kenyans second and third while South Africa’s Elroy Gelant and Morocco’s Abdelaati Iguider also crossed the line inside 7:40.
“It was a tough race for me,” said Iguider, the world indoor 1500m champion. “I need a few more competitions to get my rhythm right. After competing in the 1500m in Birmingham (at the British Grand Prix on 15 February) I will decide on which distance I will compete in at Sopot. As a defending champion I want to be at my best in Sopot.”
The 1500m went to Iguider’s compatriot Zakaria Mazouzi, who took the honours in a close finish with Kenya’s Bernard Koros. Both were credited with 3:39.21.
Mazouzi has only ever run two indoor races, both over 1500m, but the 3:31.94 performer outdoors has yet to be beaten under cover after also winning in Zaragoza earlier this month.
In the women’s 3000m, Renata Plis made it a three victories for Poland in the Belgian city. Plis left the Kenyan pre-race favourite Lidya Chepkurui behind on the last lap to win in 8:53.74.
Nafissatou Thiam, still 19, won the European junior heptathlon title last year and competed at the IAAF World Championships in Moscow where she surprised with a 1.92m performance in the high jump. Here in Gent, the Belgian teenager showed guts and determination in her favourite event in front of her cheering followers.
In spite of twisting her ankle two days ago, Thiam didn’t let her fans down. She fought her way through the competition, clearing 1.91m with her third attempt and then, boosted by the crowd, she set a personal best of 1.94m to win the competition.
However, the biggest Belgian hope for a medal in Sopot lies with 60m hurdler Eline Berings. The 2009 European indoor champion has shown consistent form this season. Again, Berings got out of her blocks fast and didn’t leave Kellie Wells or Aisseta Diawara any chance to close on her.
Berings won in 8.00, leaving the US and French hurdlers having to settle for second and third place respectively.
Ivo Hendrix for the IAAF