Francine Niyonsaba on her way to winning the 800m (Jiro Mochizuki) © Copyright
Report Rieti, Italy

Niyonsaba back to her best in Rieti

Burundian 800m runner Francine Niyonsaba produced the highlight of the 45th edition of the Rieti Meeting, the last leg of the IAAF World Challenge on Sunday (13).

Competitions were partly affected by rain at the start of the programme, but the weather improved towards the end of the meeting.

The 2012 African champion and Olympic finalist has made a steady comeback this year, having been out of action in 2014. Here she won over two laps in 1:57.62, holding off world 1500m silver medallist Faith Kipyegon, who followed her recent African mile record in Brussels with a PB of 1:58.02.

Ukraine’s Olga Lyakhova set a PB of 1:58.64 in third place, beating world champion Marina Arzamasova, who ran 1:58.93.

“I am grateful that I could run my seasonal best,” said Niyonsaba. “Last week I won in Padua but it was a slow race, so I came here to run a fast time.”

Just two days after clocking 9.98 and 19.97 in the 100m and 200m in Brussels, Qatar’s Femi Ogunode again underlined his end-of-season form. He won the 100m in Rieti in 9.93, just 0.02 outside his Asian record, notching up his third victory on Italian soil within the past week.

Nesta Carter, who set his 9.78 PB on this track in 2010, finished second in 10.06 ahead of his compatriots Julian Forte (10.09) and Rasheed Dwyer (10.16)

“It’s a good track,” said Ogunode. “Unfortunately I hurt my hamstring before the World Championships in Bejjing. I have respect for Bolt and Gatlin but I know that I can beat them. I am the future of sprinting.”

Having won in Zurich and Brussels, world silver medallist Adam Kszczot won his third consecutive 800m race by clocking 1:44.82 on the wet blue track. The Polish star followed pacemaker Mohamed Abbas who clocked 50.78 at the bell, then world finalist Nader Belhanbel led at 600m before Kszczot launched his final kick.

“It was a difficult race on the wet track,” said the two-time European indoor champion. “It was a bit cold and it did not help, although it did not affect my preparation. Hopefully I will return next year to run a faster race. I started the season at the start of May at the World Relays in Nassau, so it was difficult to stay in good shape for such a long time. The goal is to be in top shape for Rio.”

Jamaica’s world 200m silver medallist Elaine Thompson capped her breakthrough season by winning the women’s 200m in 22.59 in cool conditions. It was almost a second down on the 21.66 she clocked in Beijing, but given the circumstances, it was a solid performance.

“The experience I got this year will help me for next year,” said Thompson.

Olympic 1500m champion Taoufik Makhloufi won in Rieti for the second consecutive year. Having won the 800m here in 2014, this time he won his specialist distance in 3:35.53. The Algerian, who clocked a lifetime best of 3:28.75 in Monaco this year, followed the pacemakers through 400m in 54.33 and 800m in 1:52.57.

Makhloufi was then alone against the clock and went through 1200m in 2:52.14 en route to his unchallenged 3:35.53 win over Vincent Kibet (3:37.01) and Amine Laalou (3:37.88)

Jamaica’s Rusheen McDonald, who clocked a surprising 43.93 in the 400m heats in the World Championships in Beijing, won the men’s 300m, which was dedicated to Italian sprint legend Pietro Mennea. McDonald clocked 31.94, narrowly missing out on the meeting record set last year by Karol Zalewski by just 0.01.

Lars Hamann won an entertaining javelin competition, breaking Konstantinos Gatsioudis’s meeting record by six centimetres with 84.26m in the sixth round. He responded well to Japan’s Ryohei Arai, who had previously held the lead with his third-round throw of 84.13m.

Norway’s Isabelle Pedersen followed up her win in Zagreb with another solid victory in the 100m hurdles, running in 12.99 on a wet track.

Ethiopia’s Gudaf Tsegay held off Canadian Fiona Benson in a close sprint finish in the women’s 1500m in 4:05.17 to 4:05.24.

Brahim Taleb pulled away with a lap to go to take the win in the men’s 3000m steeplechase in 8:24.61. Kenyan Hillary Mayo Kipkorir clinched the win in the men’s 3000m in 7:45.35 ahead of his compatriot Emmanuel Kipsang (7:46.80).

Diego Sampaolo for the IAAF