Sanya Richards, Yelena Isinbayeva and Kenenisa Bekele did not disappoint securing the $1 Million Jackpot and Usain Bolt shut down as the final ÅF Golden League meeting closed out in dramatic fashion at the Belgacom Memorial Van Damme in the Belgian capital tonight (Fri 4).
Bolt slows down to 19.57!
Usain Bolt with a respectable start ran a marvellous curve which brought him ahead of the entire field with little more than 70 metres expended of the 200 metres sprint. With victory more than secure he then shut down with at least 30 metres left to run and still crossed the outstanding victor in a meeting record of 19.57 seconds (nil wind) on what was a cold and damp evening in the King Baudouin Stadium.
The previous meet best was Tyson Gay’s 19.79 from 2006, and Bolt’s brilliance was further emphasised when we considered tonight’s run was the fourth fastest of all-time, only bettered by his two World records (19.19 and 19.30) and Michael Johnson’s previous mark of 19.32.
In second came Wallace Spearmon, the World bronze medallist in 20.19.
“At 25 metres (to go) I backed off. The crowd was extremely wonderful, they gave me energy,” said Bolt who next runs in the IAAF / VTB Bank World Athletics Final next weekend in Thessaloniki, Greece (12 / 13 Sep).
Three share $1 Million - Bekele, Isinbayeva and Richards show their superiority
Sanya Richards played out the same game plan which has brought her home ahead of the rest of the world all season. A conservative first 180 was followed by a beautiful drive phase which fluently powered her to a 48.83 sec meet record, a world season lead which improved her previous 2009 best of 48.94 from Zurich last week.
The 24-year-old now surely has her own Area record of 48.70 in her sights. Richards set that at the end of the 2006 season in the warmth of Athens at the World Cup, and in similarly condusive weather conditions in Thessaloniki next week that time is sure to fall.
Britain’s Olympic champion Christine Ohuruogu was well beaten in second (50.43) as was the rest of the field.
Isinbayeva with one leap prevailed in tonight’s Pole Vault and so secured her share of the Jackpot. That first time clearance at 4.70m was enough as the three women - Pyrek, Spiegelburg and Murer - who had also cleared that height did so on either their second or third attempts and then went out at the next height of 4.75 which the Russian World record holder passed. With victory secure Isinbayeva made three-attempts to increase by one centimetre her 5.06m record from last week but none of her tries could be considered close.
Bekele was the final contender to secure his claim to $333,333, and after taking the 5000m race by the scruff of the neck before 3000m (a point which he went through in 7:45.51) building up a lead of about 40 metres on the 22 athletes following, the World and Olympic champion then slowed down and let the large pack catch him, only to majestically ease away again when the final sprint was engaged. Bekele crossed supreme in 12:55.31.
The next four runners having taken such an imperious running lesson from the maestro all achieved personal bests - Merga (12:55.66), Chepkok (12:55.98), Abdosh (12:56.53) and Bett (12:57.43) - with Bett setting a season’s best of 12:57.43 in sixth, and Matt Tegenkamp in seventh becoming the second runner from the USA in a week (Dathan Ritzenhein 12:56.27 national record in Zurich) to dip under 13 minutes with his PB of 12:58.56.
Powell all the way
Away exceptionally well, in total contrast to his chief opponent Tyson Gay, Asafa Powell was never troubled in the 100m. Not fully upright and into his running until 30 metres of the race was gone, the Jamaican already found himself in a clear lead. The World bronze medallist took the tape in 9.90 (-0.4m/s) with Gay, who had headed Powell by one place in the Berlin final, completing in 10.00. The US record holder was never truly in the race today. Darvis Patton was third (10.08).
The temperature was only 15C tonight and Powell now travels to the warmer climes of Rieti, Italy for the Grand Prix on Sunday (6), the track where he ran his last World record of 9.74 in 2007, and in this form he might very well challenge his 9.72 PB (Lausanne, 2008).
Jeter heads Jamaicans again
USA’s Carmelita Jeter continued her post Berlin surge. The World 100m bronze medallist defeated Jamaica’s World champion and silver medallist Shelly Ann Fraser and Kerron Stewart, as emphatically as she did in Zurich a week ago. Fraser had the advantage until the midway point of the dash after which Jeter, running one lane outside the Jamaican (4 to 3), moved onto and past her shoulder, closing in 10.88 sec. Fraser, who also holds the Olympic title, was second (10.98), and a relatively lacklustre Stewart, who lost out on the Jackpot this time last week, brought home third (11.05).
Foster-Hylton continues to revel in new found status
Brigitte Foster-Hylton is revelling, and rightly so, in her new role as the World champion. The multiple global medal winning Jamaican who at 34-year-old became the oldest ever women’s World 100m Hurdles champion in Berlin, a year after a poor Olympic performance had left her considering retirement, has blossomed into the supreme racer that her talent had always indicated she should be. With her first global title secure she has developed a confidence and tenacity which she has exhibited to full effect in her three races since Berlin.
Tonight Foster-Hylton was again gutsy enough to fight all the way holding off a persistent challenge from Canada’s World silver medallist Priscilla Lopes-Schliep; they crossed in 12.48 to 12.49, the latter a PB from the Canadian.
The oldest World record goes down
The rarely run 4x1500m was always going to be a difficult race to follow with the varying change-over points on each leg but it was made nearly impossible as the members of the Kenyan quartet biding for the World record (14:38.8 – 1977 FRG) were each wearing different coloured vests! The record duly fell as Augustine Choge brought the squad home in 14:36.23*. Full team and 1500 splits (thanks to Mark Butler) - William Biwott 3:38.5; Gideon Gathimba 3:39.5; Geoffrey Rono 3:41.4; Augustine Chose 3:36.9.
The oldest World record in history is now the double header 25,000 metres (1:13:55.8) en route to 30,000 metres (1:29:18.8) run by Toshihiko Seko on the 22 March 1981… standby 2010 Belgacom Memorial Van Damme, book your tickets now for the attempt to break it!
Burka picks herself up
Gelete Burka was last seen lying distressed on the track in Berlin having hit the deck in an incident which brought her down when leading before the last bend of the 1500m final. Tonight’s 2000m had been set up as a comeback to the track for the Ethiopian, a World record attempt on the rarely run distance designed to lift the spirits of the World Indoor champion.
The 23-year-old had the 5:25.36 World record of Ireland’s Sonia O’Sullivan in her sights. That time was run by O’Sullivan - a member of the stadium audience tonight - in much warmer conditions in 1994, and the time was described as a tough target by meeting director Wilfried Meert who has learnt a thing or two about setting up successful World record bids over the 33 editions of this meeting’s history.
In a largely solo run effort Burka, with the aid of two pace makers, did her very best (1200m - 3:16.33, compared with 3:17.78 for O'Sullivan) and reached the bell in 4:23.70, just outside O'Sullivan's 4:23.48. The difference tonight was that the Ethiopian was alone whereas the Irishwoman in her record run had been pursued by Yvonne Murray all the way to the finish. Without that extra spur Burka relatively died on the last lap. She still finished in an African record of 5:30.19, improving the 5:31.52 of Kenyan Vivian Cheruiyot set earlier this year (Eugene 7 Jun 09). Cheruiyot, the World 5000m champion finished second tonight in 5:35.46, just ahead of compatriot Mercy Cherono (5:35.65).
“If you go for a World record, you can’t be happy with this time. Of course the weather is not ideal and I’m still in very good shape. I look out for Thessaloniki (World Athletics Final) next week… I still want to do something special,” confirmed Burka.
Vlasic - 81 and counting
In the women’s High Jump, Blanka Vlasic accomplished her 81st two metres or more competition with a 2.00m victory, presenting a clean jumping card through five heights all taken at her first approach to those bars. The double World champion then followed with three failures at 2.02, none of them close, as did Berlin silver medallist Anna Chicherova who had also cleared 2 metres but on the third time of asking. In third came Chaunte Howard with 1.97m.
Pitkämäki back from illness; Thorkildsen out after one round
2007 World champion Tero Pitkämäki, who was ill in Berlin, bounced back after missing Zurich last week to take the Javelin Throw with an opening 86.23m release. His arch-rival Andreas Thorkildsen with one throw completed (82.61) retired from the competition as a precaution after feeling a cramping pain in his groin.
In the absence of Kenya's Ezekiel Kemboi the World champion, originally entered but now running in Dubnica, Slovakia on Sunday, it was Paul Kipsiele Koech who was in charge in the 3000m Steeplechase taking the win from Berlin silver medallist Richard Mateelong (8:06.92), with Finland’s Jukka Keskisalo a distant but again confident third (8:13.34). The surprise was the last lap surge of American Daniel Huling whose fast finish brought him ahead of the Finn briefly before the last water barrier and eventually home in fourth in 8:14.69, a huge new PB (8:20.84 - 2008).
David Rudisha of Kenya, who had been one of the pre-World Championship 800m favourites but didn’t reach the final, was back to winning ways with a late drive off the final bend to succeed in 1:45.80. South Africa’s newly crowned World champion Mbulaeni Mulaudzi and his predecessor from Osaka 2007, Alfred Yego of Kenya, seemed to be perfectly positioned coming into the straight, respectively in third and second, but neither could challenge Rudisha’s charge. Yego finished a well beaten second in 1:46.36 and Mulaudzi died back dreadfully to 5th (1:47.15). Third was Canada’s Gary Reed (1:46.82).
In the women’s 800m, USA’s Anna Willard was the strongest sprinter of a large group who were together coming off the final bend, winning in 1:59.14.
In the absence of LaShawn Merritt, the reigning World and Olympic champion, Jeremy Wariner, the former holder of both those titles brought home a confident 400m. He was unopposed winning in 44.94, the only man below 45 sec, his nearest opponent Trinidad’s Renny Quow way back in second in 45.55.
The surprise World 110m Hurdles champion Ryan Brathwaite of Barbados took a gun to tape victory in 13.30 sec, though he was pushed for half of the race by Czech Petr Svoboda (faded 5th 13.47).
Yamile Aldama won the women’s Triple Jump with 14.27m.
Chris Turner for the IAAF
*4x1500m World record dependent upon usual ratification procedures
STATS UPDATE (thanks to Mark Butler):
Women's 1500m en-route during 2000m
1 BURKA Gelete ETH 4:06.7
2 CHERUIYOT Vivian KEN 4:13.1
3 ALMINOVA Anna RUS 4:13.4
4 CHERONO Mercy KEN 4:13.7 PB
5 CHOJECKA Lidia POL 4:14.1
6 KIBIWOT Viola KEN 4:14.4
7 CHENONGE Ines KEN 4:15.2
8 CHEMOS Milcah KEN 4:16.0
9 YEVDOKIMOVA Natalya RUS 4:17.0
10 MISHCHENKO Anna UKR 4:20.7
11 PLIS Renata POL 4:21.0
12 HILALI Siham MAR 4:21.4
13 BELETE Almenesh ETH 4:24.6