CABALLERO DEFEATS PERKOVIC

Cuba’s Denia Caballero sprang a surprise in the women’s discus, an event where two-time Olympic champion Sandra Perkovic could only finish fifth.

Denia Caballero spins to victory at the Diamond League meeting in Stockholm (Hasse Sjogren)Denia Caballero spins to victory at the Diamond League meeting in Stockholm (Hasse Sjogren) © Copyright
 
 

Perkovic indicated yesterday that she wasn’t expecting much on her season debut, given it was still four months out from the IAAF World Athletics Championships Doha 2019, but even still she was below-par. She registered two valid attempts – her best effort of 63.71m leaving her fifth. Caballero took victory via her second-round effort of 65.10m, with fellow Cuban Yaime Perez just behind with 65.09m and China’s Yang Chen third with 64.25m.

Sam Kendricks continued his fine start to the season with his second Diamond League victory in the men’s pole vault, the American the only athlete in the field able to clear 5.72m in the breezy conditions, which he did at the first attempt.

With that he decided to call it a night, the world champion in prime position at the head of the standings with his maximum tally of 16 points from his first two meetings. Poland’s Piotr Lisek finished second with 5.60m, while Japan’s Seito Yamamoto was third with a best of 5.48m.

Mariya Lasitskene had a few nervous moments in the women’s high jump, but the reigning world champion opened her season with a win. She had two failures at 1.90m but sailed clear on the third effort and then cleared 1.92m at the first attempt, something no other jumper could manage. Ukraine’s Yuliya Levchenko took second on countback from Sweden’s Erika Kinsey, both clearing a best of 1.90m.

“Today it was super hard for me, my body was not listening at all,” said Lasitskene. “I tried not to get injured during the competition and therefore I´m happy. That really was my only and big goal for today.”

In the women’s 1500m, a non-Diamond League event, Britain’s Laura Muir displayed her vast supremacy with a solo run to victory, the 26-year-old coasting away from the pack after the pacemaker stepped aside after 800m and cruising home in 4:05.37 – an ideal tune-up for Rome next Thursday where she will target a much faster time.

“Today was about the win rather than the time with the conditions as they are,” she said.


MONTLER NOTCHES BIG LONG JUMP UPSET

There was a huge upset in the men’s long jump, Sweden’s Thobias Montler the sole athlete in the field able to thrive in the difficult conditions. He soared to a personal best of 8.22m in the second round, a mark which no one could match.

Big win for Thobias Montler in Stockholm (Hasse Sjogren)Big win for Thobias Montler in Stockholm (Hasse Sjogren) © Copyright
 
 

Juan Miguel Echevarria came closest, the Cuban unable to match his heroics here last year and having to make do with second via his sixth-round effort of 8.12m. USA’s Jeff Henderson was third with 8.09m while world champion Luvo Manyonga was fourth with 8.07m.

“I did my 8.43 jump a week ago but it was in the wind so it gave me confidence for today,” said Montler. “Of course I am surprised to come out on top with the big names – I know Luvo and Echevarria can jump really far but maybe I ‘m more used to the cold.” 

 

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SPOTLIGHT ON RED-HOT NORMAN IN STOCKHOLM - IAAF DIAMOND LEAGUE

All eyes will be on US sprint star Michael Norman when he takes to the track at the IAAF Diamond League meeting in Stockholm on Thursday evening (30).

The men’s 400m will be the first event of the international broadcast at the Bauhaus-galan and, given the sparkling early-season form of Norman, it’s a race that will likely pass by in a blur. It’s the 21-year-old’s first ever 400m at an IAAF Diamond League, and fireworks are expected after Norman opened his season with a 43.45 clocking in Torrence, California, last month.

He followed that up with 200m PB of 19.84 in Osaka, Japan, just 10 days ago, more evidence that the IAAF Diamond League 400m record of 43.62 – set by Wayde van Niekerk in Lausanne in 2017 – may be under threat.

In a stadium that has played host to 83 world records over the years, Norman will square off against training partner Rai Benjamin, the 400m hurdles specialist who has a best of 44.31 in the flat discipline, along with Baboloki Thebe of Botswana, Nathan Allen of Jamaica and Bralon Taplin of Grenada.

While Norman may be the individual athlete who draws most attention, the women’s 200m is shaping up to be the most competitive race of the meeting.

THOMPSON VS ASHER-SMITH IN 200M

It features Jamaica’s Elaine Thompson, the reigning Olympic champion who is steadily regaining her best form, taking victory over 200m in Nanjing last week in 22.40; Dafne Schippers, the Dutch star who will target her third straight world title over 200m later this year; and Dina Asher-Smith, the Briton who last year clocked 21.89 to win European gold and who opened her season in fine style with a Diamond League victory in Doha over 200m in 22.26.

Dina Asher-Smith wins the 200m at the IAAF Diamond League meeting in Doha (Jiro Mochizuki)

Dina Asher-Smith wins the 200m at the IAAF Diamond League meeting in Doha (Jiro Mochizuki) © Copyright

The women’s 100m hurdles also has a typically competitive line-up, headed by world record holder Kendra Harrison who clocked a world-leading 12.47 in Baie-Mahault earlier this month. Fellow US hurdler Sharika Nelvis is sure to put up a strong challenge, along with Europeans Nadine Visser, Cindy Roleder and Elvira Herman.

World champion Ramil Guliyev of Turkey takes top billing in the men’s 200m, though Canada’s Aaron Brown – a winner in the Shanghai non-scoring race in 20.07 – will present a formidable challenge.

Norway’s Karsten Warholm should prove tough to beat in the men’s 400m hurdles, the reigning world champion opening his outdoor season here after a stellar spring campaign that saw him win European indoor gold over 400m in 45.05.

MEETING OF THE MANANGOI AND INGEBRIGTSEN BROTHERS IN THE 1500M

In the men’s 1500m two middle-distance dynasties will collide – brothers Henrik, Fillip and Jakob Ingebrigtsen of Norway squaring off against Elijah and George Manangoi of Kenya. At recent major championships the Kenyan duo have fared best – Elijah is the reigning world 1500m champion while younger brother George is the world U18 and U20 1500m champion – but there has always been little to choose between both families in previous clashes.

Elijah Manangoi, however, proved he is still the one to beat with an impressive victory in Doha earlier this month, where he outsprinted Kenyan compatriot Timothy Cheruiyot to take maximum points in the 1500m. Cheruiyot is also in the line-up on Thursday and is sure to present a similar threat. Another dangerous opponent is Ethiopia’s Samuel Tefera, who set the world indoor 1500m record in Birmingham earlier this year at 3:31.04.

OBIRI’S 5000M DEBUT

All eyes will be on Hellen Obiri in the women’s 5000m, the Kenyan who is coming off a gold medal at the IAAF World Cross Country Championships in March and who claimed an impressive victory over 3000m in Doha earlier this month, clocking 8:25.60.

She should face a strong challenge from compatriot Agnes Tirop though it will be no surprise if Obiri ends up in a solo race against the clock. Her personal of 14:18.37 appears ripe for revision.

The women’s 800m sees Ajee Wilson square off against fellow US athlete Raevyn Rogers along with Kenya’s Nelly Jepkosgei, Ethiopia’s Habitam Alemu and Britain’s Lynsey Sharp.

ECHEVARRIA’S RETURN

In the field events, all eyes will be on long jumper Juan Miguel Echevarria, with the Swedish crowd hoping he can reproduce the fireworks he ignited in the Olympic Stadium last year when the Cuban soared to an 8.83m jump, aided by a tailwind (2.1m/s) that made it ineligible for record purposes.

In his last competition in March, Echevarria turned in another astonishing leap, soaring 8.92m with the aid of a 3.3m/s wind. Also in the field is South Africa’s Luvo Manyonga, the 2017 world champion who has a best of 8.35m this year.

 

Juan Miguel Echevarria in the long jump at the IAAF Diamond League meeting in Stockholm (AFP / Getty Images)

 

Juan Miguel Echevarria in the long jump at the IAAF Diamond League meeting in Stockholm (AFP / Getty Images) © Copyright

 

The home crowd should have plenty to cheer about in the men’s discus where Sweden’s Daniel Stahl ranks as overwhelming favourite. He opened his season in stunning fashion in Doha earlier this month with a world-leading throw of 70.56m, with all six of his efforts beyond 69 metres. For context, no one else has thrown beyond 68 metres this season.

Fedrick Dacres may pose the biggest threat, with the stadium holding good memories for the Jamaican, who threw a national record of 69.67m here last year.

DEBUTS FOR LASITSKENE AND PERKOVIC

The women’s high jump brings together a strong field, spearheaded by the all-conquering Mariya Lasitskene. She cleared 2.04m indoors this year and will be looking for a similar clearance here to get her outdoor season off to the right start, one in which she will bid for a third consecutive world title later this year.

Also in the line-up are Ukraine’s Yuliya Levchenko and Yaroslava Mahuchikh, along with Italy’s Elena Vallortigara, Bulgaria’s Mirela Demireva and Lithuania’s Airine Palsyte.

The men’s pole vault brings together three world champions (Pawel Wojciechowski of Poland, Raphael Holzdeppe of Germany and Sam Kendricks of the US), the reigning Olympic champion (Thiago Braz of Brazil) along with the 2017 world silver medallist (Piotr Lisek of Poland).

Kendricks will be hoping to again take maximum Diamond League points after claiming victory in Doha earlier this month, where the reigning world champion soared over 5.80m.

Sandra Perkovic will open her season in the women’s discus, the two-time Olympic champion competing for the first time since tasting a surprise defeat at the IAAF Continental Cup in Ostrava last September. Also in the field are regular rivals Denia Caballero and Yaime Perez of Cuba, along with US thrower Valarie Allman.

Daniel Stahl after winning the discus at the IAAF Diamond League meeting in Doha (Jiro Mochizuki)Daniel Stahl after winning the discus at the IAAF Diamond League meeting in Doha (Jiro Mochizuki) © Copyright


In the non-Diamond League events, British star Laura Muir will look for a confidence-boosting win in the women’s 1500m. The 26-year-old is the quickest in the field by several seconds with her PB of 3:55.22, but was beaten into third at the Westminster Mile in London last weekend.

The men’s 800m features Poland’s Marcin Lewandowski, Kenya’s Michael Saruni, Australian duo Peter Bol and Joseph Deng, along with Sweden’s Andreas Kramer. The concluding event of the night is the men’s 10,000m, also not a Diamond League event but a race that features notable stars like Olympic 5000m medallists Paul Chelimo of USA and Hagos Gebrhiwet of Ethiopia, along with rising star Rhonex Kipruto of Kenya.

Stockholm will be the third meeting of this year’s IAAF Diamond League, a 14-meeting series in which athletes earn points throughout the first 12 meetings to earn qualification for two final winner-takes-all meetings: Zurich on 29 August and Brussels on 6 September.

There will be a total of US$8 million in prize money on offer across the series, with the winner in each of the 32 disciplines collecting US $50,000 along with the Diamond Trophy. Each winner will also earn a wild card entry to the IAAF World Athletics Championships Doha 2019, which begin on 27 September.

Cathal Dennehy for the IAAF

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PSG President charged with corruption over bidding process for 2019 IAAF World Championships in Qatar

Paris Saint-Germain President Nasser Al-Khelaïfi, one of the most powerful men in sport, has been charged with corruption over the bidding process for the 2019 International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF) World Championships in Doha, according to a French judicial official.

As reported by the Associated Press, the official said the preliminary charge of "active corruption" had been filed in mid-May. 

The official spoke on condition of anonymity because he or she was not authorised to talk about the investigation publicly.

Al-Khelaifi is also the chief executive of Paris Saint-Germain, the Ligue 1 club owned by Qatar Sports Investments (QSI), the country's sovereign wealth fund, as well as chairman of television network beIN Sports, which has its headquarters in Doha.

He was recently elected by the European Club Association as club representative on UEFA's Executive Committee.

In March he was reportedly placed under the status of "assisted witness" by the National Financial Prosecutor's Office for alleged "corruption" and "aggravated money laundering" in relation to Doha's bid for the IAAF World Championships. 

At the heart of the investigators' suspicions are two bank transfers, French newspaper Le Monde has reported. 

These money transfers were allegedly made on October 13 and November 7 in 2011 for a total amount of $3.5 million (£2.8 million/€3.1 million) to a company located in Senegal, Pamodzi Sports Consulting, which is owned by Papa Massata Diack, the son of former IAAF President Lamine Diack. 

These payments were provided for in a Memorandum of Understanding with Pamodzi Sports Consulting that Oryx Qatar Sports Investments pledged to purchase sponsorship rights and television rights for $32.6 million (£25.8 million/€29.3 million) provided that Doha was awarded the 2017 IAAF World Championships. 

Khalifa International Stadium will host the 2019 IAAF World Championships in Doha ©Getty Images
Khalifa International Stadium will host the 2019 IAAF World Championships in Doha ©Getty Images

It is claimed that Oryx Qatar Sports Investments is not part of QSI and is owned jointly by Al-Khelaïfi and his brother Khalid. 

Doha was overlooked for the 2017 IAAF World Championships – which were awarded to London – but in November 2014 was chosen to host this year's event ahead of rival cities Barcelona and Eugene. 

In Switzerland, Al-Khelaifi has been under investigation since 2017 for allegedly criminally bribing the former FIFA secretary general Jérôme Valcke to buy television rights to World Cup tournaments in 2026 and 2030.

Al-Khelaifi has denied the allegations. 

It comes just a day after it emerged that beIN Sports chief executive Yousef Al-Obaidly is facing allegations of "active corruption" over Doha's bid for the IAAF World Championships. 

Al-Obaidly, a Board member of Paris Saint-Germain and QSI, has been under investigation since March, along with Lamine Diack, Agence France-Presse (AFP) reported. 

Investigating magistrates in Paris are considering charging Al-Obaidly with having participated in the negotiation of bribes, it has been claimed. 

Lamine Diack is expected to act as a key witness in the matter and will be charged with "passive corruption", AFPreported.

Al-Obaidly has denied the claims. 

beIN Sports chief executive Yousef Al-Obaidly, pictured with former French President Nicolas Sarkozy ©Getty Images
beIN Sports chief executive Yousef Al-Obaidly, pictured with former French President Nicolas Sarkozy ©Getty Images

"I voluntarily attended an appointed meeting as part of a preliminary investigation," Al-Obaidly said in a statement sent to insidethegames by his lawyer. 

"The allegations raised are not only utterly baseless and unsubstantiated, but they have been – quite remarkably – leaked to the media.

"For the avoidance of any doubt whatsoever, the allegations are completely and categorically denied and will be vehemently challenged using the full force of the law.

"It would not be appropriate to say anything further."

Earlier this week, AFP reported that Diack and Papa Massata may go on trial in a separate matter, for allegedly obstructing sanctions against Russia for doping in return for payments.

Prosecutors have recommended Diack, President of the IAAF from 1999 to 2015, be tried for corruption and money laundering.

In another case, Tsunekazu Takeda has been forced to announce he will resign as President of the Japanese Olympic Committee and stand down as a member of the International Olympic Committee after he was implicated in a vote-buying scandal linked to Tokyo's successful bid for the 2020 Olympic and Paralympic Games.

It involved a Singapore company called Black Tidings associated with Papa Massata Diack. 

This year's IAAF World Championships are due to take place at Khalifa International Stadium between September 27 and October 6.

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ECHEVARRIA IMPROVES TO 8.12M

World indoor champion Juan Miguel Echevarria wasn't the picture of consistency in his second competition of the season, but was nonetheless pleased with his first victory of the year.

The 20-year-old Cuban's start was promising, opening with an 8.12m season's best to quickly dispose of the 7.98m meeting record set by Li Jinzhe four years ago. But then frustrations set in: a pair of fouls and a pass before he closed with two more measured efforts after take-offs well behind the board.

His first round effort was still well ahead of Swede Thobias Nilsson Montler, the winner in Karslruhe, who reached 7.97m in the second round. Pole Tomasz Jaszczuk was third with 7.7m, a season's best.

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CONTINENTAL CHAMPIONS WARM UP FOR OSTRAVA WITH CONVINCING WINS IN ZAGREB

Just four days ahead of the IAAF Continental Cup Ostrava 2018, many of the athletes set to compete in the Czech city showed strong form at the Hanzekovic Memorial, part of the IAAF World Challenge, in Zagreb on Tuesday (4).

Home star Sandra Perkovic was naturally the meeting’s biggest attraction and the Croatian was keen to impress the spectators after finishing an uncustomary third at the IAAF Diamond League final in Brussels last week.

Up against the two women who finished ahead of her in the Belgian capital – Yaime Perez and Brazil’s Andressa de Morais – multiple world, Olympic and European champion Perkovic took a convincing lead in the second round with 66.10m. She improved to 67.60m in round three which remained the best mark of the day and rounded out her series with throws of 65.80m and 64.43m.

Perez finished a distant second with a best of 64.78m with De Morais finishing fourth on this occasion.

“Of course I wasn’t happy with the defeat in Brussels, but I was sick there,” said Perkovic, who will represent Europe at this weekend’s Continental Cup. “I’m happy to win here and I always enjoy throwing at home.”

MEETING RECORDS TUMBLE

Jamaica’s Fedrick Dacres was a similarly convincing winner of the men’s discus, one of five events in which a meeting record was set on Tuesday.

The Commonwealth and NACAC champion opened his series with 64.33m and was briefly overtaken towards the end of the third round by Austria’s Lukas Weisshaidinger, who threw 64.50m, but Dacres responded instantly with 65.11m to regain pole position.

Dacres improved to 65.21m with his next throw but saved his best for last, sending his discus out to 68.17m with the final attempt of the competition to break Lawrence Okoye’s meeting record from 2012. Like fellow discus winner Perkovic, Dacres is also Ostrava-bound later this week.

After finishing second to fellow South African Ruswahl Samaai at the African Championships earlier in the season, world long jump champion Luvo Manyonga won’t be competing at the Continental Cup, so the Hanzekovic Memorial was his final competition of the year.

Luvo Manyonga in the long jump at the IAAF World Challenge meeting in Zagreb (Organisers)Luvo Manyonga in the long jump at the IAAF World Challenge meeting in Zagreb (Organisers) © Copyright
 

The IAAF Diamond League champion was determined to end his season on a high and he duly delivered. In the first round he sailed out to 8.46m, adding one centimetre to Irving Saladino’s meeting record from 2007, and then followed it with leaps of 8.25m, 8.45m and 8.30m. No one else in the field surpassed eight metres.

Timur Morgunov, another recently crowned IAAF Diamond League champion, achieved an equally comfortably victory in the men’s pole vault.

The European silver medallist had just one other athlete for company as the bar reached 5.56m, which Morgunov cleared on his first attempt. His opponent, Norway’s Sondre Guttormsen, bowed out at 5.71m, while Morgunov went on to clear 5.76m on his second attempt before retiring from the competition following a failure at 5.86m.

Nijel Amos hadn’t raced since winning the African 800m title one month ago in Asaba, but the middle-distance runner from Botswana showed no loss of form when winning in Zagreb. In a race where the top five men finished well inside the previous meeting record of 1:45.37, Amos was a comfortable winner in 1:44.08 from Poland’s Marcin Lewandowski (1:44.43).

Both men will be in action in Ostrava, but Lewandowski will be contesting the 1500m there.

The fifth meeting record of the night came in the women’s 3000m, where Kenya’s world cross-country bronze medallist Lilian Rengeruk won in 8:33.37 in a close finish from steeplechase specialist Norah Jeruto (8:33.61) and Ethiopia’s Gudaf Tsegay (8:33.78).

The finish in the men’s 1500m was even closer as world champion Elijah Manangoi defeated two-time world indoor 3000m champion Yomif Kejelcha, 3:32.52 to 3:32.59.

NELVIS OVER MCNEAL

The closest finish of the night, though, came in the women’s 100m hurdles. Olympic champion Brianna McNeal got off to a slow start and was trying to make up lost ground throughout the race. US compatriot Sharika Nelvis, however, managed to hold off McNeal’s challenge and won by 0.01 in 12.65.

Much to the delight of the home crowd, Croatia’s Andrea Ivancevic set a national record of 12.85 in fourth place.

Panama’s 2009 world silver medallist Alonso Edward, who is due to compete in the 200m in Ostrava this weekend, won his specialist event in 20.17 with Canada’s Aaron Brown finishing a close second in 20.23.

World silver medallists Marie-Josee Ta Lou and Salwa Eid Naser won their events with ease. Ta Lou stopped the clock at 11.05 to win the 100m, while Naser ran 50.54 for one lap of the track.

Jon Mulkeen for the IAAF

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Thiam's mental strength clinches the triple crown of heptathlon golds

Belgium’s Nafissatou Thiam will celebrate her 24th birthday this coming Sunday and what better present can she have than her European gold medal.

It arrived after arguably the gutsiest performance of her career amid the fanfare and glory of the sensational drama of the Berlin 2018 heptathlon.

In terms of points, her victory in the heptathlon was not achieved with a personal best, that remains 7013 from Gotzis last year. In terms of strength, determination and self belief, she has never been better.

What Thiam achieved in the famous Olympic Stadium was a personal triumph in knowing that remains when things are not going her way, she will not panic, she will not fret. She will just put her mind in the right place and be confident that everything will come together.

The story began on the second morning with the long jump waiting.

Thiam, already the reigning Olympic and world champion, n athlete who has tasted only gold over the previous two summers, was in second position with 3930, 87 points behind Great Britain’s Katarina Johnson-Thompson.

“I just started the day thinking it is not going to be easy, but you can do it,” said Thiam as she chatted with European Athletics in the aftermath of her glory.

“You have to give your all, so whatever happens you can walk off the stage and have no regrets.”

By the evening of Friday night, the fourth day of the Championships, she certainly had no regrets.

Thiam was the champion with a world-leading score of 6816, and victory over Johnson-Thompson by 57 points.

“In the heptathlon, the physical is very important, but it is a very long event over the two days and there is the occasion to miss your chance and if it goes good, or if it goes bad, you have to forget about it and focus on the next one and never give up,” she reflected.

“In this kind of competition when it is tight like that, when everything is not going how you want it to be, you manage to pull yourself through, you prove to yourself that whatever happens, you are able to give your best and even if your first one is not good, then the second one can be amazing.”

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Here she is talking about the moment which changed everything, the javelin, the penultimate discipline.

Thiam had finished second in the long jump with 6.60m for 1040 points as Johnson-Thompson won with 6.68m for 1066 to extend her advantage but the Belgian knew she had a big advantage over her rival in what was to follow.

Johnson-Thompson opened with a personal best of 42.16m as Thiam started well with 46.36m to provisionally take pole position.

But for a woman with a personal best of 59.32m from Gotzis 2017 – and aware that the Briton was the better 800m runner – she knew she had to do more. Now the mind really went to work.

In the second round that she later called “amazing” she reached 53.55m to show how she can deliver and then extended her distance to 57.91m, a championship best performance for this individual discipline.

In one instant, it was all over as Thiam now led by a virtually uncatchable 192 points.

“Competition after competition, I learn a lot about myself,” commented Thiam. “At the Olympics, it was maybe about confidence; in the worlds, it was about the pressure in London because I had a hard time. And here, with the performance not coming together, it was a lot of feeling in the head.

“I managed to comeback with a strong performance in the second day and the javelin throw put me in a good position for gold. I had 100 points difference before the last throw and I knew it was going to be tight. I knew I was going to have give a very big throw and I knew I was able to do it after Gotzis.”

Thiam might have achieved only one personal best in Berlin, with 15.35m in the shot put on the first day, but her belief in her own abilities was worth its own weight in gold.

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KENYA TAKES SIX MORE TITLES AS AFRICAN CHAMPIONSHIPS CONCLUDE IN ASABA

Kenya captured six more titles on Sunday (5) to claim bragging rights as the winningest squad in Africa as the 21st edition of the continent's championships concluded in Asaba, Nigeria.

Competing before another raucous near-capacity crowd at the Stephen Keshi Memorial Stadium, Kenya took home titles on the track and on the field on the final day of competition to up their gold medal haul to 11.

Many of those were delivered in most impressive fashion, beginning with the women’s steeplechase where freshly-minted world record holder Beatrice Chepkoech, clearly in the rarest of forms, led a medal sweep for the east African powerhouse. The 27-year-old dominated the race en route to an 8:59.88 run, near the top of the short list of fastest un-paced performances in history.

As the field, led by three Kenyans, approached the end of the opening lap, Chepkoech said she had to make a choice: to decide with medal was hers. As she broke away and turned the race into a solo exhibition, her decision became obvious.

"After the world record and now the African title, this will open many doors for me," she said. Behind the first door is a spot on Team Africa for next month's IAAF Continental Cup Ostrava 2018.

Celliphine Chespol was a distant second nearly 10 seconds back, clocking 9:09.61, with Fancy Cherono taking bronze.

AFTER TAMPERE TRIUMPH, ZAKAYO CONQUERS ASABA

Next came the men’s 5000m where it was Edward Zakayo, the 16-year-old who emerged prominently on the scene after winning the world U20 title over the distance last month, to take centre stage.

Third at the bell behind Yemane Haileselassie of Eritrea and Ethiopian Getaneh Molla, Zakayo bolted off the final turn to finish unchallenged, crossing the line with his tongue wagging and arms spread wide, in 13:48.58.

Molla was second in 13:49.06 with Haileselassie an exuberant third in 13:49.58 to capture one of Eritrea's two medals at these championships.

Kenya's victorious 4x400m relay squad at the African Championships in Asaba (AFP/Getty Images)Kenya's victorious 4x400m relay squad at the African Championships in Asaba (AFP/Getty Images) © Copyright

“I used the strategy to run with my competitors and maintain the pace, which I did, and then to pull away.” Next on the teenager’s agenda? “To win the world championship. But I must work even harder first.”

About 20 minutes after Zakayo crossed the line, the gun sounded the start of the men’s 1500m, a tactical affair largely driven by Kenyan aces Elijah Manangoi, the world champion, and his training partner Timothy Cheruiyot, this year's world leader who's chiseled together an unbeaten season on the IAAF Diamond League circuit.

Manangoi made his move with about 300 metres to go, unleashing a long, sustained kick that Cheruiyot couldn't meet or beat. Manangoi clocked 3:35.20 to take his first continental title, Cheruiyot 3:35.93. Uganda's Ronald Musagala closed strong to take bronze in 3:36.41.

Meanwhile on the infield, 2015 world javelin throw champion Julius Yego won his specialty with a second round 77.34m effort, defeating South African Philmar Van Rensburg (76.57m) with Kure Adams of Nigeria taking bronze with 75.69m.

 CHAMPIONSHIPS RECORD IN THE 4X400 RELAY

Then, an inspired Kenyan quartet of Aron Koech, Alphas Kishoyian, Jared Momanyi and Emmanuel Korir brought the curtain down on Asaba 2018 with victory in the 4x400m relay in 3:00.92, a championships record. South Africa was second in 3:03.50 followed by host Nigeria in 3:04.88.

Kenya's medal haul began in the early morning hours with when Samuel Gathimba prevailed in the 20km race walk, clocking 1:25:14 to beat South African Lebogang Shange by 11 seconds. The battle for second was close, with Shange just holding off Hassanina Sebei of Tunisia. Both were credited with the same time of 1:25:25.

SEMENYA TAKES THE DOUBLE

South Africa ended a strong week with three more titles to up their total medal tally to 30, an impressive 11 more than Kenya and hosts Nigeria who each collected 19 in all.

Caster Semenya and Francine Niyonsaba congratulate each other after the 800m final at the African Championships in Asaba (AFP/Getty Images)Caster Semenya and Francine Niyonsaba congratulate each other after the 800m final at the African Championships in Asaba (AFP/Getty Images) © Copyright

As expected, Caster Semenya successfully defended her 800m title with a dominating gun-to-tape front-running performance. Starting in lane 1, the world and Olympic champion made up the stagger on the field about 150 metres into the race, and extended her lead over the next 450 metres. The challengers, led by Francine Niyonsaba of Burundi, made up some ground over the final half lap, but by then the race had already been decided. Semenya clocked 1:56.06 to clip 0.20 from the championships record set by Maria Mutola in 1993.

"Today was just to see how we could run after a hard 400 metres,” she said, competing two days after her 49.96 victory and national record over one lap. “Which wasn't a bad thing to do - to test my limits after running 49. And 1:56.06, that's a beautiful time. I couldn't have asked for more."

Semenya confirmed that she'll contest both distances at the Continental Cup and was pleased to learn that the 400 would be run first. "Perfect," she said.

Niyonsaba was second in 1:57.97 with Ethiopian Habitam Alemu taking the bronze in 1:58.86.

Ncincihli Titi took a convincing victory in the men's 200m in 20.46 with Nigeria's Oduduru Ejowvokoghene edging Luxolo Adams to prevent a South African 1-2. Both clocked 20.60.

On the infield, Ischke Senekal took top honours in the shot put reaching 17.24m to win by nearly half a metre to add to her discus bronze.

THREE MORE WINS FOR NIGERIA 

Nigeria's gold medal total was bolstered by the aptly named Glory Nathaniel who won the host's first title of the day, taking the 400m hurdles by more than a second in 55.43. Lamiae Lhabz of Morocco was second, clocking 56.66 with South African Wanda Nel (57.04) taking bronze. 

Grace Anigbata won the triple jump with a 14.02m leap in the second round, before Nigeria also claimed the penultimate event, the women’s 4x400m relay, prompting the day’s loudest roar from the nearly-packed house. The Nigerian quartet dominated the race winning in 3:31.17, more than four seconds ahead of runners-up Kenya who clocked 3:35.45. Zambia claimed the bronze in 3:38.18.

Marie Josee Ta Lou after her double dash victory at the African Championships in Asaba (AFP/Getty Images)Marie Josee Ta Lou after her double dash victory at the African Championships in Asaba (AFP/Getty Images) © Copyright

TA LOU COMPLETES DASH DOUBLE

Marie Josee Talou of Ivory Coast, the 100m winner on Thursday, also took home an expected double after dominating the 200m in 22.50. She was nearly as fast afterwards when changing her shoes and socks before rushing off to catch her ride to the airport. “I can’t wait until the Continental Cup,” the year’s 100m world leader said.

Bevia Abessolo of Cameroun was second in 23.36, just 0.02 ahead of Ghanaian Janet Amponsah.

Elsewhere, Odile Ahouanwanou of Benin scored an upset victory in the heptathlon, tallying 5999 points to beat defending champion Marthe Yasmine Koala of Burkina Faso by 32 points. Erika Nonhlanhla Seyama of Swaziland took the women's high jump at 1.83m.

Yamjaleye Beletew Mitiku opened the day with a surprise victory in the women’s 20km race walk, defeating favourite Grace Wanjiru of Kenya by more than four minutes in 1:31:46. Chahimez Nasri of Tunisia took the bronze in 1:37.20.

  • Published in Sports

Cuban Jumper Vidal to the Final of the IAAF World U-20 Championships

Cuban Maykel Vidal qualified here today for the final of the men's long jump corresponding to the IAAF World U-20 Championships.

Vidal, the U-18 world champion last year in Nairobi, Kenya, recorded a jump of 7.42 meters in his third attempt to be included among the 12 athletes who will go tomorrow Wednesday in search of a medal.

The Cuban was below his usual performance, he was the last among all the classified despite showing an 8.12m jump as a personal best, the best among all competitors.

His compatriot Lester Lescay, second of the U-18 orb in Nairobi 2017, was not on his best day either and the 7.36m reached in the second jump was not enough for him to be included in the finalist squad.

The classification was dominated by the Japanese Yuki Hashioka with 7.92 m and the Jamaican Wayne Pinnock with 7.76m.

On this first day of the IAAF World U-20 Championships, the medals in the 5000 meters for women, the shot put for men and 10,000 meters for men will be discussed.

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