Jacob Cheshari of Kenya and Ukraine’s Olympic 1500m silver medallist Iryna Lishchynska respectively established new world season leading times over 5000m and 1500m at the Meeting Mohammed VI d' Athlétisme (CAA Great Grand Prix) on Saturday evening (23) in a packed stadium of spectators (estimated 35,000) at the Prince Moulay Abdellah Sporting complex in Rabat.
The Meeting Mohammed VI d' Athlétisme is one of a select group of Area meetings at which points can be acquired by athletes to qualify for the IAAF / VTB Bank World Athletics Final, to be held on 12-13 September in Thessaloniki, Greece.
The relatively unknown Jacob Cheshari dominated the men’s 5000m covering the distance in 13:05:62, and was followed home by his compatriot Joseph Kiplimo (13:09.34) and by the Saudi Hussein Al-Yami (13:11.64). Cheshari’s time improved the 2009 world season lead by a large margin. The previous fastest this season was the 13:16.26 set by Australian Collis Burmingham on 5 March in Melbourne.
After a poor run in Doha on 8 May (4:16.35) Iryna Lishchynska, the Olympic and World medallist, set a world season lead in the women’s 1500m with 4:06.22, which was just inside the former leading mark of Ethiopia's Gelete Burka (4:06.67; 8 May). Lishchynska came home ahead of fellow 2008 Olympic 1500m finalist Siham Hilali, Morocco’s former World Youth 3000m champion, who was second in 4:07.44.
In third was another Moroccan, Ibtissam Lakhouad (4:07.68), with their more illustrious colleague Hasna Benhassi, the multiple global 800m silver and bronze medallist who was also the 2001 World Indoor 1500m champion, having to settle for fourth on this occasion (4:07.80).
But the Moroccan standout performance of the night was the national Long Jump record for Yarya Berrabah who leapt 8.38m (+0.6) to improve the record of Younes Moudrik 8.34m which was set in Algiers in the 2000 African champs. The 27-year-old Berrabah beat Olympic silver medallist and World Indoor champion Godfrey Khotso Mokoena of South Africa (8.17m) and USA’s Miguel Pate (8.05m).
Mixed fortunes for Beijing victors
The big disappointment of the meeting was the below par performance of Kenya’s Olympic 800m champion Pamela Jelimo, who finished only sixth in 2:02.46. The $1 Million AF Golden League Jackpot winner was well beaten over two laps by Briton Jenny Meadows (2:01:78).
“I tried to do my best, but stress prevented from me delivering a good race and resisting the competition from the other athletes", said Jelimo who promised to come back next year and run well in Rabat.
Of the other two Beijing champions competing in Rabat, Britain’s Christine Ohuruogu the women's Olympic 400m winner, took second place in the 200m in 23.27 sec behind the Bahamian Debbie Fergusson (23.08), who was the 2004 Olympic bronze medallist at 200m.
Estonia’s Olympic Discus Throw champion Gerd Kanter, won his event in Rabat with 65.84m, outstripping the Spain’s Frank Casanas (63.10) and the Egyptian Omar El Ghazaly (63.05).
Other standout performances...Mekonnen, Koech and Kaki
Amine Laalou, a semi-finalist in Beijing over 800m, who was running the 1500m for the first time had a baptism of fire in a race won by Ethiopia’s World Indoor champion Deresse Mekonnen in 3:34.59. Laalou can be very pleased with his second place finish in 3:34.81 ahead of Mahiedine Mekhissi-Benabbad. France’s surprise Olympic 3000m Steeplechase medallist in Beijing, took third here over 1500m in 3.35:06 (PB).
In the Rabat 3000m Steeplechase, Kenyan Paul Kipsiele Koech, the 2004 Olympic bronze medallist who missed selection for last summer’s Games in Beijing, ran away with the race finishing in a time of 8:07.80 well ahead of Richard Mateelong (8:13.35) who had been bronze medallist in Beijing.
World Junior champion Abubaker Kaki of Sudan (1:44.82) was first in the 800m ahead of Saudi Mohammed Al-Salhi (1:45.30), and Holland’s European champion Bram Som (1:45.31) who is making good progress back from injury.
France's Ronald Pognon won the 100m in 10.30 sec and Gary Kikaya of Congo the 400m in 45.85 sec; Poland's Anna Jesien was the victor in the women's 400m Hurdles (55.63), Silke Spiegelburg took the Pole Vault with 4.50m; and Spain's Ruth Beitia was the best high jumper (1.96m).
Some of Rabat’s star performers will be returning to Morocco on 12 July for the 2nd international meeting of Tangier which is being organised by middle distance running legend Hicham El Guerrouj.
Mohammed Benchrif for the IAAF
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