Ionela Tirlea after winning the 400m hurdles at the 1998 European Championships (Getty Images) © Copyright
Report Doha, Qatar

Double victory for Tirlea in Doha Grand Prix I

Romania's Ionela Tirlea surprisingly dominated the IAAF Grand Prix I in Doha by setting the second best time in the world this year in both events she competed.

She took victory in both the 400m hurdles and the 200m to defeat Olympic champion Deon Hemmings and World silver medallist Sushantika Jayasinghe respectively.

Her 400 metres hurdles time of 54.27 seconds has only been beaten by herself when she won in Osaka, Japan, on Saturday in 54.09.

Tirlea who is the reigning European 400m hurdles champion demonstrated her powers of recovery, and her ability to block out the whistling, by later taking the 200 metres.

She won the event at which she took the world indoor title less than two months ago in a personal best of 22.35. "Have you got an 800 metres as well?" she joked with organisers as she left the track.

Jamaican long jumper James Beckford leapt 8.41 metres in the last round of a contest he dominated from the outset to improve by a centimetre on the best mark of the year which already stood to his name.

South Africa's Hezekiel Sepeng and Kenya's Joseph Keter ran the fastest outdoor times of the year in their specialist events.

In the sticky heat of the first fully-fledged Grand Prix meeting to be staged in the Middle East, the conditions were expected to suit the sprinters but instead it was the middle distance men from Africa who impressed.

Sepeng, the Atlanta Olympics silver medallist over 800 metres, got to the front with 80 metres to go and stopped the clock at 1: 44.44 seconds to improve the best in the world this year by more than half a second.

Despite the success, Sepeng left the track less than satisfied.

"I am actually a little disappointed," he said. "I know it’s hot and humid but I expected to do better. At least it is still early in the season and the really important occasions to do well will come in a few months time."

Keter, the Olympic 3,000m steeplechase champion, has had a relatively low-key couple of years since his gold medal but looks set to emerge at last. He went to the front on the last lap and despite a late challenge from his compatriot and world junior champion Reuban Kosgei, Keter came home with plenty of speed still in his legs despite the strength-sapping conditions for distance running.

He crossed the line in 8:17.89, just shading his younger rival who set a personal best of 8:17.95.

By contrast Namibian sprinter Frankie Fredericks, billed as the star of the meeting, had to settle for a 100 metres victory in a modest 10.14 seconds. Apparently very nervous after four false starts, Fredericks did not manage to run fast and smoothly as he is used to. 

Reuters for the IAAF