Rababe Arafi wins the 1500m at the Mediterranean Games (© Organisers)
Morocco’s Rababe Arafi became the only athlete to secure a double victory at the Mediterranean Games which finished on Saturday (30) in the Spanish city of Tarragona.
The 28-year-old stamped her authority in the women’s 800m and 1500m. Her first gold medal took place at the shorter distance when she dominated a tactical race, pulling away over the closing 200 metres to succeed in 2:01.01 well clear of her fellow Moroccan Malika Akkaoui (2:01.50) and France’s Cynthia Anais (2:02:33).
Barely 24 hours later, the 2015 World Championships 800m fourth-place finisher faced the 1500m straight final, which seemed a copy and paste of the shorter event. After a quiet start, the fireworks began with 200 metres to go when first Akkaoui and then Arrafi overtook Spain’s Marta Pérez. It was with 50 metres to go when Arrafi, who has broken the 4:00 barrier this season, easily passed her compatriot to strike her second gold in 4:12.83 for Akkaoui’s 4:13.31 while Pérez managed to hold off the challenge of another Spaniard, Solange Pereira, to grab bronze in 4:15.66.
The Moroccan middle-distance party included the men’s events as Brahim Kaazouzi was victorious in the men’s 1500m. Turkey’s Ilham Tanui Ozbilen set off like a bullet to go through the opening lap in a frantic 54.64. He was caught by the group one lap later and nothing remarkable happened until the final bend when the Moroccan pair of Kaazouzi and Fouad El Kaam ran away from the rest with Tunisia’s Abdessalem Ayouni in hot pursuit. At the tape Kaazouzi prevailed in a fine 3:37.14 but Ayouni prevented a Moroccan double as he overtook El Kaam in a PB of 3:37:35 for the latter’s 3:37.78.
Ruthless De Arriba finally wins
The men’s 800m saw the surprise early lead of Bosnia-Herzegovina’s Abedin Mujezinovic who broke away from the rest of the field some 100 metres into the race and maintained a sizeable advantage over the two main favourites: Spain’s European indoor bronze medallist Alvaro De Arriba and Morocco’s Mostafa Smaili.
Mujezinov still entered the home straight with a 10-metre advantage but the in-form De Arriba and Smaili caught him with about 50 metres left to romp home in 1:47:43 and 1:47.56 respectively while the Bosnian’s brave tactic was rewarded with the bronze medal (1:48.07).
Guliyev in a class of his own
World 200m champion Ramil Guliyev was another of the championship record-breakers as the Turk bettered the long-standing mark set by Italy’s Pietro Mennea.
Guliyev found no opposition to take an easy win in 20.15. In the fight for the remaining medals, Italy’s Eseosa Desalu came second in 20.77 ahead of France’s Meba-Mickael Zeze 20.78. Spain’s Daniel Rodríguez had to settle for fourth place in 20.79 after setting a PB of 20.59 in the semifinal round.
Vaillant surprises Copello
The men’s 400m hurdles witnessed the surprising win of France's Ludvy Vaillant over the overwhelming favourite Turkey's Yasmani Copello. After a close battle throughout, European under-23 bronze medallist Vaillant and world silver medallist Copello crossed the finish line virtually even. It was only after a close look at the photo-finish that the French athlete was given the victory in a career best and championship record of 48.76, while a disappointed Copello was credited with the same clocking. Zied Azizi of Tunisia completed the podium in a PB of 49.13.
The women’s triple jump was arguably the ‘youngest event’ of the championships. France’s 20-year-old Yanis David twice improved her PB thanks to respective leaps of 14.14m and 14.15m to take gold while Italy’s Ottavia Cestonaro, 23 years of age, managed to surpass the 14-metre barrier for the first time in her career with a 14.05m final-round effort to leave Spain’s 21-year-old Fatime Diame in bronze position (13.92m) to add this medal to her bronze in the long jump the day before.
Italy rules the relays
Italy dominated three of the four relays as they took the men’s 4x100m in 38.49 marginally ahead of Turkey (38.50), the 4x400m in 3:03:54 over Spain (3:04.71) and the women’s 4x400m in 3:28.08. The Italian squad ‘only’ could capture bronze in the women’s 4x100m where France beat Spain at the very last metre (43.29 versus a Spanish record of 43.31) for Italy’s 43.61.
Other winners included France's Carolle Zahi in the women’s 200m thanks to a 23.02 PB, Syria’s world high jump bronze medallist Majed El Dein Ghazal (2.28m), Croatia’s Andrea Ivancevic in the women’s 100m hurdles (13.19), Cyprus’s Apostolos Parellis in the discus (62.98m), Moroccans Kaoutar Farkoussi in the 5000m (15:52.33) and Yahya Berrabah (8.02m in the long jump), Italy’s Lorenzo Perini (PB of 13.49 in the men’s 110m hurdles) and his compatriot Yadisledey Pedroso in the 400m hurdles (55.40).
The medal table was headed by Morocco with a tally of eight gold medals, four silvers and one bronze (13 medals overall) followed by Italy (7/8/8, 23 overall), France (7/1/6, 14 overall), Turkey (3/4/1, 8 overall) and the host country Spain (2/6/7, 15 overall).
Emeterio Valiente for the IAAF