Thiam gives Dakar crowd of 50,000+ a happy ending - World Athletics Tour
Saturday 28 April 2007
Dakar, Senegal - Angelo Taylor (USA), Jamaica’s Sheri-Ann Brooks and Andreas Thorkildsen (Norway) emerged clear winners in their first international competition this year at the Meeting International d’Athletisme de la Ville de Dakar, the second meeting of the IAAF World Athletics Tour 2007.
As expected the Senegalese fans filled the Leopold Sedar Senghor Stadium in their tens of thousands. The future of track and field in Senegal looks secures as the bulk of the fans cheering athletes regardless of nationality where children.
tens of thousands of fans packed the national stadium in Dakar
Early-season world lead for Taylor
America’s Angelo Taylor upstaged the four South Africans who prior to the race were heavy favourites to dominate proceedings. Getting off to an aggressive start Taylor was a close second to Alwyn Myburgh (South Africa) coming into the home straight.
Myburgh’s early lead begun taking its toll when he began to fizzling over the last two hurdles. A fast finishing Taylor breezed past him in the last 40 metres to win the race in 48.68, the fastest performance for the 2000 Olympic champion since 2004. Myburgh (49.03) was second and was followed by Mali’s Ibrahim Maiga (49.13), Louis van Zyl (49.31), American Laron Bennet (49.46), Pieter Koekemoer (49.58), and Jamaican Ian Weakley 49.86.
Talkmore Nyongani cruises to victory in Dakar
“My strategy worked perfectly. I took the fight to the South Africans who were pre-race favourites. I went out hard to put them under pressure and relaxing on the second turn. On the home straight I felt strong and was confident of winning as my opponents had some hard work catching up,” said Taylor. “This is a good start to my season and I look forwards to some faster times this year especially at the World Championships in Osaka Japan in August.”
Sprint double for Brooks
Jamaica’s Sheri-Ann Brooks realised her dream of dominating the 100 and 200m on her maiden trip to Africa. After a weak start in the 100m Brooks accelerated mid-way through the race to recover lost ground, just in time to surge to victory in 11.24, past the American duo of Stephanie Durst (11.30) and Brianna Glenn (11.38).
Comfortable victory for Abraham Chepkirwok in Dakar
Brooks had a more smooth race in the 200m coming into the home straight ahead of Nigeria’s Gloria Kemasuoda. Brooks had the extra drive to prevail in 23.20 (wind-assisted). Kemasuoda (23.71) finished runner up with Mali’s Kadiatou Camara (24.00) placed third.
“I am happy that I have achieved my objective of qualifying for the World Championships at this meeting. Going forwards I would like to run faster in Doha (Qatar) and Osaka (Japan) in the coming week. This year my goal is to run under 11 seconds in the 100m and 22.2 in the 200m,” Brooks revealed.
Fasuba, Nyongani, Ceplak and Thorkildsen impress
[b]Nigeria’s Olusoji Fasuba (10.17) narrowly edged Jamaican Christopher Williams (10.18) to win the men’s 100m. Christopher went onto win the 200m in 20.72 (wind-assisted) and immediately jogged out of the stadium.
“All I wanted was to emerge victorious,” said Fasuba, the African record holder at 9.85. “It is not wise to aim for records early in the year as we have the All Africa Games and World Championships ahead of us. Although I am going to the Grand Prix in Doha (Qatar) where I set the Africa record last year, my aim is to maintain my current winning form.” [/b]
Also keen on maintaining their winning form are Zimbabwe’s Talkmore Nyongani and Slovenia’s Jolanda Ceplak. Nyongani (45.98) prevailed in the 400m. Ceplak won a keenly contested women’s 800m (2:03.30).
“The headwind on the back straight was too strong for me to run a fast time and possibly break the meet record of 44.89. Nonetheless, I am happy to regain the title I won at this meet in 2004,”says Nyongani.
Ceplak explained her motivation to win. “First I wanted to win this race, as I did in 2003. The other reason is the positive atmosphere and support the huge crowd gives us. You feel so uplifted that you want to do your best,” says Ceplak.
Olympic and European Javelin champion Andreas Thorkildsen stamped his authority with a winning throw of 81.10m. He was well ahead of his main rivals, the runner-up Erick Rags of Latvia and Marko Kantanen of Finland who threw 76.14 and 74.02 respectively.
“I believe we would have thrown further if it was not for the strong headwind,” said Thorkildsen. “Nonetheless, this is a decent start to the season and I look forward to more victories before the World championships.”
Gaining experience, Chepkirwok cruises to 800m win
Bronze medallists at the 2006 Beijing World Junior Championships, Uganda’s Abraham Chepkirwok (800m) and Kenyan Kipkorir Kiplagat (3000m steeplechase) proved that they are adjusting well to relatively slow but tactical races against senior athletes. Chepkirwok won the 800m in 1:46.85, while Kiplagat (7:47.37) was victorious in the 3000m.
“Clinching a medal in Bejing has changed my whole outlook on training and competing,” said Chepkirwok. “I am far more committed and I hope that this is the start of a great year that will see me win medal starting with the All Africa Games.”
Kiplagat is more modest about his plans. “All I am thinking of is making the 3000m steeplechase team for Osaka. After that I will plan a new strategy.”
Thiam ensures crowd’s satisfaction
The meet had a rapturous end when home girl Amy Mbacke Thiam stepped onto the track for the final event of the day, the women’s 400m. The nearly 50,000 fans that filled the stadium honoured their national heroine with a standing ovation.
In return Thiam did not disappoint her adoring fans as she went on to win the one lap race in 51.73. Nigeria’s Christy Ekpukhon (52.15) was second while Croatia’s Danijela Grgic (52.30), the World junior champion, was third.
The crowd broke into wild celebration. A Senegalese flag was thrust into her hand as she was cheered by her adoring fans as she went on a lap of honour. Ït took the intervention of the IAAF President Lamine Diack, before fans could let go of Thiam and allow journalists to interview the 2001 World 400m champion.
“This was a very important victory for our country,” said an emotional Thiam. “Coming into the race there was a lot of pressure on my shoulders as no Senegalese had won any event. I hope this good fortune will continue as I seek to bring glory to Senegal at the All Africa Games in (Algiers) Algeria in July and the World Championships in Osaka.”
Strong winds affected the jumps as well. South African record holder Godfrey Mokoena took the men’s title with an 8.32 (+2.6) leap, while Brazil’s Maurren Higa Maggi took the women’s (6.80m, w+3.8).
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Mark Ouma for the IAAF