OBIKWELU 9.84 in Spain

Obikwelu, Lebedeva and Bell take advantage of the wind in Zaragoza
Sunday 4 June 2006
Zaragoza, Spain - Portugal’s reigning Olympic 100m silver medallist Francis Obikwelu produced one of the highlight performances of the ‘3rd Gran Premio Internacional de Atletismo Gobierno de Aragón” held yesterday (3) on a sunny but very windy day.

The explosive events such as the women’s Long Jump and the men’s Triple Jump benefited from a wind in the 3-5 m/s range but the middle distance events were heavily hampered by the circumstances which made fast times impossible.

Obikwelu’s 9.84 aided strongly

The Nigerian-born Obikwelu was timed at 9.84 in his specialist event aided by a strong tailwind of 5.4m/s. :wink:

However the Madrid-based athlete, who missed the bronze medal at the 2005 World Championships in Helsinki by 0.02s said - “OK, a heavy following wind was in my favour but it doesn´t matter to me, I’m very satisfied with my performance and I feel capable of clocking those kind of times (9.84) in legal conditions too”.

Let’s remember that Obikwelu is the current European record holder thanks to the 9.86 mark he set when winning the Olympic silver in Athens.

After a 10.06 mark in the semi-final round (+2.9) Obikwelu had a slowish reaction to the gun in the final (0.192 seconds). Drawn in lane 4 he powered back to become an overwhelming winner 0.16 ahead of America’s Marquis Davies who clocked 10.00 and Nigeria’s Deji Aliu, 10.08.

Is everything now just about Justin Gatlin and Asafa Powell in the men’s 100? “Right now they are the best sprinters but anything can happen between us on a given day," said Obikwelu.

The 27-year-old also suggested a reason why his rivals are running so quickly early in the season - “This year they have an advantage on me because Gatlin and Powell are not contesting major championships. By contrast, my primary goal for this 2006 season is the European Championships in Gothenburg, (Sweden) in the second week of August” explained Obikwelu. “Four years ago I took two silvers (100/200) in Munich and I look forward to winning those two titles on this occasion”.

Asked on his forecast about who will be successful in the eagerly awaited Gatlin-Powell showdown Obikwelu declared, “It’s a very balanced clash. I think that Powell has a better start but Gatlin’s second part of the race is excellent and I would bet on him”.

Lebedeva master of consistency, Bell flies to 17.58w

Russia’s reigning Olympic Long Jump champion Tatayna Lebedeva produced a magnificent series of jumps topped by her 7.09 second round effort. Despite the tailwind she enjoyed, her complete series deserves to be mentioned in full detail: 6.94 (3.4), 7.09 (4.3), 7.05 (3.7), 6.97 (5.4), 6.88 (2.8) and a foul.

Lebedeva, the 2005 Golden League Jackpot winner in the Triple Jump, and her 21-year-old long jumping compatriot Olga Kucherenko managed a 1-2 for Russia, the latter leaping 6.80m (2.5) in round two, barely one centimetre further than Grace Upshaw of the USA, who recorded 6.79m on her opening jump.

Also in the infield, America’s Kenta Bell landed a windy (4.4) 17.58m for an easy victory in the men’s Triple Jump from Russia Danila Burkenya who leapt 17.19 (4.3) in the final round. Allen Simms (PUR) also exceeded the 17m barrier for third place, 17.04 (3.5).

Minor injury forces Jackson to watch from the stands

World 400m Hurdles champion Bershawn Jackson of the USA was a non-starter in the men’s 400m flat. One of the shortest top hurdlers in the world (1.73) Jackson sustained a minor hamstring injury last Tuesday in the Ostrava meeting which was held in chilly conditions. Trying to recover for yesterday’s race, he received a massage in Zaragoza the day before the competition but decided not to compete as a precautionary measure.

In Jackson’s absence the flat 400m victory went to his countryman Leonard Byrd in 46.79, while Poland’s Piotr Klimczak was the only other athlete to break the 47s barrier with 46.96, 0.07 clear of last year’s European Indoor champion Ireland’s David Gillick.

Benhassi, Bungei and Silva take comfortable wins

Once it became clear that world class middle distance times on the track were going to be nearly impossible, the hot favourites in these events opted to stay close behind the leading athletes and produce late bursts of speed to secure their victories.

Morocco’s World and Olympic 800 silver medallist Hasna Benhassi dominated her event in a time of 2:06.21, with a full three tenths advantage over Romania’s Mihaela Neacsu. Spain’s European silver medallist Mayte Martínez was a close third. In the men’s 800m, the World Indoor champion Wilfred Bungei of Kenya was an unchallenged victor in 1:47.78 half a second ahead of fellow countryman Ismael Kombich, while Spain’s Juan de Dios Jurado place third in 1:48.63.

The top spot in the men’s 1500m went to Portugal’s Rui Silva. The 28-year-old World and Olympic bronze medallist always had the race under control and just waited until the last 80m to launch his trademark devastating final kick. His unremarkable winning time was 3:42.61, 0.20s ahead of Kenya’s Elkanah Angwenyi, with Morocco’s Yassine Bensghir (12th at the Helsinki Worlds) in third.

No height for the World Pole Vault champion

The men’s Pole Vault witnessed USA’s Olympic champion Tim Mack win in a season’s best of 5.75m. That was the only height Mack could surpass on the first attempt, needing two or three tries to go over his previous heights. The runner-up was former World champion Australia’s Dmitri Markov thanks to a third-time 5.70 clearance to equal his season’s best.

The reigning World champion Rens Blom of The Netherlands failed to get over his initial height of 5.45m. A very disappointed Blom said afterwards, “It was not the wind the reason for my no height, it was my fault as I’m having serious problems with my technique this season, I’ll have to work hard on it”.

Ukraine’s Olksander Korchmyd was third on count-back over Germany’s Tim Lobinger both having vaulted 5.65.

Other highlights…

Germany’s Michael Mollenbeck won a thrilling Discus Throw contest by the narrow margin of 10 centimetres over Cuba’s Frank Casañas, 63.91m and 63.81m their respective releases. They both beat the pre-event favourite American Ian Waltz (season’s best of 68.91 last 24 May) who opened with 62.92 but could not go any better.

In the Shot Put, Poland’s Tomasz Majewski was a surprise winner thanks to a 20.37m third-round toss ahead of Spain’s Manuel Martínez who was runner-up with 20.03, and Ukraine’s Olympic champion Yuriy Bilonog whose best effort was just 19.95m.

The Hurdles events were dominated by America’s Robby Hughes (110m) in a windy 13.24, with a full tenth of advantage over Britain’s Andy Turner, while in the women’s 400m Hurdles America’s Tiffany Ross-Williams stamped her authority with a 55.58 clocking.

The men’s 3000m saw a thrilling neck n’ neck sprint between Kenya’s Shadrack Korir and the in form (7:38.70 in Ostrava last Tuesday) Moroccan Hicham Bellani with the former prevailing with a creditable 7:46.27 performance ahead of Bellani’s 7:46.93.

But Morocco was successful in the women’s 3000m in the guise of Mariem Alaoui Selsouli who broke away from the field before halfway and grabbed a fine win in 8:53.08. Spain’s European 5000m champion Marta Domínguez was second in 8:55.60 in her 2006 outdoor debut, and will fight for the European 10,000m in Gothenburg in August.

The only event dominated by a Spaniard was the women’s High Jump where reigning World indoor bronze medallist Ruth Beitia had a perfect jump card up to and including 1.93m before failing three times at a would-be national record of 2.01m. Her more than decent first attempt suggests she will be able to surpass that height soon and properly establish herself as a serious medal contender at the Europeans. Russia’s Olga Kaliturina was the only other jumper exceeding the 1.90m with a successful clearance at 1.91m on her third try).

Women’s World 3000m Steeplechase bronze medallist Kenya’s Jeruto Kiptum took a comfortable win in 9:44.54. Ethiopia’s Mekdes Bekele came second (9:48.19), while Spain’s Rosa Morató just fell 1.63s short of his national record to finish in 9:52.71.

The women’s Javelin Throw opened the programme and witnessed an easy win for Romania’s Felicia Moldovan thanks to a 62.03m throw, while Spain’s Mercedes Chilla came runner-up also surpassing the 60m barrier (60.11).

Emeterio Valiente for the IAAF