Jonathan Borlée, Margo Van Puyvelde and the Belgian Cheetahs have gifted the home crowd three Belgian victories on Saturday's 39th edition of the Night of Athletics in Heusden-Zolder. Jonathan Borlée, Louise Carton and Bashir Abdi also qualified for the European Championships on the Belgian national holiday.
Jonathan Borlée reinforced the reputation of the Night of Athletics as the ideal hunting ground to chase a qualifying standard for major championships. Jonathan had to stay below 45.89 on his beloved 400 metres to qualify for Berlin and the Belgian record holder did so with a time of 45.57.
Jonathan also won the event ahead of twin brother Kevin (45.67), who already ran below the limit earlier in the season. That also applies to younger brother Dylan, who finished fourth. Dutchman Liemarvin Bonevacia was third in 45.86 to prevent a Borlée podium lockout.
VAN PUYVELDE WINS WITH PERSONAL BEST
The women's 400m hurdles also delivered a Belgian win as Margo Van Puyvelde raced to victory with a personal best of 55.95. Justien Grillet was fifth in 56.95 ahead of Hanne Claes in sixth in 57.21. All three Belgian ladies had already qualified for Berlin.
SUCCESSFUL REHEARSAL FOR BELGIAN CHEETAHS
Camille Laus also didn't need the night to qualify for Berlin and ran a relaxed 400-metre race to second in 53.09. Niger's Aminatou Seyni dominated with a new national record of 51.17.
Later on Van Puyvelde, Grillet, Claes and Laus teamed up in the 4x400m. The Belgian Cheetahs won the race in a strong 3:31.10 ahead of Sweden, Jamaica and France. It's a perfect rehearsal for the European Championships for the already qualified team.
SPECTATORS CHEER CARTON TO BERLIN
Louise Carton provided the fourth Belgian highlight in her quest to stay below 15:36.42 and qualify for the 5000m in Berlin. Carton got off to a measured start but finished strongly, boosted by a sold-out crowd in the cosy De Veen stadium. Carton finished 17th in 15:33.25, staying below the standard by three seconds. In a high-level race no less than eight athletes broke their personal records. Shelby Houlihan won in a new US record of 14:34.45.
PERSONAL RECORD FOR BOUCHIKHI, GREAT RESULT FOR ABDI
In the men's 5000m three Belgians made the race, which was won by Ethiopia's Chala Regasa in a stunning 13:06.98, just five seconds shy of the world's leading time of Birhanu Yemataw. Soufiane Bouchikhi held off Bashir Abdi for eighth to be the fastest Belgian. Both Belgians stayed below the limit for Berlin, which was crucial for Abdi who hadn't yet qualified. The third Belgian at the start, Lander Tijtgat, had to retire during the race. Bouchikhi and Abdi top the Belgian rankings ahead of Isaac Kimeli (13:21.20) and Robin Hendrix (13:29.57). Hendrix is on the bubble to miss out on the 5000 metres in Berlin.
SEVERAL BELGIAN MISS OPPORTUNITY TO QUALIFY
Aaron Botterman targeted a 1:46.70 to qualify for the 800m race but was fourth in 1:47.12, well behind winner Mostafa Smaili (1:45.54).
None of the Belgians made the limit on the 1500m. Pieter-Jan Hannes got close to the 3:38.10 standard with sixth place in 3:38.28. Uganda's Ronald Musagala won the event in 3:36.59. In the women's event Sofie Van Accom was three seconds shy of qualifying. American Emily Lipari won in a personal best of 4:05.68.
Neither Sarah Missinne or Anne Zagré could get close to the required 13.12 on the 100m hurdles and finished off the podium in 13.35 and 13.37 respectively. Jamaica's Nickiesha Wilson won in 12.93. Michael Obasuyi was just 0.12 shy to book a ticket to Berlin on the 110 hurdles, placing fifth in 13.97. Frenchman Ludovic Payen won in 13.59. Dario Deborger (14.24) and Denis Hajnoul (14.27) didn't feature at the front.
Robin Vanderbemden had already clinched his 200m ticket for Berlin and finished third on the Night in 20.77 well behind winner Kyle Greaux and second-placed Solomon Bockarie in 20.54. American Aaliyaj Brown won the women's 100m in 11.35. Manon Depuydt, who already qualified for the 200m, finished fourth well over the European limit.
On the men's 400m hurdles Bahamian Jeffrey Gibson came out on top in 48.98 ahead of Algeria's Abdelmalik Lahoulou (49.01) and Kenyan Nicholas Bett (49.27), the 2015 world champion. On the women's 800 metres, last year's winner Renée Eykens was absent due to injury. Uganda's Halimah Nakaayi prevailed in 1:59.58, the only women to beat the two-minute barrier.
DE RYCK VAULTS TO PB
In the field Luxembourg's Bob Bertemes was the best shot putter with 20m48, Holland's Ignisious Gaisah won the long jump with 7m68. Australian Nicola McDermott and American Liz Patterson shared the high jump win with jumps over 1m88. Australia's Nina Kennedy won the pole vault with 4m45, Belgium's Aurelie De Ryck was third with a new personal best op 4m28.
AWARD FOR VAN PUYVELDE
After the night's action Margo Van Puyvelde was called onto the podium again to receive the Paul Eerdekens Trophy, an award for the best performance of the Night of Athletics.