At the 40th edition of the KBC Night in Heusden-Zolder South Africa's Clarence Munyai broke the 18-year old 200 metres meeting record. Hurdles specialist Eline Berings and high jumper Claire Orcel provided the Belgian highlights of the night.
40 year of the KBC Nights equals 40 years of outstanding performances. In 1979 the first edition of the Night of Athletics took place in Hechtel. Lead by founder Paul Eerdekens the meeting grew into an international event, moving to the De Veen Stadium in Heusden-Zolder in 2001.
Several Belgian athletes who wrote some of the finest pages of the event's rich history were honoured at the start of the main programme, including William Van Dijck, Patrick Stevens, Tia Hellebaut, Cedric Van Branteghem, Veerle Dejaeghere, Svetlana Bolshakova and Marieke Vervoort.
VANDERELST ONE SECOND SHORT
Elise Vanderelst was the first Belgian athlete to try and grab a ticket for the world championships after a silver medal at the U23 European championships in Sweden. Vanderelst came close on the 1,500 metres, but her third-best time of 4:07.53 was one second short, the Doha limit being set at 4:06.50. Jamaica's Aisha Praught-Leer won the event in 4:06.25.
The second Belgian to have a go was Renee Eykens on the 800 metres, but she was well short of the 2:00.60 limit with a time of 2:03.41, placing sixth. Ugandan Halimah Nakaayi won in 1:59.96. The men's race went to Alfred Kipketer in 1:45.05. The Kenyan beat the Olympic vice champion Taoufik Makhloufi (1:45.33) from Algeria and his fellow Kenyan Collins Kipruto (1:45.38). Stijn Baeten (1:47.71) was the best Belgian in seventh.
Michael Obasuyi ran a strong 110 metres hurdles and finished third in 13.56, just two hundredths slower than his personal best. However, he will need to better it to 13.46 in order to get a ticket to Doha. Australian Nicholas Hough won in 13.44.
TOO MUCH WIND FOR BERINGS
Eline Berings did beat the limit on the 100 metres hurdles by 0.01 with a time of 12.97, but too much of a tailwind (2.1 m/s) meant her time won't be validated. Berings, competing in only her second event of the year, was quick to play down any disappointment. "I am super happy. The wind was a little bit too strong, so maybe the crowd cheered me on too much," she quipped. "But I am satisfied with my form. In the next race that limit should be possible. France's Awa Sene beat Berings to the win. Anne Zagre came home in fifth after a troubled race (13.51), behind another Belgian in Sarah Missinne.
Imke Vervaet surprised the opposition with a 200 metres win in 23.45. She held off Dutchwoman Tessa Van Schagen (23.60) and fellow Belgians Manon Depuydt (23.61), Camille Laus (23.62) and Hanne Claes (23.88). Fortunately for Vervaet, her tailwind was 1.9 metres per second, just within the accepted limits. However, anyone planning a trip to Doha will need to beat 23.02.
MUNYAI BEATS CRAWFORD'S RECORD
Clarence Munyai stunned the fans by pulverising Shawn Crawford's 18-year old meeting record on the 200 metres by 0.21. The 21-year-old from South Africa, the national record holder with 19.69, clocked a time of 20.04. He took a dominant win ahead of Belgians Jonathan Borlee (20.88), Kobe Vleminckx (21.06), Dylan Borlée (21.26) and Jonathan Sacoor (21.48). Sacoor and the Borlee brothers weren't done just yet. Later on they teamed up with 20-year-old Sven Van Den Bergh in their preferred 4x400 metres relay. In a duel against France, the Belgians won at a canter in 3:07.71.
COUCKUYT CONFIRMS FORM
Paulien Couckuyt was the Belgian star of the past U23 European championships in Sweden, winning the gold medal on the 400 metres hurdles. She competed in the regular 400 metres on the KBC Night and confirmed her excellent form by finishing second in 54.03, taking over a second and a half out of her previous personal best. Germany's Ruth Spelmeyer was untouchable with a win in 52.97. The Germans also took down the men's race with a victory for Patrick Schneider in 46.90. Alexander Doom was second in 47.66.
Belgians Isaac Kimeli and Robin Hendrix had already qualified for the world championships on the 5,000 metres, but didn't manage to do the same thing on the 1,500 metres. Kimeli finished third in 3:37.90, some way above the required 3:36.00. Hendrix was ninth in 3:41.11. Morocco's Abdelaati Iguider triumphed in Heusden in 3:36.54.
PETERSEN DOESN'T DISAPPOINT
Denmark's Sara Slott Petersen was one of the biggest names in Heusden-Zolder. The 2016 European champion and Rio Olympic vice champion on the 400 metres hurdles lived up to her reputation by winning the race in 55.86. The men's event went to Britain's Paul Jacob in 50.13.
The women's 5,000 metres saw another great performance from Ethiopian Ejgayehu Taye. The 19-year-old won in 14:53.16, a personal best. The men's event turned into an exciting duel between American Edward Cheserek and Kenya's Stanley Waithaka. Cheserek took a sprint win in 13:04.44, compared to 13:05.21 for Waithaka. Both athletes broke their personal records. Soufiane Bouchikhi was eleventh in 13:30.67, some eight seconds removed from the Doha limit.
ORCEL EQUALS PB
Finally we move from the track to the field for the remaining disciplines. Claire Orcel gave the Belgian fans a high jump win to celebrate. The 21-year-old from Brussels was the only athlete to clear 1m91, matching her personal best. Orcel then attempted to reach the Doha limit of 1m94, but failed to clear it. Ukraine's Maryna Kylypko won the pole vault in 4m46. Bob Bertemes from Luxembourg took down the shot put (21m02). Japan's Shotaro Shiroyama impressed with a strong 8m32 jump in the long jump competition, but won't get to keep his result due to a tailwind of 5 metres per second.
PAUL EERDEKENS TROPHY
Eline Berings will have to try and match her hurdles time without a strong tailwind to grab a ticket to the Doha world championships, but at the end of the event she did receive the Paul Eerdekens Trophy, a yearly award for the best Belgian performance of the night.