The Belgian Tornados on the 4x400 metres and Renée Eykens on the 800m delighted the Belgian home crowd with wins on the Night of Athletics in Heusden-Zolder. The rain made it hard for athletes to achieve their best results, but Soufiane Bouchikhi still managed to stay below the world championship limit on the 5000 metres.
In the first running event of the 38th Night of Athletics, the 400 metres, Dylan Borlée was searching for the world championship limit. The goal was for his brother Kevin, who ran faster than the 45.33 limit in Madrid, to push Dylan to a great time. Due to the rain that wasn't possible. Kevin was third after Machel Cedenio (45.56) from Trinidad & Tobago and Britain's Yousif Rabah (45.74) in 45.93. Dylan was sixth in 46.43, Julien Watrin finished seventh with a time of 46.69.
Jonathan Borlée, who has also already qualified for London on the 400m, tried his hand at the 200m in Heusden-Zolder. With a time of 21.02 he was seventh. Robin Vanderbemden was sixth in the same time, some way removed from the 20.39 world championship limit. The drop in temperature wasn't favourable for sprinters. Cejhae Greene from Antigua won in 20.59.
TOP PERFORMANCE BY TORNADOS
Later on the three Borlée brothers, Watrin and Vanderbemden were also pressed into action on the 4x400m. The team with Kevin Borlée, Jonathan Borlée, Dylan Borlée and Robin Vanderbemden won in 3:02.93, the eight best time this year. Belgium B, with Julien Watrin, Michael Rossaert, Samba Fall and Alexander Doom, didn't make it to the finish. "This was a very successful test," said Jonathan Borlée after the finish. "Considering the rainy conditions, this is a very good time."
Despite the rain the bustling Stadium De Veen gave a very warm welcome to Renée Eykens. The newly-crowned European U23 800m champion won the race in Heusden-Zolder in 2:03.34. That's two seconds above the world championship limit but Eykens revealed she wasn't thinking about that. "Even if I had made the limit, I still wouldn't have gone to London," she says. "Two major championships in a row would have been too taxing. It's already been a fantastic season with the European U23 title. Winning here on the Night of Athletics is very special as well. I am very happy."
CLOSE FOR BERINGS
Anne Zagré had already booked her ticket to London and came to Heusden-Zolder to gain confidence. The Brussels-based athlete ran the 100m hurdles in 13.00, exactly the same time in which she won the meeting in Liège. The win went to Ukraine's Hanna Plotitsyna in 12.99. Eline Berings was third in 13,02, which unfortunately was 0.04 above the world championship limit.
On thee 400 metres hurdles Axelle Dauwens needed to stay below the 56.10 limit, but with a time of 57.96 she didn't get close to qualifying for London. Dauwens was third behind Canadian Sage Watson (55.30) and Australia's Lauren Wells (56.21).
KIMELI BEST BELGIAN ON 1500 METRES
On the 1500 metres several Belgians made a last-ditch attempt to get that coveted world championship ticket. In the women's race Sofie Van Accom needed to stay below 4:07.43, but she ended up in 13th after 4:09.48. American Colleen Quigley won the race in 4:03.93.
In the men's event Ismael Debjani, the man who improved the 21-year old Belgian record of Christophe Impens to 3:33.70, had already secured his London ticket. Isaac Kimeli, Peter Callahan and Tarik Moukrime were aiming to join him in the British capital, but didn't manage to run below the required 3:36.00.
Kimeli came close with a 3:37.66 and a fourth place on the night. Moukrime and Callahan both finished in 3:39.02 to finish ninth and tenth respectively. Debjani didn't finished the race after sensing leg pain. He didn't want to run any risks ahead of the world championships next month. Peruvian David Torrence won the 1500 meter in Heusden-Zolder with a time of 3:36.88.
GOOD TIMES FOR ABDI AND BOUCHIKHI
On the 5000 metres Bashir Abdi had already clinched his ticket to London a few weeks ago after a strong run at the American Diamond League meet in Eugene. Jeroen D'Hoedt, Dame Tasama and Soufiane Bouchikhi would realise their world championship dreams on the Night of Athletics by going faster than 13:22.60. One of them managed to get the job done: Bouchikhi. His 14th-place finish in 13:22.18 was a new personal record as well. Tasama ran a 13:57.58, D'Hoedt a 14:15.98. Abdi was the best Belgian in fifth (13:11.87). He received the Paul Eerdekens Trophy for the best Belgian performance at the meeting.
The women's 5000m world championship limit was set at 15:22.00. Louise Carton, slowed down this season by back problems, was only 17th in 15:37.34. Dutchwoman Susan Krumins took the win in 14:53.35.
THIAM AND VAN DER PLAETSEN STRUGGLE IN THE RAIN
The crowd in Heusden-Zolder was also looking forward to Belgian multisport stars Nafi Thiam and Thomas Van der Plaetsen. Olympic heptathlon champion Thiam chose the high jump competition while European decathlon champion Van der Platsen wanted to test his long jump capabilities.
Thiam was second with 1m88 behind Yuliya Levchenko (met 1m91). A day earlier the 19-year-old Ukrainian was second at the Diamond League in Monaco with a jump over 1m97, but that height wasn't possible due to the rain, which even interrupted the high jump competition at some point. As such Thiam was left in the dark on whether her technical tweaks bore fruit in Heusden-Zolder, saying: "I slightly changed my technique during training, but after tonight I can't really say if that worked well or not. I did a couple of good jumps, but with that rain it wasn't possible to do more."
Brazilian Tiago Da Silva won the men's long jump with a jump to 7m63. Mathias Broothaerts was third with 7m51. Despite the difficult circumstances Thomas Van der Plaetsen kept smiling with a best jump of 6m97. At the London world championship VdP will undoubtedly do better as his personal best stands at 7m80.
SMETS POSTS PERSONAL BEST
Fanny Smets won't be going to London, but still she can look back on a positive Night of Athletics. Early on, when the conditions were slightly better, the multiple Belgian pole vault champion cleared 4m41, beating her personal record by one centimetre. Now she's only 1cm removed from the Belgian record set by Chloé Henry. The victory was for New-Zealand's Eliza McCartney. The 20-year-old talent, who won the bronze at the Rio Olympic Games, cleared 4m61.