The biggest athletics meeting in the country on French-speaking soil made us wait one year due to the corona pandemic, but the 19th edition of the Meeting International de la Province de Liège had a lot in store for fans of athletics. However, the weather conditions were not kind on the athletes, because the thermometer hovered around 15 degrees Celsius and there was also a lot of rain falling out of the sky. Far from ideal conditions therefore, but that did not stop national and international top athletes from giving their best.
The first running event of the evening was the Men’s 100m. The Jamaicans had a ball with that one. Michael Bentley got the longest straw, his time was 10″49. Belgian Champion Kobe Vleminckx followed in fourth place with 10″68. In the Women’s race, New-Zealand’s record holder Zoe Hobbs finished a fraction quicker than Belgium’s promising sprinter Rani Rosius. Hobbs set a time of 11″57, Rosius crossed the finish line five hundredths of a second later.
In the Women’s 100m hurdles, the absolute star appearing at the start was Nafi Thiam. The Olympic Heptathlon Champion came to test her legs on her training track one last time this season before she goes off to Tokyo to attempt winning a second consecutive Olympic Title. Victory in the hurdles logically went to specialist Anne Zagré who finished in 13″13, even though the Belgian record holder would have been able to stop the clock even faster if she had not touched the last hurdle. Thiam’s result of 13″64 was not bad and she looks set for the Games.
However, Thiam was not the only Olympic Champion in attendance at the Stade Naimette-Xhovémont. Five years ago, Caster Semenya won the 800m in Rio, an event she does not run any longer because of a ruling regarding hyper androgenous athletes. But that’s not stopping Semenya from enjoying her sport, because she improved her 5000m PR in 15’50″12 in Liège. The front pack was a prestigious duel between Ethiopian Aberash Minsewo and Kenyan Irene Cheptai. Minsewo was able to find a last gear, which helped her win in 15’05″25.
Another Belgian star appeared at the start of the Women’s 800m. Elise Vanderelst, reigning European Indoor 1500m Champion, took the opportunity to inject some speed. Vanderelst managed to grab fourth place in some good company in 2’03″96. Next Saturday, our compatriot will attempt to break the 42-year-old Belgian 1000m record during the KBC Nacht in Heusden-Zolder. The Kenyan Mary Moraa raced to victory in 2’02″32.
The pole vaulters were most affected by the conditions. Still, Dutchman Rutger Koppelaar achieved a new PR with a solid 5m75. Our Belgian record holder Ben Broeders leapt over 5m55, but was unable to jump over Koppelaar’s 5m75. The high jumpers also had a tough night due to the circumstances. Thomas Carmoy jumped over 2m20 after training hard last week with an eye on the European U23 Championships. Victory went to silver-medal winner at the World Championships Mikhail Akimenko with a rather modest (for him) 2m23. The athlete, who competed under neutral flag, jumped over 2m35 in the past.
The Men’s 3000m was a festive conclusion in Liège. The athletes were treated to a serious downpour during their race, but the trio in the lead made for a beautiful competition. Abel Kipsang, who was recently selected for the 1500m at the Olympic Games, took matters in his own hands halfway through the race. Kipsang looked exhausted when he went into the final lap, but the Kenyan squeezed out a solid sprint to stay ahead of Ethiopians Ali Abdulmena and Gemechu Dida in 7’50″02.