06 September, 2019

Kimeli claims Olympic ticket, Thiam third

22 Belgians took part in Friday’s 43rd edition of the AG Memorial Van Damme. Ten of them received a wildcard for one of the 15 IAAF Diamond League-finales. Heptathlon star Nafi Thiam excelled by claiming third in the high jump competition, Isaac Kimeli grabbed an Olympic ticket on the 5000 metres.

The men’s 5000 metres, a non-Diamond League event, kicked off the proceedings with a first highlight for the Belgian crowd. Isaac Kimeli won the race in 13:13.02, staying below the limit for the Tokyo Olympci Games by almost half a second. Kimeli was already qualified for the Doha world championships in three weeks. Robin Hendrix, who will join him in Qatar, was fifth in 13:22.69, Soufiane Bouchikhi was seventh in 13:28.36.


The Belgian Tornados were already qualified for the men’s 4x400 relay, but need 45.30 to qualify individually. None of them managed to do so on Friday. Kevin Borlee (45.89). Julien Watrin (46.60), Dylan Borlee

(46.69) and Asamti Badji (48.00) all fell short. In the Diamond League race junior world champion Jonathan Sacoor finished seventh among the world’s elite, but his 45.72 wasn’t quick enough for Doha. Sacoor is hoping to be granted a ticket anyway, as he fell just 0.01 short of the limit at the Belgian championships.

Three Belgian ladies took part in the women’s event. As America’s Courtney Okolo won the race Imke Vervaet was second with a personal best of 53.23, beating Camille Laus by just 0.01. Manon Depuydt was fourth in 53.69, but a ticket to Doha requires a strong time of 51.80.

Bad luck for Michael Obasuyi on the 110 metres hurdles. He received a wildcard, but was disqualified for having left his lane. Either way his time wouldn’t have been fast enough for a world championship spot.

Anne Zagre was already in for Doha, but was expecting more from her Diamond League finale on the 100 metres hurdles. Zagre tapped one of the hurdles, losing every chance of a competitive time.

Renée Eykens (800 metres), Hanne Maudens (long jump), Fanny Smets (pole vault), Philip Milanov (discus), Robin Vanderbemden (200 metres), Ismael Debjani (1500 metres) and the 19-year old Tim Van de Velde (3000 metres steeplechase) got a chance to compete in a Diamond League final, but couldn’t manage to qualify for Doha. Paulien Couckuyt and Hanne Claes didn’t have to worry about that any more and did well on a promotional 400 metres hurdles. They finished second and fourth respectively with 56.68 and 57.08.


Nafi Thiam was the Belgian star of the night. She had qualified for a Diamond League final in the long jump, but opted to take a wildcard for the high jump instead. Not a problem for the reigning Olympic heptathlon champion and she took third with 1m95. That got her the AG Best of Belgium Trophy for the best Belgian performance of the night.


Two leading Belgian Paralympic athletes got a chance to shine at the AG Memorial Van Damme. On the 100 metres for blade runners (T63) Gitte Haenen took the win in 16.16. On the same distance for wheelchairs

(T51) Peter Genyn was narrowly beaten by his rival, the reigning Olympic champion Toni Piispanen (20.74)


Finally, Olivia Borlee deserves a mention after announcing she will retire from athletics. The sister of Kevin, Jonathan and Dylan was the final member of Beijing 2008’s golden 4x100 metre team to hang up the spikes, following the example of Kim Gevaert, Hanna Marien and Elodie Ouedraogo. At the Memorial, where the Brussels-based athlete took part many times over the past decade, the 33-year-old was honoured by the crowd ahead of the event.