09 September, 2016

Morris reaches great heights in 40th AG Insurance Memorial Van Damme

The 40th AG Insurance Memorial Van Damme brought the world’s leading athletes to Brussels for the season finale of the IAAF Diamond League. American pole vault star Sandi Morris shocked the enthusiastic crowd with a sensational 5.00m vault, while Jamaica’s Elaine Thompson took home the Diamond Race on the 100 metres in a meeting record.

The night started with a homage to Ivo Van Damme, the Belgian runner who won silver at the 1976 Montreal Olympics on the 800 and 1500 metres. Van Damme was tragically killed later that year in a car accident.

The Memorial, organised to remember Van Damme, celebrated its 40th anniversary on Friday night. Van Damme’s exploits in Montreal were shown on the big screen, accompanied by respectful applause of the Brussels crowd.

IAAF chairman Sebastian Coe was present on that very first Memorial in 1977. “Ivo was someone who would have dominated the European athletics scene for years to come,” Coe remembers. “This Memorial has become the most important meetings in Europe and one of the leading one day events in the world. It is a wonderful tribute."

The AG Insurance Memorial Van Damme also hosts the grand finale of the IAAF Diamond League. No less than 10 of the 16 disciplines on offer in Brussels were still looking for an overall Diamond Race winner. A whopping 41 Rio Olympic medal winners were pressed into action, including 16 Olympic champions.

MAJESTIC MORRIS 

Sandi Morris was the star of the night with a mesmerising high jump performance. The 24-year-old American first jumped over 4.94m to set the world’s leading performance and a meeting record. Then she surpassed the magical barrier of 5.00m as the second female athlete in history.

Morris then tried to break the world record by raising the bar to 5.07m but that proved to be too much to ask. The previous meeting record was set in 2005 by Russia’s Yelena Isinbayeva, who still holds the world record at 5.06m.

Morris was in a league of her own as she saw off competition from the Greek Olympian champion Katerina Stefanidi (4.76m) and Switzerland's Nicole Büchler (4.58m). 

THOMPSON BEATS SCHIPPERS

The women’s 100 metre race pitted double Rio Olympic champion Elaine Thompson against her fiercest opponent Dafne Schippers, who wanted to avenge her defeat in Brazil on the 100 and 200 metres. Thompson sped away to a fabulous 10.72, equaling the meeting record set by her Jamaican compatriot Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce in 2013 and just two hundredths shy of her personal best (10.70). 

Holland’s Dafne Schippers, receiving a lot of support close to home, was second in 10.97. Jamaica’s Christiania Williams took third in 11.09. With her win in the Brussels finale Thompson also clinched the Diamond Race. 

MEETING RECORD AYANA 

Kenya's Conseslus Kipruto was aiming for a world record on the men’s 3000m steeple chase, but the 21-year-old finished in 8:03.74, ten seconds away from Stephen Cherono’s remarkable world record at the 2004 Memorial.

Ethiopean Almaz Ayana tried a world record attempt on the women's 5000 metre race, but had to settle for a meeting record, a 14:18.89. The world record still belongs to her compatriot Tirunesh Dibaba, a 14:11.15 run in 2008. 

ROYAL VISIT FOR GOLDEN NAFI THIAM

Nafi Thiam delighted the Belgian crowd by winning the women’s high jump competition. Thiam, who took a sublime heptathlon gold medal at the Rio Olympics, proved to be the fan favourite all night long and repaid the support by clearing 1.93m. King Philippe and Queen Mathilde of Belgium and their children joined Thiam on the podium to hand out the trophy. Thiam also received the AG Insurance Best of Belgium award. 

The men’s competition was won by a surprising American Erik Kynard, who only needed two attempts to clear 2.32m. Qatar’s Mutaz Essa Bahrim and Britain’s Robbie Grabarz were second and third after needing three attempts on that height. That proved enough for Barshim to win the Diamond Race. Bohdan Bondarenko, recovering from sinus problems, was only eight.

STRONG STOWERS BEATS ZAGRÉ 

American Jasmin Stowers won the 100 metre hurdles in 12.78 ahead of local star Anne Zagre (12.82). Third place went to Germany’s Nadine Hildebrand (12.83). 

Cassandra Tate delivered another American hurdle victory on the 400 metre distance. With a time of 54.47 Tate narrowly edged out Denmark’s Sara Petersen (54.60), the olympic silver medalist. Jamaican Kaliese Spencer was third in 55.05. 

Jamaica’s Julian Forte (19.97) won the 200 metres after an exciting photo finish with Britain's Adam Gemili (19.97) and Holland’s  Churandy Martina (19.98). Frenchman Christophe Lemaitre (20.16) was left in fourth. 

Sweden’s Daniel Stahl won the discus competition with a distance of 65.78m, while Piotr Malachowski’s second place was enough to take home the Diamond Race. The Polish athlete topped out at 65.27. Belgian Philip Milanov, silver medalist at both the world and European championships, settled for fifth with 62.38m.   

The 1500 metres delivered a victory for Kenya's Timothy Cheruiyot (3:31.34) ahead of Morocco's Abdelaati Iguider (3:31.40) and fellow Kenyan Asbel Kiprop (3:31.87).  

BELGIAN TORNADOS ON THE PODIUM

Dominican Luguelin Santos (45.02) beat the Borlee family on the 400 metres. Jonathan Borlee was second in 45.55 ahead of his brothers Dylan (45.61) and Kevin (45.67), meaning the Borlees took second, third and fourth in a unique race for the Belgian fans. With Julien Watrin, another Belgian rounded out the top-five.

Here are all 16 overall Diamond Race winners decided at the Brussels finale:

MEN:

200m: Alonso Edward (Pan)
800m: Ferguson Cheruiyot Rotich (Ken)
1500m: Asbel Kiprop (Ken)
3000m steeple chase: Conseslus Kipruto (Ken)
110m hurdles: Orlando Ortega (Cub)
High jump: Erik Kynard (USA)
Long jump: Fabrice Lapierre (Fra)
Discus: Piotr Malachowski (Pol)

WOMEN:

100m: Elaine Thompson (Jam)
400m: Stephenie Ann Mcpherson (Jam)
5000m: Almaz Ayana (Eth)
400m hurdles: Cassandra Tate (USA)
Pole vault: Katerina Stefanidi (Gre)
Triple jump: Caterine Ibarguen (Col)
Shot put: Valerie Adams (NZe)
Javelin: Madara Palameika (Lat)