31 August, 2018

Thiam and Sacoor provide Belgian wins, Abdi bows out with national record

As is often the case, the AG Memorial Van Damme inspired several Belgians to produce excellent performances in front of their home crowd.

Bashir Abdi ran a new Belgian record on the 5000 metres, Elise Vanderelst just missed out on the nation’s best time on the 1500 metres. Nafi Thiam won a non-Diamond League high jump competition, while Jonathan Sacoor thrilled the fans by winning a 400-metre exhibition ahead of Kevin Borlee.

A stunning 9 out of 13 finishers on the 5000 metres improved their personal records. Bashir Abdi (13:04.91) took a second out of his previous Belgian record, while the 18-year-old Ethiopian Selemon Barega won the race in a stunning 12:43.02, demolishing the world’s leading time.

On the women’s 1500 metres 20-year-old Elise Vanderelst impressed with a time of 4:05.75, a new personal best just 0.70 shy of the 2002 Belgian record of Veerle Dejaeghere. Britain's Laura Muir (3:58.49) won the event.

Eline Berings finished seventh on the 100 metre hurdles in 12.94, signing off for the season with another race below the 13-second mark. American Brianna McNeal (12.61) became the new Diamond League champion.

Thiam and Sacoor thrill the Belgian fans

Two Belgian wins in non-Diamond League events raised the roof at the King Baudouin Stadium of Brussels. Heptathlon star Nafi Thiam won the high jump competition with 1m89, ahead of three athletes who cleared 1m87: Australia’s Nicola McDermott, Ukrainian Oksana Okuneva and Czech Michaela Hruba.

Junior world champion Jonathan Sacoor held off his fellow Belgian team-mate Kevin Borlee on the 400 metres with a time of 45.59. Dylan Borlee, the third Belgian Tornado at the start, had to pull out due to an injury.

Hanne Claes was second on the 400 metre hurdles. The Belgian Cheetah finished in 55.87, only behind Ukraine’s Anna Yaroshchuk-Ryzhykova (55.38).

At the end of the night the Belgian Tornados received the AG Insurance Best of Belgium trophy for their decade at the top of the 4x400 world. In those ten years the relay team reached no less than 21 finals on the world stage, taking home ten medals. Last month the team took the gold at the Berlin European Championships. 

With the Borlee brothers still going strong and young wonderkid Jonathan Sacoor starting to come of age, the Tornadoes are not done collecting silverware just yet. The Brussels crowd was in fine form as they treated Sacoor to a ringing 'Happy Birthday’ chant on the night before his 19th birthday.

Finally there’s an honourable mention for Gitte Haenen, who finished third in the 100 metres for blade runners. She joined the podium with the Italian reigning Olympic, world and European champion Martina Caironi and her compatriot Monica Graziana Contrafatto. That’s a carbon copy of the podium at the World Para Athletics European Championships in Berlin.