Smiling Thompson celebrates perfect dozen

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(AFP) – Jamaica’s double Olympic sprint champion Elaine Thompson brought the curtain down on a spectacular season with her 12th straight 100m victory at Brussels’ Diamond League meeting on Friday.

In a thrilling night of track and field which featured a couple of botched world record attempts, the stand-out performance unexpectedly came from American pole vaulter Sandi Morris, who became only the second female in history to go over the 5m barrier outdoors after Russian Yelena Isinbayeva.

Elaine Thompson poses after winning the women's 100m race during the 2016 edition of the AG Insurance Memorial Van Damme IAAF Diamond League athletics meeting, on September 9, 2016 in Brussels. (Photo: AFP)
Elaine Thompson poses after winning the women’s 100m race during the 2016 edition of the AG Insurance Memorial Van Damme IAAF Diamond League athletics meeting, on September 9, 2016 in Brussels. (Photo: AFP)

Although Morris’s compatriot Jennifer Suhr has vaulted 5.03m, that was indoors, and the current Olympic silver medallist set a packed King Baudouin stadium alight when she cleared 5.00m.

But she failed at three attempts at 5.07m, 1cm further than Isinbayeva’s world record.

 On the track, Thompson scorched to victory in a new meeting record of 10.72 seconds ahead of Dutch rival Dafne Schippers.

The victory was Thompson’s 12th consecutive in the blue-riband event in 2016, coming just weeks after she wrapped up golds in the 100 and 200m at the Rio Olympics.

“Now I can finally go back home,” said the 24-year-old Jamaican, whose winning time meant she became the first woman in history to record four consecutive sub-10.8sec 100m times.

“I keep on smiling because this season was really great. If I had to summarise it in one word: Wonderful!”

European champion Schippers, who came fifth in the Rio 100m and took silver in the 200m, clocked 10.97sec for second ahead of another Jamaican in the shape of Christania Williams.

“I had a decent start in my race but when it came to accelerating at the midway stage, my hamstrings caused me some trouble,” Schippers said.

Ethiopian Almaz Ayana fell short in her bid to break compatriot Tirunesh Dibaba’s world 5000m record of 14min 11.15sec set in Oslo in 2008.

Ayana, the reigning 5000m world champion who obliterated the world record when winning gold in the 10,000m in Rio, clocked a meeting record of 14:18.89, the eighth-fastest time ever run over the distance.

She paid the price for a slow opening couple of laps and despite breaking out on her own with 2km to run, the Ethiopian left herself too much to do on the final lap, missing out on the record by 7sec.

Seven of the 17-strong field set personal bests while the USA’s Shannon Rowbury set an American continental record.

There was also expected to be a tilt at a world record in the men’s 3000m steeplechase, but in-form Kenyan Conseslus Kipruto fell well short of the 7:53.63 mark set in 2004 in Brussels by Kenyan-born Qatari Saif Saaeed Shaheen.

Olympic champion Kipruto made it six wins on the Diamond League circuit this season, however, seeing off American Evan Jager in a winning time of 8:03.74.

– Semenya delight

South African Caster Semenya, Olympic 800m gold medallist, pulled off an extraordinary victory in the women’s 400m, setting a personal best of 50.40sec for the win that looked completely out of question after the first half of the race.

“It’s fantastic!” said Semenya. “This is suicide! The 800m is much better, the 400m I do for speed.”

The South African judged her finish to perfection to see off Courtney Okolo and a threatening pack of Rio finalists led by Jamaica’s Olympic bronze medallist Shericka Jackson.

Three-time world 1500m champion Asbel Kiprop’s plans to put his sixth-place finish in Rio behind him faltered as he was trumped by Kenyan team-mate Timothy Cheruiyot in a fast finish.

Cheruiyot just missed out on a sub-3:30 time, clocking a personal best of 3:31.34 with Morocco’s Abdelaati Iguider taking second ahead of Kiprop.

Olympic heptathlon champion Nafi Thiam delighted her home crowd by winning the women’s high jump on countback from three others who also managed 1.93m, while Colombia’s imperious Olympic gold medallist Caterine Ibarguen won the triple jump (14.66m).

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