Ruben Verheyden shines on 44th KBC Night, Cynthia Bolingo confirms form

Foto: Golazo
Foto: Golazo

The 44th edition of the KBC Night of Athletics traditionally boasted an impressive Belgian entry list. Several athletes had earmarked Heusden-Zolder for a strong performance, including Ruben Verheyden. The 1500m specialist hit a personal best on the distance, claiming a ticket for the world championships. On the 400 metres Cynthia Bolingo confirmed her excellent form by dipping below the 51-second mark again.

The KBC night’s De Veen stadium was particularly windy, but the wind died down right in time for a 1500m run in ideal conditions. Backed by the home crowd, Belgians Ruben Verheyden and Jochem Vermeulen played a prominent role, heading into the final lap as part of a lead group of four. American Teare Cooper denied a Belgian victory, but with a 3:33.77 Verheyden set an impressive time. The 2021 European U23 champion grabbed a spot at the world athletics championship in Budapest and climbed to second place on the Belgian ranking. His performance was awarded the Paul Eerdekens Trophy for the best Belgian performance at the meet.

In Verheyden’s wake Vermeulen too established a new personal best in 3:34.16, the fourth Belgian time in history and also sufficient for a spot at the world championships. In the women’s 1500m Elise Vanderelst struggled to replicate her best form of the season and finished seventh in 4:07.26. In the 800m Tibo De Smet didn’t get the fast race he wanted, as he fought his way to third in 1:45.89, exactly one second shy of his personal best set at last year’s meet. In the women’s race Ethiopian Tsige Duguma broke the mythical two-minute barrier with 1:59.40. The 5000m race was also dominated by an impressive foreign entry list, with Kenya’s Kemboi Cornelius beating Ireland’s Brian Fay in 13:00.68.

The Belgian Cheetahs, the 4×100 relay team, provided the Belgian fans a highlight. This time, Cynthia Bolingo, Helena Ponette and Naomi Van den Broeck battled each other on an individual 400 metres. Bolingo won with a time of 50.89, dipping below the 51-second barrier for the third time this season. Ponette took a tenth off her personal best in 51.17, ahead of hurdles specialist Hanne Claes in fifth. On the hurdles, Dutchwoman Cathelijn Peeters won in 55.21. In the men’s 400m Alexander Doom seemed to put his recent injury struggles behind him by winning in 45.39, nearing his personal best. Three Belgians stayed under 46 second with Florent Mabille and Robin Vanderbemden.

Local crowd favourite Rani Rosius had to pull out of the women’s 100 metres due to injury. She saw how her Belgian Rockets relay team-mate Elise Mehuys took fourth in a new personal best of 11.48. Luxembourg’s Patrizia Vanderweken won the event in 11.16. Kobe Vleminckx, the fastest Belgian of the best 23 years, couldn’t cause an upset in front of his home fans, staying two tenths behind Cejhae Greene’s 10.36.

The 100m hurdles saw too much of a tailwind to deliver valid times, but nevertheless Anne Zagr√© (13.01) and Noor Vidts (13.35) established promising performance, behind winner Hannah Jones (12.80). Obasuyi delivered by far his fastest time of the season on the 110m, sprinting to a 13.72. Sweden’s Max Hrelja took his second Belgian victory of the week. After his win in Liege, he prevailed in Heusden with a time of 13.51.

Moving onto the field, Belgian javelin record holder Timothy Herman got off to a flying start with a 79m81 effort. After not being able to improve, he dropped to third and relinquished the lead to Egypt’s Ihab Abdelrhaman. The women’s pole vault received a winner from New Zealand with Eliza McCartney, a bronze medal winner at the 2016 Rio Olympics, prevailing with a 4m63 vault.

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