Young lions Tibo De Smet and Ruben Verheyden flourish at sun-drenched KBC Nacht

The 43rd edition of the KBC Nacht did not disappoint. During a sun-drenched athletics evening in Heusden-Zolder, Tibo De Smet hit the jackpot of Belgian performances. De Smet dropped below 1'45 in the 800m and is only the fifth Belgian to do so. Ruben Verheyden nicely ducked under the European Championships limit in the 1500m. Rani Rosius and Noor Vidts also put in a good performance.

The weather gods were favourably disposed to the 43rd edition of the KBC Nacht. The athletes were treated to pleasant sunshine in the De Veen Athletics Stadium, which was also to the liking of the spectators. Kobe Vleminckx immediately set the tone at the start of the main programme. The Belgian 100m Champion raced to 10’26, barely one hundredth above his PR of last weekend. Rani Rosius did not want to be outdone by her male colleague, however, her fine time of 11″39 did mean the Limburg athlete had to leave the victory to Jamile Samuel. The Dutchwoman stayed three hundredths of a second ahead of the AVT athlete.

Then, there was the unparalleled field of participants in the 800m, including two fellow countrymen. The Algerian pace-setter Khaled Benmahdi pulled the nine gladiators together. Peter Bol took advantage of the perfect hare and raced to 1’44″26. Following in the Australian’s footsteps, Tibo De Smet ran 1’44″89, yet another improvement on his PR in 2022, but above all a first dive under 1’45. De Smet is only the fifth Belgian to do that and his top time was rightly rewarded with the Paul Eerdekens Trophy for the best Belgian performance of the meeting afterwards.

Elise Vanderelst saw De Smet stunt and decided to put her foot down on the accelerator in the women’s double track. Vanderelst took advantage of the fast pace in front. Victory went to Kenyan Vivian Chebet in 2’00″69, but Vanderelst’s 2’01″68 and a corresponding fifth place gave her the necessary confidence for the World Championships in Eugene, where she will compete in the 1500m. For Vanderelst, that time is a PR by almost a second. Honourable mention also for Rani Baillievier who stayed under 2’03 for the first time with 2’02″91.

Noor Vidts had not yet competed in a 100m hurdles race in 2022, but all of that changed in Heusden-Zolder. Vidts immediately came out on top. The pentathlon World Champion finished after 13″33, although it was only logical that she had to leave the victory to the specialist from Luxembourg, Victoria Rausch. The men’s 1500m was a finger-licking battle. Kenyan Reynold Kipkorir was unbeatable at the front, but the battle between the Belgians was more interesting. For a long time, Jochem Vermeulen seemed to be on his way to the best Belgian performance, until the European U20 champion steamed to second place in his familiar style in a solid PR of 3’35″19, good for fifth place on the Belgian all-time ranking and, of course, also that coveted European Championship ticket. With Stijn Baeten, Tarik Moukrim and Jochem Vermeulen no fewer than four compatriots stayed under 3’38.

Paulien Couckuyt specially postponed her trip to the United States to take part in the KBC Nacht. The Belgian record holder in the 400m hurdles had set her sights on a fast time and that was reflected in her tremendous start. Without any real opposition, Couckuyt clocked off after 55″45. At the World Championships in Eugene, the former European U20 Champion wants to go for 54 seconds again.

In the final 5000m, Michael Somers and Ismael Debjani aimed for the European Championships limit, but after just two kilometres it became clear that our compatriots would not have it easy. A Kenyan trio formed in the front; former Junior World Champion Edward Zakayo showed off his fast legs in the final metres. Zakayo finished after 13’06″29. Somers came in just under 13’30, Debjani stayed above that mark.

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