Mercy Njoroge en route to the World Military Games title in Rio de Janeiro (© Yelena Kurdyumova and Sergey Porada)
Fourteen competition records fell at the fifth 5th CISM World Military Games whose track and field programme concluded on Saturday (23) in Rio de Janeiro.
The quadrennial World Military Games, held in the host city of the 2016 Olympic Games, gathered 6000 athletes from 88 countries across a variety of sports. Traditionally held one year prior to the Olympics, the multi-sport competition aims to promote the Olympic Games' spirit free of political, religious and racial prejudice. This year the competition were an important preparation stage for Rio de Janeiro five years before the Olympic Flame reaches this fabled Brazilian city.
Strong Kenyan presence
The main track and field program kicked off on Tuesday 19 July, with just one final, the women’s 3000m Steeplechase. Kenyan Mercy Njoroge, who qualified for the upcoming World Championships the week before, won in 9:36.92. “I was not planning to run faster and set records," said Njoroge, who has a personal best of 9:16.94. "I only wanted to bring victory to my team.”
Iríni Kokkinaríou of Greece was a distance second in 9:39.53, a season's best.
As expected, Njoroge's Kenyan teammates performed well in the middle and long distances. Olympic champion Nancy Langat won a tactical 1500m race in 4:18.15, just ahead of Germany's Denise Krebs (4:15.87).
Kenyan men collected the 1500m, 5000m and 10,000m titles, also in primarily tactical affairs. Gideon Gathimba took a comfortable 1500m win in 3:40.62 ahead of Moroccan Mohamed Moustaoui (3:41.04) and Imad Touil (3:41.24) of Algeria. In the 5000m, Mark Kiptoo and Vincent Chepkok took 1-2, clocking 13:06.17 and 13:06.31, respectively, fighting off Bilisuma Shume of Bahrain, who notched a 13:06.73 personal best. Josephat Menjo won the 10,000m in 28:36.92 ahead of Bahraini Hasan Mahboob Ali who clocked 28:37.08.
The men's 800m was however a different story. Poland's Marcin Lewandowski, the reiging European champion, produced a strong run to win in 1:45.77, ahead of Kenyans Jackson Kivuva (1:45.93) and Geoffrey Matum (1:45.94), a personal best for the latter.
Good showing for host Brazil
There were several victories for the host nation. Ana Paula Silva won the 200m with a 23.01 career best in 200m, two days after finishing second in the 100m where she clocked 11.37. Ukraine's Mariya Ryemyen took the victory there in 11.34, and finished second in the 200m (23.27). Geisa Coutinho notched a 51.08 PB to take top honors in the 400m. On the infield, Jefferson Sabino took the men's Triple Jump title with a 16.89m best effort while Keila Costa took the women's Long Jump with a 6.41m best. Brazil took both 4x100m Relay titles, winning the men's in 39.53 and the women's in 43.73. The women also prevailed in the 4x400m Relay, winning by more than six seconds in 3:32.42.
Wojciechowski tops 5.81m
The highlight on the infield came in the men's Pole Vault, where Pawel Wojciechowski improved his outdoor career best to 5.81m, to move up to the No. 4 spot on this season's world list. The 22-year-old, who was fourth at the European indoor championships in March and gold medallist at the European Under-23 Championships, is steadily narrowing the gap on his absolute PB of 5.86m which brought him into prominence indoors this season.
Teammate Lukasz Michalski was second, topping out at 5.65m.
Qatar's rising star, 20-year-old Mutaz Essa Barshim, who improved to 2.35m when taking the Asian title earlier this month, was content with his 2.29m clearance to take High Jump title. "There are several competitions ahead and the soonest and most important is Samsung Diamond League. I must save my energy for them."
The top performance in the throws was produced by China's Zhang Wenxiu, the 2008 Olympic and 2007 World bronze medallist in the Hammer Throw, who took her specialty in 74.29m. On the men's side, Finland's Ari Mannio won the Javelin Throw with an 82.48m effort, the 2006 World junior silver medallist's second best result of the season.
Elsewhere on the infield, China's Yu Zhenwei reached a season's best 8.05m to take the Long Jump crown.
Sprint double for Ogunode
Femi Ogunode was the only double winner in the competition, taking the sprint double home to Qatar. Most noteworthy for the 20-year-old was his 10.07 dash in the 100m, a significant improvement over his previous best of 10.25 set last year. He prevailed in the 200m in 20.46, like his 100m performance, a competition record. Finishing runner-up in both was Aziz Ouhadi of Morocco, clocking 10.17 and 20.62.
Sajjad Hashemi clocked an Iranin national record of 45.81 en route to the 400m title, comfortable ahead of runner-up Mark Mutai of Kenya, who clocked 45.91.
The athletics portion of the programme opened on Sunday 17 July with the Marathon competition, held in conjunction with the Caixa Rio de Janeiro Marathon. Patrick Tambwe of the Democratic Republic of Congo took the win in 2:18:17. The women's victory went to 22-year old Kum Ok Kim from North Korea who clocked 2:35:22, who beat China's Yanan Wei (2:36:19).
Yelena Kurdyumova and Sergey Porada for the IAAF