For Berhane Adere at least, the Memorial Van Damme meeting in the Stade Roi Baudouin last night was supposed to have been the Lord Mayor's Show, not after it. While the vast majority of competitors in what doubled as the fifth and penultimate leg of the IAAF Golden League series might have been struggling to raise their game so soon after aspiring to Olympian heights in Athens, the Ethiopian distance runner would have had no difficulty in motivating herself for 12 and half laps of the Brussels arena.
For Saif Saaeed Shaheen, the Memorial Van Damme in the Stade Roi Baudouin last night was the Lord Mayor's Show, not after it. He made the most of it, steeplechasing in all his pomp to a new world record on a night when the majority of participants in the fifth meeting of six in the IAAF Golden League series struggled to raise their game so soon after aspiring to Olympian heights in Athens.
Denied a shot at Olympic gold in the Greek capital by the Kenyan Olympic Committee, whose blessing was required following the 21-year-old's controversial transfer of allegiance to Qatar last summer, the steeplechasing artist formerly known as Stephen Cherono vented all of his frustration on his high-speed seven-and-a-half lap sojourn of the Brussels arena.
Cutting loose from his pacemakers with 1,100 metres remaining, Shaheen blitzed to victory in the 3,000m steeplechase in 7min 53.63sec, raising the index finger of his right hand before crossing the line and consigning Brahim Boulami's 7:55.28, set on the same track three years ago, to history. As it happened, the Moroccan Boulami finished in the native East African's wake, as did Paul Koech and Brimin Kipruto, the Kenyans who took the silver and bronze medals in Athens.
For Shaheen, it was a bitter-sweet triumph. He still lives in Kenya and he feared for his life after assuming Qatari citizenship last year, for the promise of a lifelong monthly stipend of $1,000. "At the end of last year, when I came back to Kenya after a reception at the Sheikh's palace in Doha, my life was hell," he confided. "Everybody wanted money and for two months I was hiding. Almost every day I left my house in Eldoret very early in the morning and came back late in the evening. It didn't feel safe any more. I could have ended up getting killed. In Kenya sometimes people kill even for five dollars."
In Belgium last night, Shaheen had 47,125 spectators on their feet with a tour de force that compensated for Hicham El Guerrouj's late withdrawal from the flat 3,000m. "I'm sorry, but I was sick when I was warming up," the exhausted winner of the Olympic 1,500m and 5,000m said.
Berhane Adere was a late withdrawal from the women's 5,000m, leaving the Kenyan Edith Masai to sprint to victory in 14:42.64, with Jo Pavey 0.45sec outside her personal best in third, clocking 14:49.11, and her fellow Briton, Kathy Butler, fifth in a lifetime best of 15:05.51.
After crossing the line, Pavey, fifth in the 5,000m final in Athens, collapsed in a state of exhaustion. "I am tired," she said. "After the Games, another fast 5,000m was just too much."
And another fast 400m was just too much for Tim Benjamin. Having reached the semi-finals of his event in Athens, and set the British 4 x 400m relay team on the way to fifth place in their final, whilst battling a lung infection, the young Welshman looked fatigued as he trailed in eighth in 45.85.
* Hungarian authorities yesterday called on the hammer thrower Adrian Annus, who was stripped of his Olympic gold medal after refusing to take a follow-up drugs test, to return his medal.Reuse content