Belated gold for Belgium at Van Damme Memorial

While Elaine Thompson extended her sprinting dominance through her last race of the season, with the double Olympic champion beating rival Dafne Schippers in the 100 meters at the Van Damme Memorial on Friday, Belgium too had reason to cheer, not in the least for gold medals dating from the Beijing Olympics!

In a battle between the two dominant sprinters of the past two seasons, it was no contest.

The Jamaican shot out of the blocks and never let Schippers close to finish in 10.72 seconds. It was her third-best time of the season but still better than any other woman this year.

"Now I can finally go back home," Thompson said after her intense season. "If I have to summarize it in one word: Wonderful."

Schippers, who complained of sore hamstrings, finished well behind in 10.97. After her habitual slow start she never came close to closing the gap on Thompson.

The Jamaican won the 100 and 200 at the Rio Games while Schippers finished 5th in the 100 and was runner-up in the 200.

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Pole-vaulting thrills

On a balmy night when several world record attempts went awry, the outstanding performance came from pole vaulter Sandi Morris.

Morris became the first American woman to scale 5 meters outdoors as she beat Olympic champion Katerina Stefanidi, who scaled 4.76. The silver medalist from the Rio Games missed three attempts at the world record height of 5.07. Her previous best had been 4.93.

Belated Belgian gold

And the biggest cheer of the night at the King Boudewijn Stadium was for something that, in fact was eight years old.

The Belgian 2008 women's Olympic 4x100 relay team was officially handed its gold medals on Friday after crossing the line at the Beijing Games in second place behind Russia.

The team moved up to gold this year after a Russian runner was caught doping in a retest.

In a stirring ceremony before some 40,000 fans attending the Van Damme Memorial meet, the four runners were finally handed their new medals by former IOC President Jacques Rogge, who was still in office at the Beijing Games.

Kim Gevaert, Elodie Ouedraogo, Hanna Marien and Olivia Borlee were all dressed in fitting golden tops as they received the biggest prize of their careers. Only Borlee is still an active athlete.

Versatile Semanya on show

In the 400, South Africa's Caster Semenya proved her versatility. She became the 800 Olympic champion in Rio last month, but at the closing Diamond League meeting she won the one-lap race with a stunning kick over the final straight.

With 150 meters to go, Semenya seemed totally out of the race, but she started clawing back one runner after another, and with a dip at the line she set a personal best of 50.40 seconds, to beat Courtney Okolo of the United States by .11 seconds.

Exhausted, Semenya crumpled to the ground, saying the intensity of the 400 was incomparable to the more tactical 800.

"This is a suicide," she said. "It is crazy."

Still, Semenya showed that a 400-800 double might be possible at next year's London world championships.

Winning no longer good enough

For Almaz Ayana, the Olympic 10,000 champion who set a stunning world record in Rio, winning is no longer good enough. She was supposed to set a world record after she fell just short of the mark earlier in the season. But the Olympics had taken too much out of her.

Ayana still finished solo in a time of 14 minutes, 18.99 seconds, more than seven seconds off the world record of her compatriot Tirunesh Dibaba. After setting the eighth best time in history, she readily admitted how disappointed she was.

Well behind, Shannon Rowbury of the United States set a continental record of 14:38.92.

Nicolas Lambert

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