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Mahiedine clears some early barriers

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France’s Mahiedine Mekhissi-Benabbad is warming up nicely for his tilt at a hat-trick of 3000m steeplechase titles at the European Athletics Championships in Zurich in August.

In Sotteville-les-Rouen on Saturday, Mekhissi-Benabbad established his place at the top of the European Athletics rankings with victory in 8:07.45 ahead of Moroccan Hamid Ezzine, in 8:14.33, and Bernard Nganga, of Kenya, in 8:17.97.

He is there by a long way, with his nearest European challenger being Poland’s Krystian Zalewski, almost nine seconds behind him.

By the time of Zurich, Mekhissi-Benabbad will probably have reduced his season’s best even more for a Championships where he is planning to run the 1500m aswell.

He first won the title in Barcelona in 2010 in 8:07.87 and then retained it in Helsinki two years later in 8:33.23, experiencing both ends of the speed scale for an event where it will take something special to stop him from making it three in a row.

Another man who could win his third European crown in a row in August is Great Britain’s Mo Farah who made a fine return to racing after his London Marathon exploits in April.

Farah, who finished eighth on his debut over 26.2 miles, was back in a more familiar place - that of first – over 5000m at the Portland Track Festival.

Flying away at the bell in a style that has become quite a trademark - who can forget his run at last year’s European Athletics Team Championships in Gateshead when he blitzed home over the last 400m? - Farah produced a time of 53 seconds for the final lap to win in 13:23.42.

He can go much quicker but it was a good start on his way into the summer and he said: “It’s good to be back on the track in a low-key meet. Training has been going well, so I was confident in myself. Everything seems to be moving in the right direction.”

Speed was the essence, too, at the 27th AtletiCAGeneve, where the women’s 100m was won by Jamile Samuel, of the Netherlands, in 11.12, improving her personal best by 0.24 and in the process beating Germany’s Verena Sailer, the 2010 European champion, who was second in 11.17.

In third, in the same time, Britain’s Bianca Williams ran a personal, while in fourth, Switzerland’s Mujinga Kambundji finished in a national record of 11.33.

The men’s 400m hurdles was also one for the record books as Thomas Barr landed an Irish national record as he won in 48.90 ahead of Britain’s European champion Rhys Williams, who was second in 48.95.

It was quite a weekend for national records.

Lithuania’s Neringa Aidietyte triumphed in Alytus at the 40th walking meet as she won over 20km in 1:29:01 to set a leading mark for her country, while in Kladno, at the TNT Express combined events, Eliska Klucinova, of the Czech Republic, broke the national heptathlon record when she triumphed with 6460 points.

And across Europe to Tartu in Estonia saw Ksenija Balta run a national 100m record of 11.35 at the Gustav Sule Memorial.

In Oyonnax, France’s Romain Martin’s achieved a qualifying mark for Zurich in the decathlon with 8138 and in Lezno, Jakub Szyszkowski, who won shot put gold at the European Under-23 Championships in Tampere last year, improved his season’s best to 19.90m. Staying in Poland, the national 5km championships in Warsaw saw victories for Lukasz Parszczyski, in 13:51, and Iwona Lewandowska, in a personal best of 15:54.


The 5th European Athletics Team Championships Super League (Braunschweig), First League (Tallinn), Second League (Riga) and Third League (Tbilis) take centre stage on Saturday and Sunday and are among 36 meetings this week. Visit our European Athletics Calendar for all the details.