Averbukh thrills before lights go out

The track & field meet at Hadar Yosef on Saturday night will be best remembered for a power failure.

alex averbukh 298.88 (photo credit: AP)
alex averbukh 298.88
(photo credit: AP)
What promised to be an exciting track & field meet at Hadar Yosef on Saturday night with European pole vault champion Alex Averbukh in action and the national championship in the steeplechase at stake will be best remembered for a power failure. The lights went out during the women's steeplechase final at around 9:20 p.m., forcing the Israeli Atheltics Association to reschedule the event, despite the fact that some competitors had already crossed the finish line. The men's event was postponed as well. Last July, a pair of power outages that together lasted three-quarters of an hour put a damper on the opening day of the Israel Track & Field Championships. Fortunately for the roughly 500 fans that turned out, Averbukh competed hours before the blackout and the star of Israeli athletics didn't disappoint. Averbukh, competing for the first time since claiming fourth place at the World Indoor Championships in March, cleared 5.51 meters to win the event. Averbukh, whose busy schedule sees him compete around the world but also limits how often he jumps in Israel, last competed at home at an indoor meet last winter. He started Saturday's meet off with a bang - rather, a clap. After clearing his first attempt, the athlete lay on the mat and clapped his hands to the appreciation of the crowd. He cleared 5.01m and 5.21m easily. His first falter came at 5.41, but he cleared that height on his next attempt. He followed that same miss-clear pattern at 5.51 to win the event over Dennis Kholev, who could get no higher than 5.41 in the first heat earlier in the day. Averbukh made an unsuccessful try at 5.71 before calling it a night. Although his height of 5.51 was almost half a meter below his personal best, Averbukh said that he was pleased with his performance. He is in the middle of intense training and not in championship condition yet. In his run up to the vault, he took just 12 strides instead of his normal 18. His goal is to be in peak condition when he defends his European title in August at the European Championships in Sweden. The steeplechase was to be the only Israeli championship to be decided on Saturday. To allow the premier Israeli middle-distance runners to compete in all the national championship races they desire, the Israel Athletics Association staggers them throughout the summer. In other events conducted as part of the local track & field league, Niva Ziv easily won the triple jump with a winning distance of 12.63m that was more than 1.5m longer than her closest competitor.