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Two go through in Golden League Jackpot as Gebrselassie suffers dramatic defeat

Out of the competition for the million dollar Jackpot

2003-07-09

Paris Saint-Denis - In the second leg of the six stage IAAF Golden League series the 50,500 crowd at the Stade de France in Paris were treated to high drama, as nine of the eleven Jackpot contenders in competition were eliminated and Ethiopia’s Haile Gebrselassie suffered a surprise defeat at the hands of Kenya’s Abraham Chebii.

The first Golden League event of the evening saw the first contender out of the competition for the million dollar Jackpot. Away well at the start and leading for much of the race, young Australian Jana Pittman clipped the penultimate hurdle and faltered, allowing seasoned American Sandra Glover to take the lead. Pittman seemed to be pushing herself as they approached the final hurdle, but hesitated before clearing that barrier and was passed also by Romania’s Ionela Tirlea. Glover ran a season’s best of 54.47 to cross the line first, with Tirlea – who had seemed stuck in the blocks at the start with a reported reaction time of 0.632 seconds – second across the line in 54.55 in a photo finish with Pittman, who was given the same time.

Glover took victory in her stride: “I’m not surprised by my victory, neither by my time, my season’s best. I’m in great shape, it’s logical. But the Worlds are nearly two months away, there’s plenty of time, everything can happen. For my race programme I go step by step, week after week.”

There was no faltering by Chandra Sturrup as she became the first Jackpot contender to go through to the third round, in the women’s 100 metres. The Bahamian was out of her blocks cleanly and ran a faultless race to the line, which she crossed in 11.01 in front of American Kelli White (11.09) and local favourite Christine Arron (11.12). “Obviously I am very pleased about this second victory after Oslo,” said Sturrup. “I hope it will go on like this. It was great coming here to see how it felt on this track and in this stadium prior to the World Championships next month. I am quite confident, but we will see what happens.”

The second Jackpot contender to be knocked out this evening was Great Britain’s Mark Lewis-Francis in the 100 metres. Lining up against Maurice Greene (USA), his fellow Briton Dwain Chambers, Deji Aliu (NIG), Patrick Johnson –the first Australian under 10 seconds – Bernard Williams (USA) and Nicholas Macrozonaris from Canada, Lewis Francis failed to repeat his excellent run in Oslo, as in-form Bernard Williams pulled into the lead halfway down the straight and battled it out with Deji Aliu and Maurice Greene. Williams held on to the line and edged Aliu for the win with 10.05 to the Nigerian’s 10.07. Maurice Greene gave a respectable showing, coming in third with 10.11, but Lewis-Francis crossed the line in fourth place with 10.23.

In the field, the men’s Javelin was a battle between two longstanding rivals, with Golden League Jackpot contender, Russia’s Sergey Makarov , who had been reckoned a strong favourite to complete the six leg series successfully, facing the 37 year old World and Olympic champion Jan Zelezny from the Czech Republic. But tonight was not to be the Russian’s night. With his second throw, Zelezny produced a massive 89.06 metres and that was sufficient to defeat Makarov, who despite being consistently over 85 metres, was unable to better the 87.69 metres of his third attempt.

In a closely fought women’s 1500 metres, victory went to Spain’s Natalia Rodriguez in a season’s best of 4:03.33 as she overtook Russia’s Yelena Zadoorozhnaya and Great Britain’s Hayley Tullett on the home straight and gained a 2-3 metre lead as the three sprinted for the line, finishing in that order, with 4:03.57 for the Russian and 4:03.87 for Tullett.

Dominica Republic’s Felix Sanchez achieved his 20th straight victory this evening as he completely dominated the 400 metre hurdles. Speaking before today’s competition, Sanchez had said that he would be watching out for in-form Chris Rawlinson (GBR) in the absence of his great rival Stephane Diagana of France, who is concentrating on his preparations for the World Championships to be held in this same stadium in August. Sanchez burst out of the blocks and was already clearly in the lead over the third hurdle. Coming into the home straight he was metres ahead of Rawlinson and stormed off the final hurdle and across the finish line to close in 48.30 to Rawlinson’s 48.83. South Africa’s Llewellyn Herbert took third place in 49.04. Obviously unimpressed with his own performance, Sanchez complained of tiredness: “I am really exhausted. I have not recovered from my race in Lausanne. But this was still a great chance for me to test the track and see the stadium again before the World Championships. Now I am going home to train and come back in my best shape for the World Championships.”

It looked as though Gabriela Szabo had left it too late in the women’s 3000 metres, as Morocco’s Zhor El Kamch gamely led the field around the track 20 metres or more ahead of the Romanian and Ethiopia’s Berhane Adhere. Only 200 metres from the finish did Szabo turn up the speed and as El Kamch put her all into the final effort, the Romanian inexorably reduced the gap between them, catching El Kamch forty metres out and passing her effortlessly, as Adere tried to follow suit, but was unable to gain any ground on El Kamch as the Moroccan raced to the line. Szabo’s blistering finish gave her the world leading time of 8:34.09, ahead of El Kamch’s new personal best of 8:34.85 (previously 8:35.10), with Adere clocking 8:36.25. Szabo said afterwards that it had not been difficult: “I was a little nervous before the race, since it was my first for a long time. I got injured a few days before the World Indoor Championships (hamstring), then five weeks ago I was injured again. Tonight it wasn’t really hard to win. I knew I still have a good finish, but it wasn’t that important to win. I wanted to prove something to myself.”

In a brilliant display of tactics and power that set the Stade de France alight, Abraham Chebii won the 5000 metres ahead of the Ethiopian king of distance running Haile Gerselassie, the world record holder at the distance, with the crowd roaring their approval. Gebrselassie had run strongly throughout the race, drawing alongside pacemaker Martin Keino on a couple of occasions and apparently telling him to speed up the pace a little. Gebrselassie first moved into the lead at 3000 metres (7:44.62) before letting Benjamin Limo take over the running again with a tightly grouped pack of leaders, including 20 year old Eliud Kipchoge (KEN), Chebii and Morocco’s Salah Hissou. Coming into the final lap, Gebrselassie bided his time, waiting until the leaders were 200 metres out before breaking away from the leaders. Then in a dramatic upstaging of the ‘Emperor’, Chebii moved out into lane 2 and started to chase Gebrselassie, drawing even and then overtaking the Ethiopian and sprinting for the line at a pace that Gebrselassie was unable to match.

Winner of the Grand Prix Final 3000 metres in 2002 (where he ran the last 400 metres in 50.68 seconds), Chebii, who is coached by the legendary steeplechaser Moses Kiptanui, crossed the line this evening in a new meeting record of 12:53.73, with Gebrselassie second in 12:54.36 and Limo third in a new personal best of 12:54.99.

Gail Devers continued to display the form that has kept her at the top of the women’s 100 metre hurdles rankings this evening as she stormed ahead of Jamaica’s Bridgette Foster and Glory Alozie from Spain to win in a season’s best of 12.49, against Foster’s 12.64 and Alozie’s 12.71 (also a season best for the Spaniard).

Russia’s Tatyana Lebedeva dashed the Jackpot hopes of Cuban Yamile Aldama with her final effort in the women’s Triple Jump. Up to that point, Aldama had seemed assured of victory after bounding 15.04 metres with her fourth attempt but then, with her last attempt Lebedeva went one better, taking the distance out to a world-leading15.12 metres. Aldama lined up for her last effort, pounded down the runway and taking off from behind the board produced 15.08 metres. Lebedeva also set a new meeting record in the process.

Just minutes after Aldama’s defeat, another Jackpot contender fell by the wayside as USA’s Allen Johnson produced a textbook race in the men’s 110 metres Hurdles to beat Duane Ross (USA) and Jackpot contestant Stanislav Olijars. Johnson’s world leading result of 12.97 was a new meeting record. Johnson was also the last person to go under 13secs in the 110m Hurdles, with exactly the same time of 12.97 back in 2000 (23 July 2000 at US nationals).

Evergreen Inga Babakova entered the Jackpot stakes in Oslo, but the 36 year old Ukrainian was ousted from the million dollar competition this evening as 19 year old Croatian Blanka Vlasic cleared a new personal best of 1.99 metres to win on countback from South Africa’s Hestrie Cloetie, who cleared the same height. After a clear card to 1.97, Babakova had three failures at 1.99. Vlasic was clear to 1.99, where she failed at he first two attempts before a third round clearance for victory, after Cloetie, who also cleared at her third attempt had a first attempt failure at 1.97, at which height Vlasic had passed.

The Stade de France crowd had more to cheer as France’s Mehdi Baala set a world leading time of 3:30.97 in the men’s 1500 metres, a new National record. Paced by David Kiptoo through 400 metres in 53.76 and 800 metres in a fast 1:51.60, Baala took over the running, going through 1200 metres in 2:49.97, holding off a strong challenge from Kenya’s Bernard Lagat in the last 150 metres. Lagat finished in a season’s best of 3:31.40, with Paul Korir third in a new personal best of 3:32.44. It was his first ever Golden League win (at any meeting) of his career. His 1500m French record today was the fourth national record he has set in 2003 : 800m indoors, 1000m indoors and 1000m outdoors previous to today.

Elation for the crowd but desolation for Nick Hysong as the Jackpot contender lost out in the Pole Vault to his countryman Derek Miles. With a clear round up to the winning height of 5.76, Germany’s Tim Lobinger failed at his first attempt at that height, clearing it on his second attempt, while Miles was over the bar at his first try.. Third placed Hysong cleared at his third attempt, before all three had three failures at 5.81.

The final female contender for the Jackpot competing tonight was Mozambique’s Maria Mutola and she stayed in the running for the million dollar prize as she edged Slovenia’s Jolanda Ceplak in the last 50 metres, despite a spirited run from the European indoor champion and World indoor record holder. Mutola crossed the line in 1:57.58, just 26 hundredths ahead of Ceplak. Morocco’s Mina Ait Hammou was third in 1:58.82 (a new personal best), beating into fourth place Austria’s Stephanie Graf (1:59.02).

The final competition qualifying for the IAAF Golden league Jackpot was the men’s 800 metres, with the winner from Oslo, Mbuireni Mulaudzi lining up against a strong field including Switzerland’s Andre Bucher, Russia’s Yuriy Borzakovskiy, Hezekiel Sepeng (RSA) and USA rising star David Krummenacker. A surprise winner in Oslo, Mulaudzi failed to make the grade in Paris. Despite a spirited defence, he was unable to resist the final sprint of Borzakovskiy, who headed the field into the final straight and held off Mulaudzi’s kick for home to cross the line in 1:43.94 ahead of the South African, who finished in 1:44.12, just beating into third place Bucher (1:44.25).

In the men’s 200 metres, three Americans took the honours, led by John Capel in 20.21. Ramon Clay was second in 20.31 and Darvis Patton third in 20.32. Shawn Crawford was disqualified after running out of his lane. In the women’s race USA’s Kelli White was victorious in 22.43, with second going to France’s Muriel Hurtis and young American revelation Allyson Felix third in 22.66.

The evening finished on a high note with the 3000 metre Steeplechase, as France’s Bob Tahri equalled the European record of 8:06.91 after a desperate sprint finish that saw the three first places finishing within half a second. Victory went to Kenya’s Stephen Cherono in 8:06.41, with his compatriot Paul Koech second in 8:06.63.

After this evening’s competition, just Chandra Sturrup and Maria Mutola remain in contention for the Golden League million dollar Jackpot. The third leg of the series will take place in Rome’s Olympic Stadium on 11 July, at the Peroni Golden Gala.

© IAAF - www.iaaf.org


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