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World Indoor’s: African runners take it all


March 2004 – On the final day of the IAAF World Indoor Championships in Budapest four more running events were on the schedule – and all of them had African winners. It was South Africa’s Mbulaeni Mulaudzi who won the 800 metres in 1:45,71 minutes. In race without any European or American runner (last year’s World Champion David Krummenacker was absent – Rashid Ramzi of Burundi took second place in 1:46,15. Brazilian’s Osmar Barbosa dos Santos was third in 1:46,26.

For dos Santos it was a reward in the end as he had run from the front and made it a fast race. In 50,74 seconds the Brazilian had passed 400 metres. And it was only during the last 200 metres that Mulaudzi forced the pace. The South African had won the 800 metres in the Commonwealth Games in 2002 and was third in last year’s IAAF World Championships in Paris. Between 650 and 750 metres he took over at front and managed to get a lead of about two metres. He then hold on to it. “I had not specially prepared myself for indoor racing. This was my first indoor start this season – and will be the only one. Normally I don’t run well indoors because I can not find a rhythm”, the 23 year-old South African said. “I fought for Gold but ended up with a Bronze. Still I am happy about it”, dos Santos said.

The 1,500 metre final ended with a triumph for Kenya. Paul Korir was the winner of a slow tactical race in 3:52,31 minutes. The bronze medal went to Laban Rotich, another Kenyan (3:52,93). In between the two countrymen Ivan Heshko (Ukraine) won the silver medal in 3:52,34 minutes. It was after a very slow opening that the two Kenyans stepped up the pace around the 500 metre mark. But still it was not getting really fast. This played into the hands of Heshko and Britain’s Michael East, who both have a strong finish. Heshko was coming out of the final curve strong and nearly caught Korir on the line. Behind the two there was a curious fight for the bronze medial between East and Rotich. Realising that the Kenyan was going to overtake him the Britain crossed lanes to cut into Rotich’s way. Ending up in lane five (!) East did cross as the third runner, but was later disqualified for obstructing the Kenyan. “Time does not count here. I am simply happy to have won. I did not realise anything about the pushing in the field”, Korir said. The 26 year-old Kenyan had been fourth in last year’s IAAF World Championships in Paris.

Finally there was a medal for a British middle distance runner. While Kelly Holmes had lost all her golden chances the day before, when she fell during the 1,500 metres final, it was Joanne Fenn who won a bronze medal in the 800 metre final. The former country singer clocked 1:59,50 minutes which is a national record as well. But of course there was no chance for her to fight for more. It was the expected showdown between Maria Mutola (Mozambique) and Jolanda Ceplak (Slovenia). In the end once again the Olympic Champion had the advantage. Mutola clocked 1:58,50 minutes to take the gold medal. Ceplak ran 1:58,72. Later on Ceplak accused Mutola of having pushed her. But Mutola claimed that it was just a normal contact during the race when the two were close together.

It was Spain’s Marta Dominguez who lead the 3,000 metre women’s final for quite some time. But it was the same as it had been with the men’s race – a slow tactical race. In the end Dominguez had to be content with fourth place in 9:12,85 minutes. It was an American that denied her the bronze medal: Shayne Culpepper surprised with her third place in 9:12,15 minutes. She is the wife of Alan Culpepper, a familiar name in American long distance running. The fight for the gold medal had looked more like a middle distance affair than a long distance race. Almost next to each other the two Ethiopians Meseret Defar and defending champion Berhane Adere came on the home straight. In the end it was the 20 year-old Defar who won the race in 9:11,22. It was her first senior world title, but she is the IAAF World Junior Champion from 2002 at 3,000 and 5,000 metre. Adere finished in 9:11,22 minutes.

Budapest, 7.3.2004

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