Two wonderful 5000m
races, a 2.01m High Jump for Inga Babakova, and another majestic (Area record)
Triple Jump of 15.11 for Yamile Aldama were the highlights of the Exxon Mobil
Bislett Games, the first meeting of the 2003 IAAF Golden League.
After a 38 year history the Bislett Games tonight waved farewell to one of
the most hallowed Athletics stadiums in the world, the Norwegian
capital’s famous Bislett stadium, which will be torn down and replaced by
a state of the art facility on the same central city location by 2005.
The main international programme of the evening was opened by Lord Sebastian
Coe, ‘Seb’ to most athletics fans, the double Olympic 1500m
champion who in the years 1979 to 1981 established four World records in this
stadium – one at 800m, two at 1000m and one at the Mile.
Aldama and Babakova jump supreme
Cuba’s Yamile Aldama was for one determined to close the
stadium’s history on the highest of notes and even before the opening
speeches had leapt to an Area Record and world season’s lead of 15.11m in
the women’s Triple Jump. The Cuban’s series was solid to say the
least being backed up with three other marks which ranged from 14.63 to
African record holder Francoise Mbango (CMR) was second with a
season’s best of 14.88, and World champion Tatyana Lebedeva (RUS) who had
leapt 15 metres in Greece last Tuesday (finishing second to Aldama), was today
back in third with 14.86.
The women’s High Jump which ultimately turned out to be the final
curtain of this great stadium produced a high quality result worthy of Bisletts
tradition. Topped by a 2.01m winning effort for 1999 World champion Inga
Babakova who was celebrating her 36th Birthday today, the Ukrainian took her
win on the third attempt. Her compatriot Vita Palomar and Russia’s Irina
Mikhalchenko were both successful over 1.99 for second and third places in that
order after count back.
Babakova’s 2.01 came after a second time success at 1.99, though that
was much cleaner than her higher jump with the bar left wobbling as she came
down to the loud applause of the spectators.
The surprise of the competition was the failure of Sweden’s double
World Indoor champion Kajsa Bergqvist at 1.97m (sixth place – 1.95m).
Two world junior records
World record ambitions were in the mind of at least one athlete this
evening, as World Indoor 3000m champion and record holder Berhane Adere made a
brave attempt on the women’s 5000m record. The Ethiopian, despite a
blistering sprint which she unleashed with 200m to go to finally dispose of any
possible challenge from Werknesh Kidane, the World Cross Country long course
champion, just fell short of China’s Jiang Bo’s 1997 World mark of
Adere finished with 14:29.32 an African record (beating Gete Wami’s
previous 14:30.88) a 2003 world lead, Kidane was second in 14:33.04 (PB), with
a new World junior record in 14:39.94 taken by the third finisher Tirunesh
Diababa, the World Junior Cross Country champion (previous WJR 14:45.90 Jiang
Bo, 1995). That all three runners were from Ethiopia says everything about the
current distance running power of the East African country, which has recently
even been putting Kenya into the shade.
The men’s 5000m, the final track event re-emphasised the point again,
with Ethiopia’s double double World Cross Country champion Kenenisa
Bekele taking a desperately close battle for the tape (12:52.26) from
Kenya’s Sammy Kipketer (12:52.33 PB).
The Kenyans had tried to recover some much needed pride by ganging up on the
Ethiopian, with five of their number led by Sammy Kipketer attempting to
sandwich Bekele as the bell sounded. At one point as Abraham Chebii burst wide
and fast past Bekele’s right shoulder and established a 10 metres lead,
it looked like it might be all over for the young Ethiopian but as the last 100
metres was reached, Bekele was back in command.
Kipketer, the Commonwealth 5000m champion was not giving in though and
Bekele was given a real fight to the finish, just gaining the edge. In third
place Eliud Kipchoge established a new World junior record of 12:52.61
(previous Philip Mosima 12:53.72 - 1996). Chebii was fourth in 12:54.99, a
personal best, with his compatriots James Kwalia (12:54.58) the young find of
the season, and Albert Chepkurui, also going under 13 minutes for personal
Throughout the course of both the men’s and women’s races the
Bislett crowd had pounded their feet and clapped their hands in the rhythms of
old, throwing echoes back to the great feats of distance running which this
stadium has witnessed in it’s illustrious career. Sadly, for the benefit
of the last day of the old Bislett, Adere in particular, couldn’t quite
follow in the successful World record steps of the likes of Ingrid Kristiansen
(1981 and 1984), David Moorcroft (1982) or Said Aouita (1985) but all the same
the two 5ks gave us a moment of typical Bislett magic.
Sturrup upsets White
Chandra Sturrup of the Bahamas surprised US champion Kelli White on the line
in the women’s 100m. Running in lane eight (a novelty for this final
year) next to the crowd, Sturrup was up level with White by the 60m point and
by the tape had edged just enough in front to inflict defeat on White –
10.96 to 10.97. The margin was so close that the victory flowers were initially
given to the American, who had been called the winner by the stadium
The men’s dash turned into a duel between the top Britons, with the
European 100m record holder Dwain Chambers (10.15) having to give best to his
younger colleague Mark Lewis Francis, who had also stolen the British team
berth at last weekend’s European Cup in Florence (at which he also won).
Lewis Francis’s winning time was 10.12.
A stride for stride battle down the finishing straight and a desperate lunge
for the line in the women’s 400m Hurdles brought victory to
Australia’s Commonwealth champion Jana Pittman in 54.42 seconds, ahead of
double European champion Ionela Tirlea of Romania (54.47). USA’s Sandra
Glover was third with 54.80.
Stanislav Olijar improved his own Latvian sprint Hurdles record in the
men’s 110m race, winning in 13.14 to equal the stadium record of Allen
Johnson (1997), and improve his world season’s lead.
Sergey Makarov of Russia, who is currently mister consistent in the javelin,
continued an unblemished season with a 85.61 win. He would seem after the first
meeting of the Golden League to be one of the firmest bets for the 1 million
$US Jackpot, which goes to any athlete who wins his or her individual
discipline at all six of the meetings in the 2003 series.
Wilfred Bungei of Kenya would have been many peoples favourite to challenge
for this years jackpot too but he didn’t event clear the first barrier.
The Kenyan who is the reigning world silver medallist both indoors and out, and
who had been under 1:44 three times already this season, unexpectedly tied up
in the home straight, and was passed by South Africa’s Mbulaeni Mulaudzi.
The South African’s winning time was 1:44.11 to Bungei’s 1:44.15.
Spain’s Antonia Manuel Reina was well adrift in third 1:44.65, with World
champion Andre Bucher in fourth 1:44.99.
Maria Mutola, World and Olympic champion at the 800m remained ascendant over
the women’s two lap race taking the win in 2:00.62. Her old arch rival
Stephanie Graf was second in 2:00.92 but Mutola was never really challenged
The women’s 1500m was taken by Ukraine’s Irina Lisinskaya in
4:04.62, with Russia’s Yelena Zadorozhnaya, second (4:04.97) and
Hungary’s Judit Varga 4:05.82 in third. Lisinskaya had taken the race by
the scruff of the neck in the final lap, and entering the final 100 metres had
a clear margin over the Russian who never made any impression on her by the
The men’s Pole Vault which suffered from the late withdrawal of World
Indoor champion Tim Lobinger, the current outdoor world lead, was won by
USA’s Olympic champion Nick Hysong in a four way ‘tie’ on
5.70m. On count back the Sydney gold medallist took the win from World Cup
winner Okkert Brits (RSA), and fellow Americans, Toby Stevenson and Jeff
Hartwig. “Hats off” to Stevenson for even having the courage to set
foot in the stadium, as it was here in Bislett last year that he suffered a
major accident which led to an ambulance trip from the stadium and a long stay
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