Richards and Defar Double Winners at World Athletics Final, by Bob Ramsak


The merry traveler of the athletics circuit, Bob Ramsak, gives us his thoughts on the World Athletics Final. I consider Bob Ramsak to live in a parallel universe to what in my day, we called dead heads, the tye died fans of the Greatful Dead. The only difference in Bob's case is that the events he follows around have guys throwing javelins and running 5,000 meters...



By Bob Ramsak
(c) 2008 TRACK PROFILE Report, all rights reserved

STUTTGART -- Bouncing back from personal disappointments at the Olympics Games, Sanya Richards and Meseret Defar capped their seasons with double victories to highlight the second and final day of the IAAF/VTB Bank World Athletics Final in Stuttgart on Sunday.

Richards, the American record holder in the 400 meters, added the 400m title to her 200 victory on Saturday with a convincing victory over Olympic champion Christine Ohuruogu in 50.41, to become the first to win both long dashes at the traditional season-capping event. It was also her fourth straight WAF victory over the full lap.

“Ending my season like this is a good indicator for 2009,” said Richards, who was upset in the Olympic final by Ohuruogu and finished a disappointing third. Last year, Ohuruogu won the world title as well with Richards absent. Here the Briton was a distant second, clocking 50.83 seconds.

“I am exhausted,” said Ohuruogu, “but I’m glad I came here anyway. Finishing second doesn’t mean anything in the overall scheme of things, because I won the highest accolade in Beijing.” Today’s was the first defeat in seven starts this season for the Briton.

“Winning the 400 at the World Athletics Final was more important than winning the 200,” said Richards, who despite her high profile in the event since 2005, has yet to win a major global title. “I will work hard for next year’s world championships.”

For the second straight day, Defar outkicked Kenyan Vivian Cheruiyot, this time in the 3000m, winning in 8:43.60. Cheruiyot, who was fifth in the Olympic Games 5000 and beat Defar in the Brussels 5000 last weekend, led for much of the race until Defar kicked past her with 250 meters to go. Cheruiyot clocked 8:44:64.

In 2008, Defar, 24, last year’s IAAF Athlete of the Year, saw both her world record in the 5000 and her Olympic title in the event fall to her Ethiopian compatriot Tirunesh Dibaba, who did not compete this weekend. This was Defar’s fifth straight WAF victory in the 3000m.

For their efforts, Richards and Defar were the weekend’s big winners in prize terms, pocketing $60,000 over their weekend German getaway. They were outdone by Barbora Spotakova yesterday, who, counting her world record bonus, will take home $130,000 in prize money.

Unseasonably chilly conditions enveloped Mercedes Benz Stadium for the second day, providing a somewhat uninviting atmosphere for the venue’s final track and field event.

Despite the cold, Olympic 100m champion Shelly-Ann Fraser produced a fast victory with a strong closing half, clocking 10.94, beating Olympic co-silver medalist Kerron Stewart, who clocked 11.06. In a photo finish, American Marshevet Hooker was third, also credited with 11.06.

“I wanted to run sub-10.90, but this is still a good time,” said Fraser, who emerged from nowhere this season to first earn a spot on the Jamaican Olympic team and then follow up with a surprise victory in Beijing. “I’m just so happy to end my season by winning this race.” The 21-year-old, who clocked a world leading 10.78 to win the Olympic title, brought a modest wind-assisted 11.21 personal best into 2008.

- Jelimo Untouchable

Pamela Jelimo, whose rise from obscurity this year was the sporting world’s biggest breakout story, once again dominated the 800, winning by more than two seconds in 1:56.23. Patiently following Briton Marilyn Okoro through a modest 59.08 first lap, the 18-year-old decided enough was enough midway through the penultimate turn and shifted gears en route her ninth sub-1:57 of the season. Her winning time, a WAF record, was only her ninth fastest of the season, but only three others have run faster this year.

“I guess that I actually have even more talent than I showed in 2008, so in 2009, I want to continue exploring my talents and actually run even faster,” said Jelimo, who hadn’t contested the event until April of this year. She ended her campaign undefeated, winning both the Olympic title and the $1 million Golden League Jackpot.

World champion Janeth Jepkosgei was second, more than two seconds back in 1:58.41.

- Vlasic ends on a High

After a pair of major disappointments, Blanka Vlasic ended her season on a high note with a victory in the high jump. The 24-year-old jumped 2.01m, beating both Olympic champion Tia Hellebaut of Belgium, who was third, and German Ariane Friedrich whose victory over the Croatian in Brussels last weekend cost Vlasic a $500,000 share of the Golden League Jackpot.

“It was very important for me to win the World Athletics Final,” said Vlasic, who ended her season with victories in 37 of her last 39 competitions. In all but one of those she cleared two meters.

Olympic 400m hurdles champion Melaine Walker won her event in 54.06, nearly a full second ahead of Ukraine’s Anastasiya Rebchenyuk (54.96). Tasha Danvers of Great Britain, the Olympic bronze medallist who runs in a skirt, tumbled over the second hurdle but got up and went on to finish eighth.

Olympic hammer throw champion Primoz Kozmus of Slovenia won his event with a final round throw of 79.99 meters over Hungary’s Krisztian Pars. The pair traded the lead throughout the four-round competition before Kozmus, who won all but two of his 13 competitions this season.

Another Olympic champion to win this weekend was Valerie Vili of New Zealand, who took the shot put handily with a best of 19.69.

Elsewhere, American Derek Miles, fourth in the Olympic Games, won the pole vault with a 5.80m leap, notable given the conditions. Russian Anna Pyatykh upset Olympic gold and silver medalists Francoise Mbango Etone and Tatyana Lebedeva to win the triple jump with a leap of 14.78m.

Kenyan Haron Keitany, who missed the Olympic Games after finishing fourth at the Kenyan Trials, beat a strong field in the 1500m in 3:37.93, barely edging Olympic silver medalist Asbel Kiprop by a scant 0.01 seconds.

Olympic 5000m bronze medalist Edwin Soi, second in Saturday’s 3000m, kicked to victory to defend his World Athletics Final title in the 5000 in 13:22.81.

“I love this track here in Stuttgart, and enjoy torun here,” said Soi, whose $50,000 take this weekend ups his overall earnings here to $110,000 in four races over the past years.

Paul Kipsiele Koech, the season’s undisputed No. 1 in the 3000m steeplechase despite missing the Olympic Games, again defeated the Olympic medallists Brimin Kipruto and Richard Mateelong, clocking 8:05.35 to win by nearly 10 seconds.

In the absence of world record holder and Olympic champion Dayron Robles who was sidelined due to injury, American David Oliver took an easy victory in the 110me hurdles in 13.22. Oliver, who joined the sub-13 second club this season, was the only man to defeat Robles this year.

Latvian Vadims Vasilevskis upset the Olympic champion Andreas Thorkildsen and world champion Tero Pitkamaki in the javelin throw with a throw of 86.65m.

- Mayor loses a few votes

Upon conclusion of the meet, Stuttgart’s Mayor Wolfgang Schuster was met by a chorus of boos by the 21,500 fans on hand, voicing their disapproval over the city’s decision last year to remove the track from the stadium. Stuttgart ended its three-year run as host of the season-capping competition. The World Athletics Final moves to Thessaloniki, Greece, next September, for now, as a one-year stint.


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