It has been a long, long track season. The athletes are getting tired, and so are the fans. In the first day of the World Athletics Final, Asafa Powell cranked a legal 9.83 and Yelena Isinbayeva barely held on for her 20th consecutive victory in the pole vault.
In this feature by Bob Ramsak, we see the first days of performances by the world’s elite at the last important meet of 2007. Note the double by Angelo Taylor in one day!
POWELL’S 9.83 THE HIGHLIGHT ON DAY ONE OF WORLD ATHLETICS FINAL
by Bob Ramsak
(c) 2007 TRACK PROFILE Report, all rights reserved
STUTTGART, Germany â€“ Asafa Powell stormed to a dazzling 9.83 victory in the 100m to highlight the first day of the IAAF/VTB Bank World Athletics Final this afternoon at Stuttgartâ€™s Gotleib Daimler Stadium.
His performance, the sixth fastest ever for the 24-year-old world record holder, was all the more impressive coming after a pair of false starts and a mild headwind. Only two man, Americans Justin Gatlin and Maurice Greene, have ever run faster.
â€œIt was one of the best,â€ Powell said, assessing his race, his ninth victory in ten 100m outings this season. â€œWhen I crossed the line, I wished that it could have been a little more. But after two false starts and when I saw that the wind was minus, I said, â€˜Whoa, thatâ€™s really good.â€™ But at first, I was looking for a little more.â€
Rising star Jaysuma Saidy Ndure continued his impressive season, taking second in 10.06, another Norwegian record for the 23-year-old.
Yelena Isinbayeva didnâ€™t produce her promised world record assault in the pole vault, but she did collect her 20th consecutive win in what turned out to be one of the deepest competitions ever. Clearing 4.82 on her first attempt, she watched as Polandâ€™s Monika Pyrek and former world record holder Svetlana Feofanova did the same, the first time three women cleared that height in the same competition. For Pyrek it was a personal best and just one centimeter shy of Anna Rogowskaâ€™s national record, and for Feofanova, it was a seasonâ€™s best.
The chase pair went out at 4.87 as Isinbayeva passed, before missing out at 4.92. A rare occurrence then transpired â€“a jump-off between Pyrek and the Russian star at 4.87. The first to jump, Pyrek missed, while Isinbayeva followed with a hefty clearance to seal the win.
American LaShawn Merritt, the 400m world championships silver medallist and runner-up here last year, moved up a notch this time around, storming the second half en route to a convincing 44.58 ahead of Canadian Tyler Christopher. Angelo Taylor, the Osaka bronze medallist, was third here as well in 44.92.
Less than an hour earlier, Taylor was fifth in the 400m hurdles, the closest and most thrilling contest of the afternoon. For about 360 metres of the race, perennial big meet bridesmaid James Carter appeared to be well on the way to his biggest win of the season. But Pole Marek Plawgo, the surprise Osaka bronze medallist, delivered yet another bombshell.
With Carter, the U.S. champion and winner this year at Paris and Lausanne, fading slightly over the final barrier, Plawgo, running to his inside in lane 4, and world champion Kerron Clement to his outside in lane six, mounted an assault from all fronts. In the final moments of desperation, Carter and Plawgo fell and rolled over the finish line, with Clement gasping for air beside them as the trio awaited the result of the photo reading. The edge went to the Pole, the biggest career win for the 26-year-old, just ahead of Clement, both credited with 48.35. Carter was just a hair back in 48.36, with 2005 World champion Bershawn Jackon a distant fourth (48.58). For Plawgo, who also took home a bronze in Osaka in the 4x400m Relay, his victory here was a solid follow-up to her post-Osaka campaign, after victories in Rieti, Rovereto, and the Golden League finale in Berlin.
The womenâ€™s high jump went as expected with world champion Blanka Vlasic of Croatia collecting her 17th win in 18 outings this season. Topping out at two meters even, Vlasic defeated the women who shared the podium with her in Osaka, Italian Antonietta DiMartino and Russian Anna Chicherova, who each cleared 1.97.
Running in unseasonably warm and pleasant conditions, Maryam Yusuf Jamal proved for the fourth consecutive race since taking the world title in Osaka late last month that at the moment, she is without peer in the metric mile. Biding her time behind early leader Viola Kibiwott, the 23-year-old old took control of the race with just over two laps to go before sprinting from the midway through the final bend en route to a sizable 1500m victory in 4:01.23.
â€œIâ€™m very satisfied,â€ said Jamal, after bringing her season to and end. â€œThis year was really big for me. I plan to continue like this next year.â€
In a blanket finish for second, it was Osaka silver medallist Yelena Soboleva who yet again took the runner-up honors in 4:05.35, just ahead of fast-closing Sarah Jamieson (4:05.43) of Australia and Agnes Samaria, whose 4:05.44 was a Namibian national record.
The closest race on the menâ€™s program came in the 800, won by Youssef Saad Kamel. Making up for his disappointing appearance at the World Championships, the former Gregory Konchelllah kicked past Mbulaeni Mulaudzi en route to a 1:45.61 victory, breaking his own WAF record of 1:45.91 from 2004.
“Today was my day,” said Kamel, who failed to advance from the semi-finals in Osaka. “This was my revenge after the World Championships which was very disappointing for me.”
The tightly bunched field reached the bell in 53.17, with the victory still very much anyoneâ€™s to grasp. South African Mulaudzi, this yearâ€™s world leader, Moroccan Amine Laalou, and Kamel made a collective move to create a small gap on the field with 200 meters to go, before Kamel, the son of two-time World champion Billy Konchellah, forged to the lead at the top of the home straight. Mulaudzi tried to wrestle the lead back over the final 50 meters, but came up short to take second (1:45.67) after a victory here last year.
18-year-old Belal Mansoor Ali, another Kenyan-born Bahraini, tried to steal the win as he powered into the homestretch, but faded to third (1:45.93).
Despite a sore throwing elbow that slowed her last week, Czech Barbora Spotakova, the freshly-minted world champion in the javelin, continued her stellar season with a 67.12 throw to dominate the competition here, while improving on her own national record. Home crowd favorite Steff Nerius was a distant second, more than two meters behind (64.90.
Elsewhere, battles on the infield were won by the slightest of margins. Walter Davis edged compatriot Aarik Wilson, the US. Champion, in the triple jump, 17.35 to 17.34, with world champion Nelson Evora again taking a back seat, this time finishing third (17.30).
The menâ€™s shot put wasnâ€™t decided until the final round, with Reese Hoffa, also an Osaka gold medallist, winning with a 20.98 throw, edging Adam Nelson (20.95) and former world champion Andrei Mikhnevich (20.88) of Belarus.
Estonian strongman Gerd Kanter again got the better of Virgilijus Alekna in the discus, winning comfortably with a 66.54 best effort to the former world championâ€™s 65.94.
False starts were an ongoing annoyance of day one. Well before Powellâ€™s dash, three false starts were called –the first extremely questionable– in the womenâ€™s 100m hurdles, taking a key victim: Swede Susanna Kallur. In her absence, two-time world champion Michelle Perry got the win in 12.68, but it was close, with Spaniard Josephine Onyia reaching the line just a little short in 12.70.
The situation in the womenâ€™s 200 was even worse, with four false start pistols sounding, but with no one in the end, actually being disqualified. The confusion ended with a narrow victory by Frenchwoman Muriel Hurtis-Houairi who edged Debbie Ferguson-McKenzie 22.73 to 22.74.
Breaking form the pack over the final turn, Kenyan Edwin Soi kicked to a decisive victory in the menâ€™s 3000, the first track final of the afternoon before a crowd of about 20,000 at Gottlieb Daimler Stadium, the venue for the 1993 World Championships.
As expected, the race was a tactical one, with the entire field still in contention when the bell sounded, 6:55.21 into the race. Briton Mo Farah and Australian Craig Mottram headed the tightly-knit pack as they began the final circuit, but with the tempo increasing markedly, Mottram began to fade when Soi, and compatriot Joseph Ebuya made their decisive moves.
While Soi bolted to the lead –and the eventual victory in 7:48.81– Farah held his ground until Ebuya snuck by on the inside to finish second in 7:49.70, 0.19 seconds ahead of the Briton. Mottram, who seemingly faded out of contention with 200m to go, fought back to finish fourth (7:49.89). Eliud Kipchoge, the Osaka silver medallist in the 5000, was never a factor and finished a distant sixth.
Kenyan Eunice Jepkorir bid Romanian Cristina Casandra adieu at the final water barrier to win a tactical steeplechase affair in 9:35.03. After a sluggish opening, Jepkorir, Casandra and World champion Yekaterina Volkova of Russia upped the tempo with five circuits remaining, and with two laps to go, the Kenyan, Romanian and Ireland’s Roisin McGettigan had broken free. As Jepkorir bolted to the win off the final water jump, McGettigan charged by Cassandra to finish second, 9:35.86 to 9:36.38. Volkova, the world champion, was a distant fourth (9:40.21).
With just six women contesting the 5000 –world record Meseret Defar opted for tomorrowâ€™s 3000m instead– the race didnâ€™t begin until the bell sounded, some 13:55 into the contest. Vivian Cheruiyot, who finished second to Defar in her world record run in Oslo, led a Kenyan top-four sweep in 14:56.94, ahead of Sylvia Kibet and Priscah Jepleting.
While this yearâ€™s edition is the second of three slated for the Stuttgart venue, local organizers and the IAAF are having second thoughts about returning next year. That decision is expected on Monday.
Complete results from the iaaf: http://www.iaaf.org/WAF07/results/textFiles/year=2007/textfile.txt
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