Meseret Defar runs 8:26.99 for 3,000 meters, Eight world leaders at meet in Stuttgart, by Bob Ramsak


A very happy Meseret Defar after her fine 3,000 meter run in Stuttgart. Her time of 8:26.99 leads the world ( Photo, courtesy of Bob Ramsak, Track


By Bob Ramsak
(c) 2009 TRACK PROFILE Report, all rights reserved

STUTTGART, Germany (07-Feb) – Meseret Defar and Abubaker Kaki may have come up short in their world record-setting bids, but the pair still managed to rewrite the all-time lists at tonight’s 23rd edition of the Sparkassen Cup in Stuttgart. In all, eight world-leading performances were set in front of a packed house at the Hanns-Martin-Schleyer-Halle.

Yet again, Defar was reminded of how difficult a task she set for herself when she lowered the 3000m world record to 8:23.72 on this track two years ago. And for the second year running, she gave it an honest run. Reaching 2000m in just under 5:40, she was still within a half second of record pace, but looming just behind her shoulder was Russian Anna Alminova, giving the Ethiopian an unforeseen, if ultimately, unsuccessful challenge. Defar reached the line in 8:26.99, the third fastest time in history, with Alminova hanging on long enough to clock 8:28.49 and become the fourth fastest ever with the sixth fastest performance.

“It was a very nice surprise to run that fast,” Alminova said after missing Liliya Shobukhova’s Russian record by just 0.63 seconds in her indoor debut over the distance. “I could only dream about winning a race against (Defar).” But she did say she could run faster next time.

Anna Alminiova after her 3k stunner, photo courtesy of Bob Ramsak, Track

For her part, Defar was pleased as well. “I was going for the world record, I didn’t succeed, but it was only my first race and it was a fast time. So I’m quite happy.”

Whether it came down to some pace-setting difficulties or just a matter of knocking free the rust in his first appearance since the 800m semis at last summer’s Olympic Games, Abubaker Kaki’s assault on Wilson Kipketer’s world standard in the 1000m never fully materialized. But the 19-year-old, still managed to easily outkick French record holder Mehdi Baala in 2:16.23, the eighth fastest ever, but only the third fastest for the Sudanese teenager.

“I’m feeling good,” the reigning world indoor 800m champion said. “For my first race, it was a fine race.”

Baala crossed the line in 2:17.29, not far from his national record of 2:17.01 set four years ago.

- Vlasic Struggles, but Raises World Lead to 2.04 (6-8 ¼ )

On the infield, the main attraction was reigning world indoor and outdoor champion Blanka Vlasic, and in the end the 25-year-old Croatian didn’t disappoint. But her outing didn’t go nearly as smoothly as she would have liked.

Struggling with the hard surface, Vlasic actually found herself trailing Russian newcomer Irina Gordeyeva after missing twice at 1.98 (6-6). “No,” she said after the competition, she couldn’t remember the last time she needed three tries at that height.

After finally sailing clear, she clinched the win with a second attempt clearance at 2.00m (6-6 ¾ ) and then regrouped with a first attempt clearance at 2.04m (6-8 ¼ ) to add a centimeter to her own world leader. She took three stabs at a would-be world record of 2.09m (6-10 ¼ ), and produced a reasonably solid first attempt.

“It was like running through water,” she said of the surface. “I’m happy though that even when the circumstances weren’t perfect I still jumped 2.04.”

Gordeyeva topped out at 1.98, and had one good attempt at 2.00.

- In the Hurdles, World Leads for Oliver and Jones

Americans David Oliver and Lolo Jones were the overwhelming favorites in their respective 60m hurdles contests, and both clearly displayed why with solid and satisfying performances.

Using his massive frame to its full advantage, Oliver closed strongly to take a narrow win in 7.45, just edging Russian Evgeniy Borisov, who was credited with the same time. Both equaled Terrence Trammell’s world leader set at the Millrose Games one week ago.

“It’s a new PB, so I’m definitely happy about it,” said Oliver, the Olympic bronze medallist. “I had to come back at the end, so that definitely bodes well for outdoors.”

In a tight finish, Joel Brown lowered his career best to 7.48 to take third, ahead of Gregory Sedoc, who twice lowered his six-day old Dutch record, first to 7.54 in the heats and again to 7.52 in the final.

In the women’s race, world indoor champion Jones warmed up with a world-leading 7.93 in the heats before improving markedly with her 7.85 in the final. Clearly ahead by hurdle three, she finished well clear of Cuban Anay Tejada (7.96).

- In 800m, Ismail Upsets a Pair of Olympic Champions

Kaki’s run apparently inspired his training partner, Olympic silver medallist Ismail Ahmad Ismail in the 800m. Kenyan Wilfred Bungei and Russian Yuriy Borzakovskiy, the last two Olympic champions, were virtually even at the bell, until Borzakovskiy took the lead and began to pull away midway through the backstretch. Ismail stayed with him and stormed by him over the final 15 meters to take a convincing victory in 1:45.73, another world leader.

“It was my first race and I just wanted to win,” said Ismail, who chopped more than three seconds from his previous indoor best. “I think that is like running 1:43 or even 1:42 outdoors.” While that assessment could be debated, it’s clear that the 24-year-old Sudanese’s current form is certainly stronger than that which brought him a 1:44.34 outdoor best last year in Monaco.

Borzakovskiy, the winner here last year, was second (1:45.96) with Bungei third (1:46.66).

Likewise, Bernard Lagat was delighted with his commanding 7:35.41 victory in the 3000m --nearly a second clear of Ethiopian Abreham Cherkos-- even though he fell well shy of his 7:31 pre-race goal.

“I felt really good, I could have gone faster,” Lagat said, but realizing that the 5:07.62 split at 2000m had already put his own American record of 7:32.43 out of reach, the decided to simply run for the win. Running comfortably near the front throughout, he remained calm when Cherkos took the lead at the bell, and decided not to pounce on the Ethiopian teen until he reached the final straight.

“I’m not mad about it though,” Lagat said. “It told me that I’m in good shape.” His next outing is set for Tuesday at the Meeting du Pas-de-Calais in Lievin, France, where he’ll run the mile.

Cherkos was second in 7:36.36 with Kenyan Shedrack Korir third (7:37.09).

World indoor champion Deresse Mekkonen coasted to an easy victory in the 1500 in 3:36.41, another world leader, well ahead of Kenyans Augustine Choge (3:38.62) and Gideon Gathimba (3:39.21). The women’s race produced an even wider victory margin, with Briton Susan Scott winning in 4:13.37, nearly four seconds ahead of Russian Nataliya Panteleeva (4:17.36).

Christian Blum scored an unanticipated home victory in the 60m, edging American Kendall Stevens by a scant 0.01 seconds in 6.56. It was a career best for the lanky 21-year-old –he ran 6.59 a year ago—who suddenly emerged as a medal contender for next month’s European championshpis. Italian Simone Collio was third (6.60). Simeon Williamson, fourth in 6.62, was the only Briton to reach the final. Harry Aikines-Aryeetey was disqualified for a false start in the heats while pre-meet favorite Craig Pickering never made it to Stuttgart, stuck instead in snowy London.

In a field loaded with German pole vaulting talent –along with Olympic silver medallist Evgeniy Lukyanenko of Russia—it was the least known entrant, Tobias Scherbarth, who stole the victory. The 23-year-old added a centimeter to his personal best to win with a 5.76m (18-10 ¾ ) clearance, ahead of Frenchman Romain Mesnil, and Germans Alexander Straub and Danny Ecker, who each topped out at 5.70 (18-8 ½ ).

In the women’s vault, three cleared 4.60m (15-1) but Brazilian Fabiana Murer didn’t miss until she reached the winning height to take the victory over German’s Caroline Hingst and Anna Battke.

Maxim Dyldin of Russia won the 400 in 46.46 over Italy’s Claudio Licciardello (46.59). American Nina Gilbert took the 200m in 23.81.

Photos: Special thanks and credit Bob Ramsak/TRACK PROFILE Report): Meseret Defar prior to the 3000m, and Anna Alminova after the 3000m.

Special thanks to Bob Ramsak,

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