General News

All clear for 5000 showdown


Pat Butcher for the IAAF
10 August 2001 - Edmonton - The women in the 5000 metres heats were happy to leave their protest about Olga Yegorova to Paula Radcliffe off-track. And now the scene is set for a fascinating final.

Olympic champion, Gabriela Szabo says she is over the sickness which affected her running in Paris and Oslo - where she was beaten in turn by the Russian trio of Yegorova, Yelena Zhadoroshnaya, and Tatyana Tomashova over 3000 metres, and Edith Masai of Kenya over 5000 metres.

Evidence of the Romanian’s complete recovery was her decisive victory over her compatriot Violeta Szekeley in the 1500 metres on Tuesday, in 4:00.57. The Russian trio have been dominating Szabo in the final stages of their encounters so far - the Romanian lost just as easily to them in the Roma Golden League, when she didn’t claim to be sick. But it remains to be seen what effects, if any the EPO saga will have collectively on the Russians.

Given Szabo’s restored sprint finish, it would seem in the interests of the Russians, as well as Masai, to ensure a fast pace. Yet all four of Szabo’s rivals have searing sprints of their own, which interestingly they kept muted in the heats.

The appearance and victory in the second heat of the world’s second fastest woman at the distance, the Chinese Dong Yanmei (14.29.82) got largely overlooked, although she ran the fastest time of the evening, 15.09.54, after
running away from the pack in the final kilometre. However, according to our
colleague from China News Service, Jian Chen, who served as interpreter, Dong says she is not in the best form.

“This was my best time for the year, but my rivals here have much better results. Coach Ma told me I had to take the initiative in my race, to ensure that I qualified for the final. I’ll be happy if I finish in the top eight”.

If that’s the case, that would underline a contest between five people, the three Russians, Szabo and Masai. Despite an impressive solo chase of Dong to finish second in her heat, Briton Jo Pavey will probably be found wanting when the pace is elevated.

The Kenyan Masai is the most intriguing prospect, given that she has emerged on the international scene at the late age of 34.Divorced with a 12 year old son, it seems that she has been around on the Kenyan scene for over a decade as a 2min 8sec 800 metres runner.She is nominally a member of the Kenyan Prisons’ team, along with Susan Chepekemei and Catherine Ndereba, but it seems their employer allows more latitude than the Kenyan federation, in permitting them to live and race abroad. For, since moving to Trier in Germany last Autumn, and being persuaded to step up in distance - her first outing was a 68min half-marathon - she has blossomed. Second in the Kenyan cross country trials, she finished third behind Gete Wami and Paula Radcliffe in the World Cross short race in Ostend. But it her finishing speed, born perhaps of that long 800 metres experience which will stand her in good stead on Saturday.

Masai will have boosted by her success against Szabo in Oslo, when the Kenyan ran a personal best 14.46.06. But she then won another 5000 metres in Stockholm and a 3000 in Monte Carlo, both convincingly. However, after her heat she confirmed that she has suffered from a bout of fever here in Edmonton, which may have been a touch of the ever present danger of Malaria for most Kenyans.

Incidentally, Doctor David Martin, the esteemed exercise physiologist from Atlanta feels the effects of Edmonton’s 700 metres altitude ought be negligible. But, even allowing for championship race strategy, and given that conditions were nigh perfect for the men’s steeplechase and 10,000 metres, the times have been no faster in comparison than the women’s 10,000 metres, which was run on a much warmer evening. Accordingly, we needn’t expect 14min 40sec times in the 5000 metres final. But, as Steffi Graf said after her successful opening heat of the women’s 800 metres, “It’s great running in races without pacemakers, it’s the performance that counts”.