to look out for on Day 10
11 August 2001 - Edmonton - Befitting the climax of 10 days of great competition, the final day of the World Championships pits Hicham El-Guerrouj against the resurgent Kenyans over 1500m, a great head to head between Maria Mutola and Stephanie Graf in the 800m, and another chance to see master-craftsman Jan Zelezny at work in the javelin.
But there are also 5 more finals on a Sunday that should definitely help the IAAF sell the sport in North America. The first race, starting at 08:00, will be the women’s marathon and you can go on-line with Tegla Loroupe (who knows something about the event) in the forum section of this site. With Olympic champion Naoko Takahashi not present in Edmonton, all eyes will be on her compatriot Yoko Shibui, the 22 year-old who ran 2:23:11 in January, the fastest ever debut at the distance. Although the marathon-mad Japanese are expecting a lot from Shibui, who has prepared meticulously for this race, it remains to be seen if she can cope with the pressure of her first major championship race. Kazumi Matsuo, anther Japanese contender, has won every marathon she has contested, and has an impressive personal best of 2:24:15. Kenya’s best hopes, in the absence of Loroupe, will rest with Florence Barsosio, while Ethiopia are fielding 1996 Olympic champion Fatuma Roba – who has run 2:27:22 this year – and Elfenesh Alemu – who has run 2:24:29. But in what is likely to be a very open race, Romania’s Olympic silver medallist Lidia Simon, and Svetlana Zakharova of Russia, who finished behind Tegla Loroupe in this year’s London Marathon, will be challenging for gold.
Hicham El Guerrouj may not have to worry about Noah Ngeny this time, but the defending world champion at 1500m will still need to watch the Kenyans, who have come back with a bang in Edmonton. El Guerrouj has said this will be his last major race at the distance, and he will be eager to end on a high. Bernard Lagat, who has a best of 3:30.83 this year, and William Chirchir, who won the Kenyan Trials, will probably try to slow the pace down, but this could also play into the hands of the leading Europeans. Portugal’s Rui Silva, the world indoor champion who won the last Golden League meeting in Monaco, Spain’s Jose Antonio Redolat and France’s Mehdi Baala, will all fancy their chances in a slow, tactical race. Morocco’a Abdelkader Hachlaf set a personal best of 3:36.02 to make the final.
Following the amazing failure of Olympic silver medallist Steve Backley, who recently threw 90.81, to qualify for the men’s javelin final, yet another title should go to Jan Zelezny. The Czech, who has ever won every honour in the sport, qualified almost dismissively – throwing 90.76 with his first and only throw – metres ahead of the next best in his group Boris Henry (86.53) and Mick Hill (84.88) who both set seasonal bests. If his technique is off-key, Zelezny could be pushed by the consistent Konstadinos Gatsioudis, who qualified impressively with 87.81. Finland – the land of javelin throwers – will be represented by the defending world champion Aki Parvianen, who struggled to qualify with 81.82, but may get it right this afternoon.
The women’s 800m promises another instalment of the Maria Mutola vs Stephanie Graf saga, as both runners qualified impressively, and easily, from their respective semi-finals. With Olympic bronze medallist Kelly Holmes back from injury and improving with every race, there could be a repeat of the Sydney medal podium – Mutola, Graf and Holmes, although Graf has been running well enough this year to turn the tables on her Mozambican rival.
The women’s High Jump is extremely open, with the most impressive qualifiers being the defending champion Inga Babakova of the Ukraine, Commonwealth Champion Hestrie Cloete, Olympic finalist Vita Palamar and Amy Acuff. World Indoor champion Kajsa Bergqvist – who is still in contention for the Golden League Jackpot – looked a little nervy in qualifying, but is likely to rise to the occasion this afternoon.
In the relays, the USA, even without Michael Johnson, should start as favourites in the men’s 4x400m after comfortably winning their semi-final. Their toughest rivals are likely to be Brazil, Poland and the Bahamas, who will be anchored by the 400m world champion Avard Moncur. The USA will also start as firm favourites in the women’s final.
Following the various dramas that put paid to the hopes of Great Britain, Cuba, Jamaica and Germany in the men’s 4x100m qualifying round, the big question is whether the USA – who were disqualified but reinstated on protest when it was accepted that an injury caused Jon Drummond to unwittingly step on the line - will be able to snatch gold with their makeshift team. Ato Boldon – who withdrew from the 200m to help his young 4x100m team mates – heads an impressive outfit from Trinidad and Tobago, while Canada could take advantage of the demise of so many contenders to bring the local crowd to its feet in what will be the last race of these Championships.