29 JUL 2007 General News Zaragoza, Spain

12:49.53 Bekele and 1:58.21 Mutola in Zaragoza

Maria Mutola in Zaragoza (Agencia Efe)Maria Mutola in Zaragoza (Agencia Efe) © Copyright

Ethiopia's reigning Olympic and World 10,000m champion Kenenisa Bekele produced the highlight performance of the ‘4th Gran Premio Internacional de Atletismo Gobierno de Aragón” held last night (28) on a hot and windy day.

The 4th Gran Premio Internacional de Atletismo Gobierno de Aragón is one of a select group of Area meetings at which points can be acquired by athletes to qualify for the IAAF / VTB Bank World Athletics Final.

The 25-year-old Bekele managed to dip under the 12:50 barrier in his first appearance over 5000m this summer campaign by clocking 12:49.53. In doing so Bekele raised himself to the top position on this year’s world list in a season which had not until last night seen a sub-13 minutes 5000m performance. Bekele also recorded a best Spain’s all-comers time in the process.

In the women’s section Maria Mutola was the undisputed queen as she also cruised to a world leading performance of 1:58.21 in the 800m event.

Too hot and too long alone

The men’s 5000m was the marquee event of the night programme and it had been billed over the days prior to the event as a serious attack on Bekele’s own World record of 12:37.35 set in Hengelo three years ago. However, weather conditions were far from ideal as the thermometer indicated over 30ºC - although the event was held at 22.10h - and there were also annoying gusts of wind.

Following on from his two overwhelming victories over 3000m earlier this month in Sheffield (7:26.69 on Sunday 15) and Monaco (7:29.32 last Wednesday 25) a determined Bekele had asked the organisers to be paced through the 3000m point in a World record schedule of 7:35 but the task proved to be too tough for the pacesetters. Following an opening km in 2:32.73 the World record holder for the distance witnessed the clock reading a slow 5:07.65 going through the 2000m point and decided to take charge of the race run from then on.

A magnificent display of solo running saw Bekele crossing the 3000m in 7:40.11 some five seconds slower than the schedule. The crucial split was the fourth kilometre as a lonesome Bekele covered that section in 2:35.97 (10:16.08 overall) so any possibility of setting a new World record vanished. By that point the five-time double world cross country champion advantage over his closest pursuers was a huge 200m.

Finally, Bekele returned to his 2:33 tempo to romp home in a stunning 12:49.53 given the far from perfect circumstances. The winner re-confirmed his intention of not making the double 5000-10,000 in Osaka and was quoted as saying “I’m happy since I have just establish a new world leading time but I soon realised that my target was going to be unreachable due to the wind and the fact of being forced to run on my own for too many laps”. Kenya’s Edwin Kipkorir was a distant second in 13:27.63.

Mighty Mutola

The women’s 800m featured Mozambique’s multiple global gold medallist Maria Mutola against World and Olympic silver medallist Hasna Benhassi of Morocco.

It could be regarded a re-match of their clash in Madrid exactly a week ago when the 34-year-old Mutola got the better of Benhassi but once again the seven-time World Indoor champion gave no option to her quality opponents and posted a gun-to-tape win.

At the bell only Mutola and Australia’s Tamsyn Lewis remained in close attendance to the pacemaker who went through the first 400m in a brisk 56.95 while Benhassi ran ten metres adrift using her ‘coming from behind’ trade-mark tactic. By the 600m (1:27.10) Mutola had not been able to build a clear gap over a surprise Lewis but the latter faded in the home-straight to leave Mutola unchallenged and successful in 1:58.21, a SB and a world leading performance by one tenth of a second.

The battle for the runner-up place was intense as the 29-year-old Benhassi pipped Lewis just over the finish line reaching both season’s bests with respective times of 1:59:31 and 1:59.37.

“1:58.21 is a very good time, I’m delighted,” said Mutola. “My consistency over 1:58 gives me a lot of confidence thinking of the Worlds in Osaka. I can be 34 years of age but I feel I’m still competitive at the highest level and that’s what it really matters. It’s true that my last gold outdoors came long ago, at the Paris 2003 Worlds but I hope to bounce back in Osaka. I’m the fastest athlete so far this year (today’s 1:58.21) and I would like to run faster before the Worlds” who is now coached by Luis de Oliveira, the Brazilian mentor of former Olympic 800m champion Joaquim Cruz.

Slightly windy 8.37 leap for Phillips

The explosive events such as the men’s Long Jump and 100m benefited from a wind in the 3-5 m/s range.

America’s reigning Olympic and World champion Dwight Phillips produced a 8.37 second round leap in a tail-wind of 2.4m/s while his furthest legal effort came in the final jump with a 8.27 result. Second spot was taken by her fellow American Trevell Quinley ahead of Algeria’s Issam Nima both athletes being measured at 8.26 – windy for the American but a legal PB for the African - the former prevailing by virtue of a further second best jump.

Eric Mitchum of the USA benefited from a legal 1.6m/s breeze to clinch a fine win in the men’s 110m Hurdles in a PB of 13.23 to join the top-ten place on this season’s list. Mitchum led a clean sweep of medals for his country as Ron Bramlett and Joel Brown finished second and third in 13.28 and 13.31. Spain’s reigning European 60m hurdles bronze medallist, Jackson Quinonez, fell just one hundredth of a second shy of her NR of 13.35 set last year on the same track.

Mullings 9.91 (+3.7m/s) 

The men’s 100m offered a classy line-up including an interesting showdown between the reigning Olympic and World silver medallists in the guise of Portugal’s Francis Obikwelu and Jamaica’s Michael Frater. The semi-finals promised something great in the final with Joshua Johnson and Mickey Grimes of the USA posting a valid 10.01 times but they only came third and fifth in the final behind the Jamaican pair of Steve Mullings and Clement Campbell. Aided by a strong wind of 3.7m/s Mullings clocked 9.91 for his compatriot’s 9.92 while Johnson was given the same time ahead of Michael Frater, fourth in 9.95. Grimes' time was 9.99 ahead of Obikwelu who was sixth (also 9.99).

Other highlights… 

Virgilijus Alekna recorded anunopposed victory in the men’s Discus Throw. Fresh from a thrilling win in Kaunas last Wednesday (25 July) to beat Estonia’s world leader Gerd Kanter (71.56 verses 70.92 both on their last releases) the Lithuanian proved to be the strongest again and signed his 13rd consecutive success this season with a 67.63 performance on this occasion, exactly two metres further than Spain’s Mario Pestano.

In the Shot Put, Poland’s Tomasz Majewski was a surprise winner thanks to a 20.71m fifth-round toss ahead of America’s Christian Cantwell, the 2007 world leader who had to settle with a 20.16 final toss.

Olympic bronze medallist Derrick Brew of the USA took the men’s 400m in 45.93 ahead of Australia’s Sean Wroe runner-up in 46.30. 

Spain’s European bronze medallist Mercedes Chilla was the narrow victor in the women’s Javelin Throw thanks to a SB of 62.19m for Romania’s Felicia Moldovan’s 61.90.

Yamile Aldama of Sudan was the victor in the women’s Triple Jump with a 14.33 effort to her credit, while Germany’s Carolin Hingst took the Pole Vault thanks to a 4.57 first-time clearance and Chelsea Johnson of the USA came runner-up by vaulting 4.52.

Also in the infield America’s Tora Harris beat Ukraine’s reigning World High Jump champion Yuriy Krymarenko with respective clearances of 2.29 and 2.27 a height also surpassed by Spain’s Javier Bermejo.

Finally, the men’s 1500m witnessed a convincing win by Morocco’s Yassine Bensghir in 3:36.94 but the big news came in the fierce battle for the runner-up spot. European U-23 champion Álvaro Rodríguez beat fellow Spaniards Sergio Gallardo and Arturo Casado with a near PB clocking of 3:37.73. Coming barely a one week before the national championships (San Sebastián 4 / 5 August) it seems now that the trio of Juan Carlos Higuero, Gallardo and Casado - who managed a clean sweep of medals at last March’s European indoors in Birmingham – have not yet secured a berth for Osaka.

Emeterio Valiente for the IAAF