Sean WallaceJones in Berlin
Hicham El Guerrouj set the scene for a rerun of the successes which have personified this first edition of the IAAF Golden League for four outstanding athletes. El Guerrouj may have been the only one of the four to set a new world record in a Golden League meeting when he smashed the mark for the 1500m in the Roman stage of the Golden League, the Golden Gala on 14th July, with an incredible 3:26.00, but that in no way diminished the value of the performances of the other three contenders still in the running after this sixth and penultimate trial of the League. El Guerrouj was undisputedly the man of the race this evening, as he left the field behind him, breaking away from the pack at the 1000m mark and heading for home and 3:32.23 - 3.20" ahead of Kenyas Noah Ngeny and Laban Rotich.
Marion Jones was the second of the four Golden League Jackpot contenders to confirm her jackpot place in Moscow as she stormed ahead in the womens 100m in classic Jones style after coming last off the blocks. You can never fail to be amazed by the power exuded by Jones as she steams forward, head down and then clicks into gear and pulls inexorably away from the competition. She helps explain her determination this way: "You never forget the feeling when you lose a race (even when you havent lost for a very, very long while). I remember that feeling and I dont want to feel it again. I want to do better and go faster every time I run". She may not have gone faster today, but she certainly didnt have that losing feeling as she headed one passage closer to the $1 million dollar IAAF Ericsson jackpot waiting to be won in Moscow on Saturday.
Like a cat playing with a mouse, Haile Gebrselassie slipped in and out of the lead in the 5000m here this evening, holding back the kill to the last 600m. Those who havent followed the amazing Ethiopians career might well have thought that Kenyan rival Luke Kipkosgei stood a chance or that Hailes own compatriot Assefa Mezegebu could pull a rabbit out the hat and break the winning chain just four days before the Golden League Grand Prix Final in Moscow. They would have been unprepared for Gebrselassies devastating kick. He started to pull away and was already five metres ahead at the final bell, then went ballistic in the final lap and left the others standing as the 42,000 spectators in the Olympic Stadium roared their approval for this mighty little man from Ethiopia running alone towards the finish.
The last of the Magnificent Four was not to have it so easy. Bryan Bronson was strongly challenged by a re-invigorated Stéphane Diagana of France as he took the third to last hurdle and it was then neck and neck all the way to the line and a photo-finish which finally gave the race to Bronson by a mere 100th of a second. Since his fall in Budapest at the European championships, Diagana has gone from strength to strength and it was by the skin of his teeth that Bronson saved his stake in a share of the Golden League jackpot.
In the mens 110m hurdles, Allen Johnson (USA) had the better of friend and rival, Britains Colin Jackson. Johnson was out of the blocks a fraction behind Jackson but recovered rapidly, went into the lead at the second hurdle and maintained it to the finish, clocking 13.12. Jackson crossed the line on Johnsons heels in 13.20.
In the womens event, Michelle Freeman was strong out of the blocks and by the fifth hurdle was five strides ahead of the rest of the field led by Glory Alozie, the young Nigerian revelation of this season; then Alozie shifted into overdrive and closed strongly from the final hurdle, dipping at the line to snatch victory from Freeman who didnt know what had hit her. "I had a bad start", said the young Alozie (just 20 years old) after the race, "but then I made it and it was a very good race for me. I am proud that I can compete with the other good athletes."
The tumultuous encouragement of the 40,000+ spectators in the Berlin Olympic Stadium was not enough to drive national favourite Grit Breuer forward in the womens 400m. The race was totally dominated by Nigerias Falilat Ogunkoya, who led from the start to cross the line 5 metres ahead of the Breuer, who fought hard at the finish to resist Ogunkoyas compatriot Charity Opara. Ogunkoya finished in 49.72, Breuer in 50.25.
Michael Johnson must be silently kicking himself after once again dominating the mens 400 - that one failure in Oslo in the first of the Golden League has cost him what many would consider to be his rightful place among the remaining contenders for the IAAF Ericsson Golden League Jackpot. Johnson ran a masterful race here this evening, clocking a respectable 44.62 in the process. Jerome Young and Tyree Washington attempted a challenge coming into the home straight, but MJ was having none of it and powered ahead leaving them metres behind at the line, even though he was cruising in the final strides.
Svetlana Masterkova too missed out on the jackpot through that one défaillance at the Monte Carlo stage of the Golden League. After victories in Oslo and Rome and apparent domination of the womens 1500m, she was unprepared for the attack of the wily Gabriela Szabo, who came from behind in the last metres and dashed Masterkovas hopes of jackpot gold. Masterkova has learnt her lesson and made no mistakes this evening as she finished strongly over a second ahead of Anita Weyermann of Switzerland. Her defeat in Monaco was the only one in her 10 competitions this season and surely the most costly she has ever suffered in financial terms.
Tanja Damaske (GER) confirmed her splendid form in the womens javelin throw, winning by a hefty 5 metre margin over Tatyana Shikolenko (RUS). World champion Trine Hattestad came third with 62.93.
The competitive climax to the evening came in the womens 5000m, with Gabriela Szabo running a superb tactical race in a leading group of herself, Moroccos Zahra Ouaziz and Gete Wami of Ethiopia. Szabo held fire behind Ouaziz and Wami until the final lap, then followed as Ouaziz broke away, staying on her heels to the backstraight where Szabo kicked into the lead and headed for the finish to set a new European record of 14:31.48, while Ouazizs 14:32.08 earned her a new African record, beating the continental mark of 14:40.19 she already owned, which was set in Stockholms DN Galan meeting on 5 August.
The ever popular mens x100m relay saw the participation of teams from the USA, Commonwealth, Germany, Africa/Nigeria, a hurdlers team, a team from HSI and a Berlin Club team. In the end it was the HSI team of Greene, Boldon, Drummond and Perry Curtis which won the day, but the strongest applause went to British evergreen Linford Christie, come out of retirement the space of a chilly evening in Berlin to run anchor to the Commonwealth team. Christie may have hung up his competition spikes, but he still stands as an example of the best that Europe has produced in the sprint field for many years. Christie now turns his talent to coaching and managing through his "Nuff Respect" company in England.