The penultimate day of the 9th IAAF World Championships in Athletics, Paris 2003 Saint-Denis, will see six gold medals decided in the Stade de France.
Abera is the outstanding favourite
The course for the men’s Marathon - and tomorrow’s women’s race - wends its way past the city’s numerous famous landmarks to the Stade via the Porte de La Chapelle - Notre Dame, the Louvre, Champs-Elysées, Arch de Triumph, Eiffel Tower, names which evoke Paris’ unique charm and beauty.
Defending World Champion Gezahegne Abera of Ethiopia will start as favourite. He has a devastating sprint sensation which took him to his world title in Edmonton when he had a enthralling battle with Kenya’s Simon Biwott, winning by just one second.
Abera who also took the 2000 Olympic title once again showed his sprint speed with a brilliant 2:07:54 in London this year. His sprint there beat Italy’s Stefano Baldini, the former World Half marathon champion, and European gold medallist at the full distance.
The Italian will also start as one of the likely podium candidates today, as will the Kenyan challenge led by Michael Rotich, who won in Paris this April but on a different course.
Watch out too for the Spanish threat led by Julio Rey, and the home threat of Benoit-Z and Driss El Himer.
Women’s 5000m – Adere’s chance for a double
Berhane Adere of Ethiopia the winner of the women’s 10,000m on the first night in Paris 2003 Saint-Denis, goes for an unprecedented double as she also attempts to take the 5000m gold.
Adere is the fastest in the world this year having come desperately close to the world record of China’s Bo Jiang (1997-14:28.09), with a 14:29.32 clocking in Bislett’s famous stadium.
Sun Yingjie who dictated the pace for so long in last Sunday’s epic 10,000m battle in the Stade also runs the 5000m today but the main challenge for Adere is likely to be of East African origin. Edith Masai the double World cross country champion is Kenya’s hope for gold, and is having a marvellous season with five straight wins including a new personal best of 14:45.35 in the heats here.
Of course one should never overlook the prodigious talent of reigning Olympic 5000m champion Gabriela Szabo of Romania, though she looked out of sorts in her heat. Szabo showed nothing of her normal dominance and tenacity, finishing sixth in her heat. A season’s best of 14:41.35 though should not be dismissed.
The women’s 4x100m relay also takes place and it is a USA versus France clash, well that’s at least what the organisers would hope, so that France has another shot at a gold. Click here for latest Relay story
The women’s Javelin and Long Jump are the two field event competitions of the evening, and both events remain at a low ebb in terms of results compared with former glory days.
A Greek and Cuban duel?
The longest thrower of the summer Shikolenko Tatyana (66.66m) is one of two Russians in the final, and there are also national duos from other throwing super powers, Finland and Cuba.
Though neither thrower has been in any sort of form this summer, Greek World champion Mirela Manjani (64.13), and World record holder Osleidys Menendez of Cuba (63.96), remain joint favourites for this title.
Barber - golden promise
Gone are the days of 70 metre throwing in the women’s Javelin, and likewise there are few athletes who can threaten the 7 metres mark in the women’s Long Jump at the moment. Amazingly in 2003, a 6.55 metres performance is enough for the final.
But we are forgetting the possible theatre of the competition which should develop this evening because Eunice Barber, already a medallist for France in the women’s Heptathlon, leads the qualifiers for the Long Jump with a 6.78m effort. Will the home crowd at last be able to sing La Marseillaise at these 9th World Championships?
The men’s 110m Hurdles is the only other final on the card, and is centred on 32 year-old Allen Johnson. With the departure of an injured Stanislavs Olijars, the Latvian record holder, who is the only man to have beaten the reigning World champion this season when winning the Berlin Golden League meeting on 10 August, Johnson starts as the outstanding favourite.
Well, that statemen't is not strictly true because fellow American Duane Ross was also in front of Johnson (3rd) in Berlin but he was never in the American team line up for Paris.
Johnson ran 13.19 in his semi, and is looking as fluent as usual, and Xiang Liu who is the third fastest in the world this season (13.17) leads Chinese team mate Dongpeng Shi into the final. Xiang Liu was second to Johnson in his semi – 13.46.