Prague, Czech RepublicMeseret Defar capped her short but sterling indoor campaign with a 9:06.26** World best to highlight a thoroughly entertaining inaugural edition of the aptly named Meeting of World Record Holders meet in the Czech capital tonight (26).
“My goal was to get three world records this season,” said Defar, who eight days ago broke the world indoor mark in the 5000m with a 14:24.37 run in Stockholm. “I only missed one, so that’s not bad.”
But her assault on her own 9:10.50 standard in the rarely run event set just over a year ago in Boston didn’t come easily. Frustrated behind pacesetter Ksenia Agafonova for the first mile, Defar had a lot of ground to make up after reaching midway in just under 4:38. Urged on by her husband who was shouting out splits in Amharic from trackside, Defar managed to up the tempo to cover the final mile in under 4:29.
“She was a bit slow and I had to make up the time over the final laps,” Defar said of the pacesetter, who went on to finish the race. “There was a time when I thought the record might not happen.”
After rewriting the all-time lists in her three appearances this winter - her 8:26.99 in the Stuttgart 3000m was the third fastest performance ever - Defar said she’ll lighten her training load considerably over the next two weeks before focusing her full attention on her world 5000m title defence at August’s World championships in Berlin.
Zakia Mrisho of Tanzania won the race for second over Lidia Chojecka, clocking 9:32.75 to the Pole’s 9:33.23.
Ismail moves up to No. 4 all-time in the 800m
Defar’s was the third world lead of the evening, with the first coming in the men’s 800, the first main programme event on the newly constructed oval. The contest featured the fourth face-off this season between Olympic gold and silver medalists Wilfred Bungei and Ismail Ahmed Ismail, but from the outset, it was for Ismail, already the world leader, a race against the clock.
The only runner to stick fairly close to the two pacesetters, the 24-year-old powered on as he passed the bell, with no one giving him a serious chase. He reached the line in 1:44.75, breaking Abubaker Kaki’s Sudanese national record to join rare company inside the event’s all-time top five. Only Wilson Kipketer, Yuriy Borzakovskiy, and Kenyan Joseph Mutua have covered the distance faster indoors.
“I am happy for the Sudanese record,” said Ismail, who was also warmly congratulated by training partner Kaki for his achievement. “I would like to continue like this in the summer.”
As fiercely as Ismail defended the front spot, so too did Boaz Lalang with the runner-up position. The Kenyan Olympian, who celebrated his 20th birthday just 18 days ago, stopped the clock in 1:45.19, knocking more than two full seconds from his career best. Bungei was well back in third, but still managed a 1:45.91 season’s best.
Kaki completed a Sudanese double with a solid victory in the 1000m in 2:17.22 to finish his season undefeated in three races over the distance this winter. Kenyan Augustine Choge was second, clocking a career best 2:17.79.
Cherkos puts fierce kick on display
In the men’s 5000m, the pre-meet plan called for a trip to rarely treaded sub-13 minute territory. For a stretch, it seemed that Paul Kipsiele Koech and Abreham Cherkos might succeed, but in the end it was a race between the two that took over. With the Kenyan steeplechase specialist doing much of the front-running, Cherkos, last year’s World indoor 3000m bronze medallist, bided his time until the bell, when he unleashed a kick to which Koech simply couldn’t respond. Cherkos clocked 13:07.83, another world leader, with Koech reaching the line in 13:09.37. Both contested the distance indoors for the first time.
Isinbayeva settles for 4.90m win
While Defar hit two-for-three in her World record or world best ambitions this winter, Yelena Isinbayeva will have to settle for one notch lower and be content with the pair of records she set in her debut in Donetsk.
The Russian, the meeting’s poster girl, didn’t start the competition until 4.75m, when the rest of the field had already packed up their gear for the night. She needed a second try at her opening height, and a second at 4.90m as well before the bar raised to a would-be World record of 5.01m. Her third attempt was the best, thrilling the 8,452 spectators for a second or two, before the bar came tumbling down.
“I think I was jumping well today,” Isinbayeva said,” but I didn’t have stiff enough poles.” She broke into tears briefly after the competition, but coach Vitaliy Petrov managed to cheer her up quickly.
South American record holder Fabiana Murer was the runner-up after a second jump success at 4.55m.
While the spotlight in the womens’ 60m Hurdles fell on Olympic champion Dawn Harper’s first and only race of the indoor season, her compatriot Danielle Caruthers had other ideas. The winner in Valencia 12 days ago, the 29-year old Caruthers sped to an impressive victory in 7.89, just a scant 0.01 seconds shy of her career best. Eline Berings’ 7.97 performance for second was a Belgian nation record, while 2006 World champion Derval O’Rourke of Ireland dipped under eight second for the first time this season, taking third in 7.99. Unable to shake out the rust, Harper was never a factor, and finished sixth in 8.08.
In the men’s hurdles, American Dexter Faulk’s momentum continued. The 24-year-old won his fourth consecutive contest handily, beating Dutch record holder Gregory Sedoc 7.55 to 7.64.
With a strong second half, World leader Carmelita Jeter cruised to a 7.20 win in the 60m, her third victory in a row. World champion Angela Williams was second (7.27) with Yekaterina Butusova of Russia third (7.31).
The men’s dash was considerably closer, with Briton Craig Pickering edging Kim Collins in a photo finish. Both were credited with 6.58, a season’s best for Collins, last year’s World Indoor Championships runner-up. Rolando Palacios finished third in 6.62, a Honduran national record.
On the infield, Czech Roman Novotny produced much-appreciated home victory in the Long Jump after an 8.05m fourth round leap. Cuban Wilfredo Martinez was second with a season’s best 7.96m.
In the women’s High Jump, Spanish champion Ruth Betia placed herself closer to the Turin medal picture with a season’s best 1.98m clearance. Czech Iva Strakova was second, clearing 1.96.
Bob Ramsak for the IAAF
**NOTE – The IAAF does not recognise this distance for official World record purposes.