MonteCarloWorld track champions tumbled to defeats on the first day of the 3rd IAAF World Athletics Final in Monaco, while field event champions in the main proved their class.
Injuries see off Wariner and Gatlin’s hopes
First, and perhaps most surprising, to fall was USA’s Jeremy Wariner in the 400m followed swiftly by Justin Gatlin in the 200m. Both finished outside the podium positions, both said they felt injuries as they approached the line – in Wariner’s case a hip flexor strain that forced him to pull up 15 metres out – but neither looked like they were heading for Helsinki-style victories in any case.
A rejuvenated Tyree Washington took the one lap event in 44.51 with Britain’s Tim Benjamin second in a big personal best of 44.56, while Tyson Gay made up for finishing out of the medals in Helsinki by blasting to an impressive 200m victory in 19.96, just three hundredths outside his pb and into a 1.5 m/s wind.
Gatlin – feeling a quadriceps strain – finished fourth in 20.25 while the limping Wariner was eighth and last in his race.
“A very difficult year”
For Washington the win was especially gratifying after what he called “a very difficult year” in which he has lost his father in April and other members of his family recently in Hurricane Katrina. “This was a victory to make up for all the season,” he said.
“It was great to beat a great competitor like Justin Gatlin,” said Gay. As for Gatlin he was not disappointed. “It’s been a great season for me,” he said.
It was a similar story in the only women’s sprint event tonight, the 100m. World Champion Lauryn Williams may not have been injured but she was no match for Jamaica’s Veronica Campbell who clocked 10.92, one hundredth ahead of France’s Christine Arron who again came up just short of victory in a major final.
Denied by Defar
Tirunesh Dibaba was another world track champion who struggled tonight – and she also had an injury tale. The 5000m and 10,000m champion was beaten by fellow Ethiopian Meseret Defar in the 5000m and only just held on for second ahead of Berhane Adere.
The three battled it out over a thrilling last lap and for once Dibaba wasn’t the strongest, blaming her (relative) lack of finishing speed on a knee injury she picked up last week while training for an attempt on the World 5km best in London.
“I didn’t really want to run here,” she said.
Defar’s winning time was 14:45.87 with Dibaba second in 14:46.84 and Adere another seven hundredths behind. Defar will be back to attack the 3000m tomorrow.
Lagat produces surprise in 3000m
There was something of a surprise in the men’s distance events too when America’s former Kenyan Bernard Lagat produced a sub-54 second last lap to out-kick the field at the end of the 3000m. Like Defar he is aiming for a double here.
Lagat, who will go in the 1500m tomorrow, only entered the 3000m at the last minute. For him, it seemed, this was merely a warm up.
“I’m very confident,” he said. “I ran this 3000m like a 1500m at the end. The finish was great.”
Shaheen - no show
The champion didn’t win in the 3000m Steeplechase either – but then he didn’t turn up. Saif Saaeed Shaheen was a non starter tonight and in his absence Kenya’s Paul Koech dominated the event to win in 8:07.91 ahead of Olympic champion Ezekiel Kemboi.
Demus gets her revenge
Helsinki victor Yuliya Pechonkina lost in the first track event of the day, the women’s 400m hurdles. World championships silver medallist Leshinda Demus got revenge on her Russian rival, winning by more than four tenths in 53.37. Helsinki bronze medallist Sandra Glover finished third again in 54.09.
Another Russian gold medallist to lose was Tatyana Tomashova in the 1500m as Bahrain’s Maryam Yusuf Jamal made up for her disappointing run in the Helsinki final. Jamal made sure she wouldn’t be bumped on the back straight this time when she sprinted away from the field with more than a lap to go to win in 3:59.35. “This race was good, there wasn’t any pushing,” said Jamal.
Alekna - unopposed win
Things were different in the field events where World champions proved their merit.
Lithuania’s Virgilijus Alekna showed yet again that he is number one discus thrower of the moment. The World and Olymoic champion took the lead with his first throw of the competition and extended it with 67.16 in the second round. He finished off the competition with his best – 67.64.
The only other thrower to come close was Helsinki silver medallist Gerd Kanter of Estonia, whose 66.01 was good enough for second.
Menendez responds well to challenge
There was class in the women’s Javelin too when World champion and record holder Osleidys Menendez responded to the challenge of Germany’s Steffi Nerius to produce a winning effort in the very last round.
Nerius, the world bronze medallist, had broken the championships’ record with 66.35 to take the lead in the third round, but the Cuban came back in the sixth with 67.24 on the last throw of the competition.
No pain for Bergqvist
Sweden’s Kajsa Bergqvist had no such scares in the women’s High Jump, despite the ankle injury she picked up yesterday. The World champion won the event when she cleared 1.96 on her first attempt and went on to clear 2.00m on her third and have three goes at a pb height, 2.07.
Bergqvist, who trains in the Stade Louis II, completed an unbeaten season in her 12th competition.
Russia’s Tatyana Kotova won the women’s Long Jump with 6.83, making the most of World champion Tianna Madison’s absence, while Cuba’s Yandri Betanzos won the men’s Triple Jump with a season’s best 17.46.
One World field event champion who didn’t win was Netherlands’ Rens Blom – 8th and last. He finished eighth in the Pole Vault, won by USA’s world silver medallist Brad Walker with 5.86.
And one track champion who did win was Dorcus Inzikuru. The Ugandan clocked 9:21.80 to take victory in the women’s 3000m steeplechase.
Matthew Brown for the IAAF