Yelena Isinbayeva’s eleventh World Pole Vault record came almost as a matter of course at the Norwich Union Indoor Grand Prix in Birmingham, a meeting that also included a World leading 200m from Veronica Campbell, a last gasp Long Jump victory for Carolina Klüft, and the rare sight of Kenenisa Bekele being outkicked over the final 200m of a two mile race.
Kelly Holmes got the crowd on their feet with a commanding victory in the 1000m (though she still doesn’t know if she’s going to Madrid), and Greene, Gardener, Lewis-Francis and Collins were all beaten in the 60m.
Isinbayeva needed only four jumps and attempted only three heights to secure victory and another dollop of prize money. The 22-year-old Russian entered at 4.60m by which time only her fierce rival Svetlana Feofanova and Poland’s Anna Rogowska were still in competition. Rogowska was having an off night though and she went out at that height exiting with only 4.45m to her name.
Feofanova went on to clear 4.70m, which Isinbayeva skipped, before going out at 4.79m.
Isinbayeva hopped over 4.79m like it was a skip in the park and then, with victory in the bag, took two attempts at 4.88m. The first had the height, but she clipped the bar on the way down. On the second she made the right adjustments before popping over to add another $30,000 to her winnings.
“I didn’t realise I was in such good shape,” she said, somewhat curiously given last weekend’s record making efforts. “I was tired going into the event but the crowd was so good and it really pushed me over the bar.”
Despite again losing to her rival - it’s becoming a bit of a habit - Feofanova was happy. “I am not really an indoor vaulter and I didn’t think I would vault that high tonight,” she said. “It looks good going into the summer.”
Campbell’s winning streak continues
Campbell came out for her first 200m of the year, and demonstrated why she is unbeaten over the distance since 11 March 2000 by running a personal best 22.38 from lane six and beating the Russian Natalya Antyukh into second placed by nearly a second and a half. Her winning time is the quickest in the world this year by nearly half a second and the sixth fastest of all time.
“I am full of confidence right now after my great year last season,” said the Olympic champion. “I have been training harder than ever before. I am proud of my unbeaten run and keen to keep it going as long as possible.”
Lawrence takes 60m win
Campbell maintained her position at the top of the world 60m list too ¬but only just as fellow Jamaican Tayna Lawrence was “absolutely delighted” to run a personal best 7.13 tonight, four hundredths ahead of Belgium’s Kim Geveart and USA’s Muna Lee.
Klüft, clearly tired from competing earlier this week in Stockholm, left it late to get the better of Britain’s Jade Johnson in the Long Jump. But like a true champion the buoyant Swede produced a 6.66m leap with the very last effort of the competition to overhaul Johnson’s fourth round indoor personal best of 6.52m.
“I feel quite tired as I’ve been busy with competitions recently so I knew there was only one good jump in me,” she said. “Now my meetings are over and I can concentrate on the championships.”
Johnson confirmed that she too will be competing in Madrid. “The good thing is I’m not in any pain any more and I have no excuse not to perform in Madrid,” said Johnson, who has been suffering from back problems. Johnson’s teammate Kelly Sotherton finished fifth with 6.34m, nine centimetres below the PB she set in Sheffield.
Bekele beaten again
At the moment, Kenenisa Bekele is clearly not the athlete he was last season. He came here targeting Haile Gebrselassie’s World record for the two miles, set on this track two years ago, but he not only missed it by more than 10 seconds, he lost the race too to his countryman Markos Geneti.
Paced by his 18-year-old brother Tariku, the World and Olympic 10,000m champion set off as of he meant business, with Geneti and Kenya’s Paul Bitok in tow. But they quickly fell behind schedule and went through the one mile mark in about 4:05. The younger Bekele dropped out with seven laps to go by which time Bitok had lost touch. But Geneti was still there at the bell and attacked down the back straight leaving Bekele more than a second behind at the finish ¬ 8:14.28 to 8:15.49.
“It was a really good race, he was just too strong for me and took me by surprise on the final lap,” said Bekele. “After all that has happened recently it was just good to be racing.”
Off his plans for the rest of the season he said: “I have a race programme in mind, but nothing finalised yet.”
Defar wins but is disappointed with time
His compatriot and fellow Olympic champion Meseret Defar had a similarly disappointing night, although she did win her 3000m. In the absence of her teammate Tirunesh Dibaba, Defar had to lead for most of the race, and though she stayed close to World record pace for two thirds of it (2km in 5:40.86) the effort was too much. She crossed the line in 8:33.05, a time only she and two others have ever beaten.
“I was disappointed with my race today because I thought I could run inside 8:30,” said the 21-year-old Ethiopian, who nevertheless ran the quickest time ever in the UK.
Britain’s Jo Pavey was the only athlete who could stay close to her and, despite losing touch in the final stages, clocked a season’s best, 8:41.43. That is the fastest this year by any European, but Pavey left the arena hobbling on a calf strain, an injury she picked up earlier in the week.
“I shouldn’t really have been running,” she said. “Perhaps this race was too close to the Trials and forced me to make the wrong decision. I needed a good fast race before Madrid and I felt so good that I had to come.”
Another victory for Lagat
Another World record attempt foundered in the men’s 1500m, won by Kenya’s Bernard Lagat in 3:35.27. The Olympic silver medallist was left with a lot to do after going through 1000m in 2:23.02, but was pleased to end his indoor season with a victory. Ukraine’s Ivan Heshko was second in 3:38.11, but no one else was ever really in the race.
Scott wins highly expected 60m
The climax of the evening was a peculiar affair. Promoted as some kind of ‘re-match’ between half of Britain’s victorious Athens relay gold medallists, and USA’s Maurice Greene, it didn’t quite work out like that.
First, Jason Gardener, the World indoor 60m, champion, could only finish fourth in his heat and had a nail biting few minutes wait to see if he got through to the final with 6.62. He did, but he had big improvements to make up if he was going to beat the fastest qualifier, Kim Collins, who clocked 6.55, and Francis Obikwelu, who equalled his Portuguese record with 6.56.
Then, in the final, there were no less than four false starts meaning Obikwelu, Trinidad’s Mark Findlay, and Birmingham’s own Mark Lewis Francis were all DQ’d. Lewis Francis, in particular was upset, claiming “the starter held us for far too long today”. His compensation was running 6.61 in the heats and so qualifying for the European Indoors (the British team is announced on Monday).
When the final did get underway it wasn’t Greene, or Gardener, or Collins who prevailed, but USA’s Leonard Scott in a personal best 6.49, the second fastest time in the world this year. Collins was second in 6.54, Greene third in the same time. Gardener languished back in fifth with 6.60, a poor start dealing him his first defeat of the season.
“Evidently it wasn’t my night,” he said. “That’s the way it goes. You have good races, you have bad races.”
Greene’s emotions were closer to the surface. “I am not happy with that, it was a terrible race. I stumbled around out of the blocks. I definitely need to work on my starts.”
Not surprisingly, Scott was ebullient. “I call myself the sleeper now because everyone talks about the big names and I just come along and win. I am looking forward to getting to the World Championships and winning it;¬ you heard it here first!”
Holmes pleases home crowd
Just berfore all that hullaballoo, Kelly Holmes proved that she hasn’t lost the winning feeling she acquired last summer. The double Olympic champion ran the second fastest 1000m of the year and duly got the crowd on its feet before holding a special autograph signing session behind one of the stands.
Holmes clocked 2:35.39 to beat Agnes Samaria of Namibia who set a national record 2:36.99.
Eschewing her favoured wait and kick tactics, Holmes was forced to chase the fast starting Jenny Meadows who at one stage led by 15 metres. She caught her fellow Briton, and went through 800m in 2:05.77 holding a five metre lead over Samaria which she stretched to 10m by the line.
“That was better than expected,” said Holmes, who now flies back to South Africa for more training, vowing to leave her decision about whether to run in Madrid until the last minute. “I hope they put my name down and then I can decide at the last moment,” she said. “I need to feel that I can run well if I go and tonight has made me feel that. But I think that was the crowd behind me, they really cheered me up.”
The crowd was cheered too, not only by Dame Kelly, but significant victories for other Brits.
Other British victories
Sarah Claxton took some notable scalps in winning the 60m Hurdles in 7.98, only two hundredths outside the British record she set last week. Those in her wake included Melissa Morrison of USA (second in 7.99), Jamaica’s Vonette Dixon (fourth in 8.05) and this year’s World leader Irina Shevchenko of Russia (sixth in 8.10). A tried pair, Klüft and Sotherton, finished eighth and ninth respectively, in 8.38 and 8.43.
Chris Tomlinson beat USA’s Savante Stringfellow and Miguel Pate, and Brazil’s Triple Jump specialist Jadel Gregorio to win the Long Jump. Having already won the competition with 7.86 in the second round, the tall 23-year-old leapt a season’s best 7.95 in the last but looked good for eight metres plus in the near future.
“I felt in good enough shape to beat the British record here tonight,” he said.
Another Briton, Chris Lambert, lowered his personal best to 20.88 to win the men’s 200m, while Jamaica’s Davian Clarke won the 400m in 45.90, the third best time in the world this year.
For full results click here
Matthew Brown for the IAAF