The second day of the 9th IAAF World Indoor Championships in Athletics (14-16 March) got off to a fascinating morning of competition with contrasting qualification fortunes for two of the World Indoor record holders on show in the National Indoor Arena - Britain’s Colin Jackson and Stacy Dragila of the USA.
Jackson who will retire from athletics on the conclusion of these championships on Sunday after an international career which has lasted 18 years, made a very fluent start to his campaign to recapture the World Indoor 60m Hurdles title which he won in 1999. Jackson won his heat with a very clean run, hardly even brushing a hurdle in 7.56 seconds.
This will be no easy ride for Jackson, as USA’s Allen Johnson (7.74) the World 110m Hurdles champion, and Olympic gold medallist Anier Garcia (7.56) of Cuba also qualified, though the latter’s progression into this evening’s semi-final stage was via a second place finish behind Latvia’s Stanislav Olijars (7.50), the 2000 European Indoor champion.
If everything was going to plan for Jackson’s retirement party, the contrary was certainly the case for women’s World Pole Vault record holder Stacy Dragila whose much awaited confrontation with European record holder Svetlana Feofanova at these championships never got to take off point, let alone scale any heights of entertainment.
Dragila, the World and Olympic champion entered the qualification competition at 4.30m but never found the technique which had allowed her to reclaim the World Indoor record with a 4.78 clearance at the US championships on 2 March. In fact her third and final attempt at 4.30m left her balanced at the top of her vaulting pole without even an attempt at the final invert phase over the bar.
Not surprisingly, Dragila was very disappointed saying, “I just no heighted, it’s just a bad day.”
Feofanova and her Russian compatriot the World junior record holder Yelena Isinbayeva, Germany’s former European outdoor record holder Annika Becker, and Monika Pyrek the World outdoor bronze medallist of Poland, are all through to tomorrow’s eight athlete final.
Tantalisingly close to her own competition nightmare was Sweden’s defending World High Jump champion Kajsa Bergqvist, who after first time clearances at 1.87, 1.90 and 1.93, suddenly found herself two failed jumps down at 1.95, with the prospect that another failure would end her title defence prematurely.
The Swede’s third attempt could not have been much closer, her successful clearance leaving the bar bouncing on it’s pegs with the same sort of elasticity that Bergqvist’s legs produced when setting her 2.03 national record earlier this winter.
Eventually the bar safely settled and so Bergqvist joined another nine jumpers who had also been successful at 1.95, into tomorrow afternoon’s final. Both her main opponents, the Russians Anna Chicherova, the national record holder, and Olympic champion Yelena Yelesina, and Ukraine’s 1999 World champion Inga Babakova, also progressed into the final.
Gail Devers, the three times World outdoor gold medallist at 100m Hurdles who set the USA record of 7.74 at the 60m Hurdles in her heat at the national championships at the beginning of this month, was the fastest qualifier for this evening’s semi final stage with 7.92. Sweden’s Susanna Kallur continued a remarkable indoor season, as the second fastest overall qualifier of the heats with a 7.93 result.
The best battles of the morning took place at the semi-final stage of the women’s 800m. In the first of two heats, Mozambique’s Maria Mutola (1st 1:59.99) the defending champion who has won this title four times, looked more than assured in her handling of World indoor record holder Jolanda Ceplak of Slovenia (2:00.14). Russia’s Yekaterina Puzenova was the third (2.00.73) qualifier.
Austria’s Stephanie Graf who has returned this winter from major surgery (last summer) took the second of the two 800m heats in 1:59.75, drawing sub two minute clockings out of Spain’s Mayte Martinez (1:59.82 - National record) and Britain’s Joanne Fenn (1:59.83).
Elsewhere, during the morning, the women’s Shot final qualifiers were led by Belarussia’s Yanina Korolchik, the reigning World and Olympic champion with a put of 19.12m. In the relays – Russia, Poland, USA, Jamaica and Britain took the team berths for the final of the men’s 4x400m event.
After three events in the men’s Heptathlon, USA’s Tom Pappas leads with 2737 points after setting two personal bests - 7.56m Long Jump and 16.23m Shot – having produced the fastest 60m dash, the opening event (6.89 seconds). Czech combined event masters, Roman Sebrle (2625) the defending champion and Tomas Dvorak (2538), who has won the World Decathlon title three times, are at this stage back in fourth and fifth places respectively.
For detailed event reports go to –