06 SEP 2003 General News

Million Dollar Mutola Queen of Golden League

Maria Mutola receives a one million dollar cheque from IAAF President Lamine Diack (Getty Images)Maria Mutola receives a one million dollar cheque from IAAF President Lamine Diack (Getty Images) © Copyright

BrusselsMozambique’s Maria Mutola leaves the stadium here this evening one million dollars richer after yet another stunning run that secured her victory in the IAAF Golden League Jackpot.

The win is historic as Mutola becomes, in the process, the first athlete ever to win outright the jackpot and the highest earning woman athlete in history, dethroning Gabriel Szabo from that pinnacle as the only woman ever to have won more than a million dollars in one year.

Mutola can add to the million dollar cheque she picked up this evening, $40,000 dollars from her win in the World Indoor Championships in Birmingham, $60,000 from the World Championships in Paris and another $90,000 dollars from her wins in the six Golden League meets ($15,000 per meet), giving her $1,190,000 from her participation in IAAF events alone!

Mutola was taking no chances this evening, holding back in the pack until the last 100 metres before she made her break for the finish line. Letitia Vriesde was the early pacemaker, taking the field to 400 metres in 56.15, it was then a close pack of Mutola, Natalya Kruschelyova (RUS), Amina Ait Hammou (MAR), Mutola’s training partner Kelly Holmes (GBR) and Jolanda Ceplak (SLO) who went from the bell with Mutola right in the centre of the pack. As they came out of the final bend, Mutola made a break on the outside and was away, kicking for the finish and powering away from Khruschelyova, Ait Hammou and Holmes, who took up the pursuit but were unable to match the finish of Mutola who crossed the line in 1:57.78, nearly a second ahead of the Russian, second in 1:58.53 and Ait Hammou, third in 1:58.66.

Hicham El Guerrouj was supposed to run the 3000 metres here this evening, but opted for the 1500 pleading excessive tiredness after the World Championships that he said would not allow him to do justice to the longer race. As it happened, it was a wise choice as the Moroccan set a world leading time of 3:28.40 in the metric mile and took France’s Mehdi Baala, who once again followed him across the line in a repeat of the Paris Final, to a new French record for the distance of 3:28.98. El Guerrouj’s race lived up to the promise he had made at his press conference yesterday, when he said that he was aiming at a time of around 3:28, or maybe even better. Well the ‘maybe better’ was not there, but it was nonetheless yet another demonstration of the flawless ability of El Guerrouj, that has been unchallenged outside Olympic Finals. Once pacemaker David Lelei had taken the field through 400m in 54.80 and 800 in 1:51.64, it was over to El Guerrouj and Baala, who turned this into a two-man race, leaving the rest of the field well behind them as they sprinted for the line from 200m metres out. Despite a spirited run, Baala never looked dangerous for El Guerrouj, who must now decide whether he will run in the World Athletics Final after a new outing scheduled for Rieti on Sunday.

After his defeat in Paris, Haile Gebrselassie was determined to show that he was far from finished over 10,000 metres and to prove he ran a world leading time for the 25 lap race this evening. In a race that saw a string of Personal Bests for the rest of the field, Gebrselassie ran 26:29.22, finishing ahead of Kenya’s Nicholas Kemboi (26:30.03) and Qatar’s Abdullah Ahmad Hassan, who set a new Area Record for Asia with his third place time of 26:38.76, bettering the previous record he had set in the World Championships, where he finished 4th in 27:18.28. Splits were Martin Keino – 1000m – 2:39.14; 2000 – 5:16.80; 3000 – 7:55.39; Shadrack Korir – 4000 – 10:37.39; Leonard Mucheru Maina – 5000 – 13:15.58; Gebrselassie - 6000 – 15:33.83; 7000 - 18:34.11; 8000 Hassan – 21:17.01; Gebrselassie - 9000 – 24:00.32. Eighth placer Dejene Berhanu of Uganda set a national record with his timing of 27:15.88.

In the women’s 1500 metres, Sürreya Ayhan, who was originally scheduled to run in the 800m, but decided to go for the 1500m in an attempt to avenge her result in Paris against Tomashova (who did not start due to injury, thwarting this challenge) was exceptional as she set a world leading time of  3:55.33, also a new meet record and new national record for Turkey, seeing off  Yelena Zadhorozhnaya and Yekaterina Rozenberg of Russia, who took second and third places respectively with 4:00.12 and 4:00.58.

Yuliya Pechonkina certainly got her revenge for Paris, this evening as she blew away the opposition in the women’s 400m hurdles, moving up through the field from the start and establishing a clear lead by the halfway point that she was to continue to increase to the finish, where she crossed the line in 53.49 seconds, well clear of the USA’s Sandra Glover, who attempted to catch the Russian coming off the final hurdle, but in vain. Glover was timed at 53.87, with Romania’s Ionela Tirlea well back in third place with 54.83. With Jana Pittman absent from the World Athletics Final, Pechonkina will start as hot favourite next weekend in Monaco.

In the men’s 110m Hurdles, 4-time World Champion Allen Johnson confirmed his form with a clear victory over China’s Xiang Liu and Chris Phillips. With the hurdles flying as the race progressed down the track, Johnson finished in 13.16 to Liu’s 13.19 and Phillips’ 13.29.

Despite a spirited challenge from Kenya’s Paul Koech, Saif Saeed Shaheen hung on to the lead he took at 1500 metres into the men’s 3000m Steeplechase to cross the line first. But the pressure from Koech pushed the newly naturalised Qatari World Champion to a world leading time of 8:00.06, with Koech recording a personal best of 8:00.48 in his valiant attempt to save Kenya’s honour. Paced from the start by John Langat (KEN), who took the field through 1000 metres in 2:39.13, Shaheen’s brother Abraham Cherono took over the running at that point and was to make the pace through to 2000 metres, but Shaheen obviously wanted to go faster and took over the running at 1500 metres, with Koech at his heels. Timed through 2000 metres in 5:21.39, Shaheen came off the final hurdle half a stride ahead of Koech and won the kick for the finish, confirming the form he has shown all season and his supremacy at the World Championships.

In the absence of World Champion Mirela Manjani, Russia’s Tatyana Shikolenko won the women’s Javelin Throw with her second round effort of 61.36 metres. With all of her three legal throws over the 60-metre mark, Shikolenko was a convincing winner, with second-placed Steffi Nerius producing a best effort of 60.68 m with her fifth round throw – her only effort over 60 metres. Hungary’s Nikolett Szabo took third place with 58.41 metres.

The men’s Javelin Throw went to Germany’s Boris Henry with his third round attempt of 84.33 metres after a series that saw three throws that would have won him the competition, ahead of second-placed Andrus Varnuk (EST), with 82.78 metres from his second round throw. Henry’s compatriot Peter Blank took third place with his third effort of 82.26.

To the delight of the crowd, Belgium’s Cedric Van Branteghem beat a field including Spain’s David Canal, France’s Stephane Diagana and Sweden’s Jimisola Laursen to set a new national record in the 400 metres. Showing strongly out of the blocks, Van Branteghem finished well clear of second-placed Canal in a time of 45.02, an improvement of 9 hundredths on his previous PB. Canal was timed at 45.64 and Laursen at 45.74.

Fully recovered from the problems that prevented her completing the 10,000m in Paris, Ethiopia’s Derartu Tulu was totally dominant in the women’s 5000m this evening, running a personal best of 14:44.22 to beat Kenyan Isabella Ochichi, whose second place time of 14:47.70 was also a new personal best. After pace maker Alesya Turova had led them to 1000m in 2:59.15 and 2000m in 5:54.17, as she and Tulu gradually left the rest of the field behind them. Ochichi took over the running and clocked 8:50.95 for 3000m and 11:48.72 through 4000m. Coming in to the final bend, Tulu went into the lead and kicked ahead of Ochichi who was unable to reel in the Ethiopian. Ochichi’s compatriot Edith Masai was third in 15:06.64. Back in 8th place, Poland’s Lidia Chojecka set a national record with her time of 15:24.29

Off cleanly after one false start, the men’s 100 metres was won by 2003 Jamaican champion Asafa Powell in a new personal best of 10.02. The win was some minor consolation for the Jamaican who was disqualified for a false start in the men’s 100m heats alongside Jon Drummond of USA. Justin Gatlin, who failed to make the USA team for Paris came home second in 10.09, with Bernard Williams (USA) third in 10.10, ahead of his compatriot John Capel and Deji Aliu (NGR). Favoured British duo Mark Lewis-Francis and Dwain Chambers trailed in 6th and 7th, just ahead of Trinidad’s Ato Boldon.

Gatlin later followed this performance with a win in the 200 metres, where he ran a massive new PB of 20.04, finishing ahead of Bernard Williams (20.17) and Shawn Crawford (20.18) in a race that was very much an American affair with the only non-USA competitor, Jamaica’s Ricardo Williams finishing in sixth place.

Kelli White (USA) dipped to win the women’s 100m from her compatriots Chryste Gaines and Torri Edwards in 10.87 to Gaines’ 10.88 (PB) and Edwards 10.98.

In the women’s 200m, Slovenian evergreen Merlene Ottey  assured herself of a place on the podium with her third place time of 23.08 behind the winner, local favourite Kim Gevaert (BEL) 22.72 and Vida Anim (GHA) 22.90 (PB).

After a great title defence in Paris, South Africa’s Hestrie Cloete followed up with another clear victory here this evening, with a final clearance of 2.03 metres. The South African went clear to 1.95 metres, where she had one failure, cleared 1.98 at her first attempt and then went on to clear 2.01 and 2.03 at her second attempt at both heights. Behind here came Viktoriya Styopina (UKR), Yelena Yelesina (RUS), Vita Palamar (UKR ) and Venelina Veneva (BUL), all of whom failed to clear 2.01 after successful clearances at 1.98.

Denis Yurchenko of Ukraine set a new personal best of 5.80 metres to win the Pole Vault competition ahead of South African Okkert Brits on countback. With France’s Romain Mesnil taking third place with 5.70 metres, the newly crowned World Champion, Giuseppe Gibilisco had to settle for joint seventh place after failing three attempts at 5.80 metres, giving him a best height of 5.60 after he elected to pass on the intermediate heights.

In the women’s Triple Jump, the World Champion remained undefeated as Tatyana Lebedeva produced a best effort of 15.14 metres for victory ahead of Yamile Aldama (CUB), with 15.00 at her final attempt and Magdelin Martinez of Italy with 14.70.