Ottavio Castellini for the IAAF
Yesterday Maricica Puica (ROM), Steve Ovett (GBR), Noureddine Morceli (ALG), Daniel Komen (KEN). Today Noah Ngeny (KEN). Tomorrow? Who knows.
On the poster of the XXIX Rieti meeting, final stage of the IAAF Grand Prix II circuit, one could read "the temple of middle distances". Never had such intuition been so accurate. The golden track of the Guidobaldi stadium has proved its worth again with a new extraordinary world record. A myth has been cancelled from the history books of athletics. The myth of a runner who has been protagonist for some of the greatest moments in the history of athletics: Lord Sebastian Coe.
Today, one of the oldest track world records has been made obsolete: that time of 2:12.18 run by Seb Coe at 1000m on the track of another temple of middle and long distances, the Bislett Games in Oslo. We are talking about the month of July 1981.
More than 18 years have passed. So many years in which to find the athlete who would be able to better the performance of the young and elegant British gentleman. Ngeny himself is also a young and elegant gentleman. But he comes from Kenya, even if he spends most of his time travelling between Australia, the United States and Europe. Many thought he was destined to high achievements: his brother, Philip Kibitok clocked 1:43 over the 800m in 1996. Ngeny made his first appearance on the track in 1995 and just a few months later he took part in the 1996 IAAF World Junior Championships in Sydney.
Earlier this year he bettered Jim Ryuns Mile record but as a doping sample was not collected his record could not be ratified. His motivation, however, has remained intact as his performances get better and better. The race today was his 24th of the year.
He now has plans to compete in the IAAF Grand Prix Final in Munich where he will come face to face with his archrival the Moroccan Hicham El Guerrouj. Who could forget the race at Romes Golden Gala in which El Guerrouj broke the mile world record pushed all the way by the Kenyan.
Late this afternoon, Noah Ngeny entered the race with only one thought in his mind: the 1000m world record. He has already made one attempt at this record a couple of months ago in Nice. Today Ngeny had asked for a very fast pace and his compatriot and friend David Kiptoo led him to the 400m mark in 49.66. Ngeny passed the 800m mark in 1:44.6 exactly the same time of Sebastian Coes 1981 record time. The Kenyan from Ziwa built up to his world record in the last 200m: 27.2 against 27.6 for Coe, to stop the clock at 2:11.96.
Thus Sebastian Coes legendary performances have now disappeared from the lists of world records leaving an incontestable African dominion from 800m to the half marathon, if we consider that Wilson Kipketer although Danish was born Kenyan.
The stadium Guidobaldi provided splendid surroundings for a meeting attended by more than 7000 spectators. The crowd was delighted to watch Michael Johnson who had to push hard in the very last metres to respond to the attack of Claudinei Quirino Da Silva. All eyes were nevertheless set on Fabrizio Mori and Fiona May. 400m hurdles World Champion was defeated by Frances Stéphane Diagana and Brasils Eronilde De Araujo. Fiona May on the contrary won the long jump contest with a leap of 6.74m at her first attempt. Algerias Baya Rahouli, 1998 triple jump World Junior Champion who bettered her personal best to 6.70, was second.
Svetlana Masterkova (4:09.34 in the 1500m), Konstantinos Gatsioudis (84.20 in the javelin), Sanderlei Claro Parrela (45.32 in the 400m), Svetlana Krivelyova (19.66 in the shot put), Ekaterini Thanou (10.96 windy +2.6) have all honoured the 29th edition of the meeting of Rieti which, thanks to Ngenys wonderful world record, can now look forward in anticipation to its 30th anniversary.