This was never seen before, athletes running like
against a wall
Alfons Juck for IAAF
9 June 1999 -The weather was the biggest disaster of the athletics evening in Bratislava, Slovakia on Tuesday. The traditional part of the IAAF Grand Prix circuit in Eastern Europe in its 42 year history never saw such bad conditions. Strong wind, cold (about 10-12 degrees) and rain were against good results and good athletics.
Another blow was a big storm in the afternoon, just before the meeting started, which meant that the spectators stayed home to watch live TV transmission. All this as the organisers celebrated the 40th meeting (the meeting was first held in 1957, with two years not held in the end of the sixties). Most of the athletes did understand and tried their best.
Also Slovak leaders attended the meeting to give their credit - with prime minister Mikulas Dzurinda officially opening the competition and National Council of Slovak Republic chairman Jozef Miga also in the stands.
Of course, there have been also some athletes who did not want to take any risks and withdrew (for example the 400 m runners Davis Kamoga, from Uganda and Sandie Richards, Jamaica). The Kenyan running stars who were the biggest attractions of the evening, were trying, but were running against a wall of strong wind. Under these conditions, the sub 8:30 times of world record holder Bernard
Barmasai and world junior champion Rueben Kosgei are very respectable. "We tried our best, we felt we are ready to run sub 8:10, but the conditions were very bad," commented Barmasai, who already on Wednesday flew home to Kenya for training and then running end of June at the Kenyan trials.
"After that I will still be able to catch the Oslo meeting. But be sure, Kenyan trials in steeple-chase are for us harder to win than World Championships. When I will be in Seville, then of course I want to be the winner, but first I must qualify. I´m not thinking about records. This year is a championships year and additionally I want to be successful in the Golden League and will run all the meetings.
"And watch out for Rueben Kosgei, who is training with me, he can be the next big star of the event. This year still as a junior he should be ready to break the world junior record and in the future he should be the man for beating my world record," explained Bernard Barmasai.
Another potential future star is Benjamin Limo. After being on top with rabbit Kisang from second kilometre till the last lap everybody was thinking the more experienced Tom Nyariki would come from behind to win the 5000m. But Limo responded with another kick in last 100 metres and won. Gebresellasies training partners Jifar and Tola with fast 10 km times from Hengelo to their credit were not able to respond this time.
But the Kenyans suffered a big blow in a slow 1500m. Last years world number two Laban Rotich was beaten by three Europeans, with Spains Jose Antonio Redolat finishing very strongly to take the finish. The question remains, whether he would be able to do the same in a quicker race. Women´s high jump and pole vault were in wet conditions more dangerous and nobody was surprised that they ended sooner than expected. Slovakia celebrated a local win in the men´s shot put with Milan Haborak 19,69 m, beating by 6 cm Burger Lambrechts of South Africa. Third-placed Pavol Pankúch achieved a personal best of 19,46.
Women´s shot, which is a GP I event was won by Barcelona Olympic Champion Svetlana Krivelyova with the third best mark of the year: 19.44 m. In fourth position, Valentina Fedyushina from the Ukraine for the first time competed internationally with Austrian Citizenship and achieved a new national record with 18,17 m.
The women´s triple jump had a very strong field and new Greek star Paraskevi Tsiamita confirmed her status with an excellent (bearing in mind the conditions) 14,66 m. Second-placed Tereza Marinova of Bulgaria with 14,57 m jumped to first position in GP overall standings.
In11th place, Irina Beskrovnaya the daughter of long jump world record holder Galina Chistyakova, bettered the Slovak national junior record with 13,36m. Triple jump world champion Sarka Kasparkova (CZE) sat the competition out in the stands after being sidelined through an injury in warm-up before the Greek meeting in Kalamata.
At the end the best sprinting event the high hurdles in strong rain brought a dramatic duel. Tony Jarrett, already a winner in past years in Bratislava, loves this track and won again. US veteran Tony Dees was also fresh enough for a fast time in the pouring rain and local hero Igor Kovac was able to stay with them and was happy enough with his time of 13.50.
Everybody is believing such weather could happen in 40 years, but only once.
For Bratislava it was in 1999.