Stuttgart, GermanyThe bestlaid plans of meeting promotion often go awry, and that certainly was the case tonight at the Sparkassen Cup in Stuttgart, a evening which saw seven world-leading marks and an equal world leader. The failure to adhere to form was all for positive reasons, however, and no one wore a long face as a result.
After last year’s blockbuster record race in the Women’s 3000 Metres, it was expected that this event would again anchor the evening.
Kallur and Robles move up to No. 2 all-time
No one explained that to the hurdlers. Both Susanna Kallur and Dayron Robles managed to upstage the distance runners with performances that already bode well for possible World Records before the short indoor season is finished.
Kallur came to the Schwabian capital fresh from a 7.75 clocking earlier the week, and she gave a preview of things to come with a powerful 7.78 in the heats earlier in the evening.
In the final, the Swede had LoLo Jones running on her immediate left, but after the first barrier, Kallur never again had a view of the American.
Appearing mechanically perfect, she zipped over the remaining four barriers and stopped the stadium clock in 7.71 (later corrected to 7.72), a time bettered only on three occasions by World Record holder Ludmila Engquist, who was competing for the Soviet Union at the time of her 7.69 record.
Jones finished second in a PB 7.86, with Jamaica’s Vonette Dixon third at 7.94.
In explaining why her times this year are such an improvement over past seasons, Kallur offered that the “main difference is that I haven’t been injured this year. I’ve been able to hurdle more than in previous seasons.” But isn’t it a little too early in the season to be running so fast? “No, that’s not EVER a problem,” she laughed.
Perhaps thinking that even faster times lay ahead this year, Kallur held back with unqualified superlatives in describing her feelings, admitting to the sellout audience only that the Stuttgart sprint apron was “possibly” the best track in the world.
If she needed any further evidence, she had already seen it in Dayron Robles’ earlier 7.36 world-best time in the men’s 60m Hurdles, a Central American and Caribbean record. Like Kallur, Robles can sleep well tonight know that only one man - World Record holder Colin Jackson - has ever performed better, at 7.30.
The Cuban already knew of the facility’s excellence after his 7.38 here last year. And with a 7.49 in the prelims, while shutting down well before the wire, Robles knew he was on top of his game.
In an amazingly even start - five of the six finalists had reaction times within 0.01 of each other - Robles easily won the race to the first hurdle. The crispness of that start brought Germany’s Thomas Blaschek, running next to Robles, to a PB 7.54 for second, as three-time World indoor champion Allen Johnson was third in 7.55.
Defar unable to match 2007 outing
And now, to the “featured” event.
Meseret Defar learned tonight that she may well be her own worst enemy. After pounding the World Record in the women’s 3000m unmercifully in a brilliant run at last year’s Sparkassen Cup meeting, the standard of 8:23.72 stood in front of her tonight as a Mount Everest of sorts.
Still, the 25-year-old Ethiopian stayed ahead of her record pace of last year until after the 2000m mark, with kilometre times of 2:47.6 and 5:38.79. In the end, however, Defar could not manage a repeat of history. Her final time of 8:27.95 was the fourth-fastest of all time, and although not a World Record, it was a world-leading time for the season.
Olga Komyagina was enlisted as the pacer, and the Russian pried Defar and Ejegayehu Dibaba away from the rest of the field by the end of the first lap. The script was already looking similar to that of last year, when Meselech Melkamu shadowed Defar for the entire distance, almost winning the race in the final strides.
Coming into 1800, Komyagina glanced over her shoulder as if to signal Defar to take off at that point. Within 50 metres, the Ethiopian took the cue and went to the lead. After another 200 metres, Dibaba started to fade, and the push from behind, which had been so instrumental in last year’s record was no longer there.
In looking back on the evening’s work, Defar expressed disappointment. “I came here for the record,” she offered. “I felt good during the race, but perhaps I’m still a little tired from Boston.”
Dibaba held second in 8:39.08, as Kenya’s Silvia Kibet won the secondary competition behind the two front-runners with a third-place 8:54.18.
Ethiopian 1-2 in men's 3000m - Fastest junior run ever indoors
The men’s 3000m saw a wide victory margin for Tariku Bekele as he broke away from the others just after the two-kilometre mark and ended with a world-leading 7:31.09. Although winning the race, he did just barely fail in his quest to set a family record, that still held by older brother Kenenisa with 7:30.51. Still, it is a rather impressive one-two punch from the same household.
Far back in second was Bekele’s countryman Abraham Feleke in 7:38.03, which is the fastest ever time recorded for a junior athlete indoors. NB. There are no official World Indoor records for juniors.
Borzakovskiy dominates as Mutola's Farewell Tour begins on a high
Yuriy Borzakovskiy was easily the superior man in the Men’s 800m. The Athens champion sprinted past Wilfred Bungei and his own training partner Dmitriy Bogdanov with 150 metres remaining and pushed hard into the finish for a world-leading 1:45.58. The Russian had kept close to the leaders for most of the race, making one of his dramatic come-from-behind finishes unnecessary this time. It could also be that in this year, he is just that much better than the rest.
Bungei held on for second with 1:46.38, while Latvia’s Dmitrijs Milkevics won the “battle of the Dimas” for third against Bodanov as he cruised past the Russian just before tape and clocked 1:46.67 against Bogdanov’s 1:46.80.
Maria Mutola started her Farewell Tour of Athletics here in Stuttgart tonight, as she has already announced that 2008 will be her final campaign. Her win in 2:02.44 won’t ever be in her pantheon of memorable races, but the 35-year-old still is competitive when she has to be.
Throughout the race, Mutola was challenged for the lead. First it was Ukraine’s Tetiana Petlyuk who attempted a bold move, and several times after that, Jenny Meadows of Great Britain tried to sneak past the Mozambique runner. Every time, Mutola stayed in front. She settled the affair with 150 metres left with a sprint to the finish, as Meadows stayed close for second in 2:02.96.
Tomlinson sails to British Long Jump Record, Area record for Maggi
Just as the men’s Long Jump was threatening to die on the vine, Chris Tomlinson exploded in the fifth round with a British record 8.18, a world-best for the season, and was on his way to an unchallenged win. He broke his own record of 8.17 which came in his sixth-place finish at the World Indoor Championships in Budapest four years ago.
James Beckford of Jamaica and Poland’s Marcin Starzak both had 7.88, with the Beckford winning the tie-breaker with a better second jump.
The women’s Long Jump had infinitely more intrinsic excitement than the men’s event as Maurren Higa Maggi of Brazil pierced through 6.80 three times and ended with a South American record 6.87. The Brazilian’s PB coming into the competition had been 6.70, which she had registered in taking the 2003 world indoor bronze medal. It took all of that to defeat Karin Mey, whose second-place 6.84, a South African record, came in her first-ever indoor competition.
Despite a field heavily loaded with host Germans, it was a pair of Russians who ruled the men’s Pole Vault, as Yevgeniy Lukyanenko and Igor Pavlov finished one-two, both at 5.81.
The men’s 1500 Metres turned into an Ethiopian duel, won by Deresse Mekkonen in a world-leading 3:38.52 with a sprint past Mekonnen Gebremehdin with just over 100 metres remaining. The diminutive Mekkonen had been slightly bumped into the infield coming into the penultimate curve, but he recovered quickly and was able to mount a fast finish to defeat his tall countryman, who clocked 3:38.90 in second.
Germany’s Stefan Eberhardt, a former silver European U23 silver medallist, sprinted past several fading runners to claim a distant third in 3:40.76.
The women’s 400m was staged in two sections. In the faster race, Zuzanna Radecka of Poland worked hard to hold the lead after the first 200 and held on to win a tight finish against Germany’s Jonna Tilgner, 53.47 to 53.54.
The other section was won by Jamaica’s Clora Williams, who saw a big mid-race lead almost vanish at the end of her 54.07 performance.
The Men’s 200m had a similar format, as Tobias Unger won the faster section with 20.84 after Sweden’s Johan Wissman had clocked 20.91 only moments before in the first race.
Tahesia Harrigan of the British Virgin Islands won the Women’s 60m in 7.19 over the United States’ Angela Williams at 7.24. In the heats, Harrigan established a new national record of 7.16, which also equaled the best performance in the world this season.
The Men’s 60 went to Britain’s Craig Pickering with 6.58 in a close finish over American Mike Rodgers and Nigeria’s Olusoji Fasuba, both of whom were timed in 6.60. Fasuba had run 6.57 during the heats earlier in the program.
Ed Gordon for the IAAF