Home gold is usually good for the atmosphere of any championships stadium and so it was again proved at the second day of the 9th IAAF World Indoor Championships in Athletics (14-16 March) when Britain’s Ashia Hansen and Marlon Devonish struck double gold.
It was an evening of British success which began in qualification mode when Colin Jackson cleared the penultimate set of barriers in his career as a sprint hurdler. On his path to retirement in Birmingham he won his semi-final heat of the men’s 60m Hurdles (7.55), and of course set the spectators into wild excitement in the process. Yet Cuba’s Olympic champion Anier Garcia was the victor in the second heat in the quickest time of 7.49 and remains a potent threat to Jackson’s hope of a fairy tale ending to his athletics’ CV.
Seconds after Jackson’s semi-final win, taking inspiration from the crowd’s adulation of her team captain, Britain’s World Indoor record holder Ashia Hansen bounded down the runway to a season’s best of 14.77 metres in the first round of the women’s Triple Jump final.
However, Cameroon’s Francoise Etone Mbango who Hansen had beaten to take Commonwealth Gold last summer, responded to close the opening round with a huge 14.88, a world season’s lead and an African record.
With the tape Hansen was using on the runway – to mark the start of her approach to the take off board - moved by the men’s high jumpers, whose approach to the jumping bar intersected with the Triple Jump runway, Hansen was given extra time to re-measure her approach before her second jump but it still ended with a foul.
In the same round Senegal’s Kene Ndoye established a national record of 14.37m.
In a high class competition where 14.31m was only good enough for seventh, the three medal positions were not to change again until round five, where Hansen who had had 14.56 and 14.62 attempts in rounds three and four, exploded through the three phases of her jump to break the sand at 15.01m. This was only the sixth time the 15m barrier had been surpassed indoors in the history of the event (including Hansen’s own 15.16m World record in 1998).
Etone Mbango jumping next and last, in the fifth round couldn’t respond in either that or her final jump of the competition, and so the championships hosts Britain, had won their first gold medal.
In the last round Senegal’s Ndoye again improved her - second round - national record with a huge leap of 14.72m, to complete a superb series of her own – 14.26, 14.37, 14.33, 14.33, 14.33, 14.72 – and take the bronze medal. The silver medallist from Cameroon, could also be proud of another solid set of jumps -14.88, 14.35, 14.57, 14.24, foul, 14.73 – but despite such fine jumping the local crowd had got the result they had wanted.
“I had lots of problems with my foot. I had to have an anaesthetic otherwise I would not have been able to have competed,” confirmed Hansen. “I knew the home crowd was going to be loud, I just didn’t realize just how loud they would be.”
If the crowd wasn’t in a enough of a frenzy by this point, then Britain’s Marlon Devonish in the men’s 200m final, ensured the atmosphere in the National Indoor Arena hit melting point, by giving the hosts their second gold of these championships within a few minutes of Hansen’s win.
Devonish, running in the outside lane, had originally been reluctant to even come to these championships considering the summer season more important but he must now be thankful he changed his mind, as he was never headed in a gun to tape win in 20.62 seconds. Cameroon’s Joseph Batangdon and Dominic Demeritte of the Bahamas took the silver (20.76) and bronze (20.92), in lanes five and four respectively.
It was with arms flaying all the way down the home straight that France’s Driss Maazouzi, in a gutsy determined fight with Kenya’s Bernard Lagat, took the men’s 1500m gold in a typically slow paced indoor championship race, in which everything came down to the final sprint. Maazouzi kept his torso in front as the line was crossed in 3:42.59, to deny Lagat who was second in 3:42.62. Bronze went to Morocco’s Abdelkader Hachlaf, just fractionally behind in 3:42.71.
Minutes later it looked like France was in line for a golden double of her own, when European indoor and outdoor 200m champion Muriel Hurtis lined up for the women’s final in lane five. Yet the French dream was to be broken, as USA’s Michelle Collins who had set a 2003 world lead in the semis (22.31), running in the lane outside Hurtis, lowered the season’s best again to 22.18 for gold. Hurtis ran well but was well beaten in silver position (22.54). Bronze went to Russia’s Anastasiya Kapachinskaya in 22.80.
The afternoon had begun with the absorbing spectacle of the men’s Long Jump final in which USA’s Dwight Phillips, who had held the lead from the second round with a leap of 8.23m, was dramatically overtaken by Spaniard Yago Lamela’s 8.28m in the sixth and final round.
Considering Lamela, who until the start of the final round had been in second place by virtue of an earlier 8.20m leap, had seen himself relegated to third just moments before by American champion Miguel Pate’s 8.21m (for the eventual bronze position) his leap was most impressive, and looked to have secured gold.
However, Phillips was more than up to the task that Lamela had set him, and with his last jump and that of the competition, he recaptured the lead and secured the gold with a one centimetre improvement on the Spaniard’s mark with a new personal best of 8.29m. The crowd cheered loudly at the American’s tenacity, and in a mixture of delight and relief Phillips sprinted off on a lap of honour, Lamela having to content himself with a second silver medal, something he had also taken in 1999.
The men’s Pole Vault turned into a parade for Germany’s European Indoor champion Tim Lobinger who kept a clean jumping card through 5.60, 5.75 and his winning height of 5.80m. Only at his next height with the competition effectively won, did the German falter failing three times at 5.85m. All the same Lobinger’s competition was majestic, leaving fellow German Michael Stolle (silver) - who fell heavily in the planting box while trying 5.85 - and the Netherlands’ Rens Blom (Bronze), with the minor medals at 5.75. Blom’s mark was a national record.
In the other men’s jump final of the evening session, Sweden’s Stefan Holm made a successful defence of the High Jump title that he had won in Lisbon two years ago. Carrying a clean jump card through three heights to 2.30, the Swede cleared 2.33 on his third jump, and then consolidated the gold with a second time clearance at 2.35m.
“A really good competition and performance today,” said Holm whose win – as were each of his other clearances, was marked - as usual - by joyfully exuberant celebrations which thoroughly entertained the crowd in themselves.
“It was tough out there and I had quite a few jumps at 2.33m, which may have affected my performance at the later heights,” concluded the gold medallist.
The performance was more than significant, for the win consigned the European outdoor champion Yaroslav Rbakov to the silver (2.33m). Also, Holm would still have taken gold even if he had failed at 2.35m because of a better count back record than the Russian at earlier heights. Gennadiy Moroz of Belarus took the bronze with a second time leap over 2.30m
Olympic women’s Shot champion Yanina Korolchik, who led this morning’s qualifiers slipped up in this evening’s final coming seventh with 18.94, in a competition dominated by Russia’s European outdoor champion Irina Korzhanenko, who won with a second attempt of 20.55m. The silver medal was also secured in the same round by Belarussian Nadezhda Ostapchuk with a 20.31m release. Bronze went to Germany’s Astrid Kumbernuss (19.86), the former World and Olympic champion.
The last final of the day was the women’s 3000m and this essentially turned into an Ethiopian versus Spain duel match, with World Indoor record holder Berhane Adere and her compatriot the double World junior champion Meseret Defar, contesting the title with Spain’s Marta Dominguez.
At the bell (8:08.74) it was Adere who had established a 15 metres lead over Dominguez the European champion, with Defar in third position in hot pursuit of the Spaniard in third. The lap proved Adere was the stronger with her lead increasing throughout, and she crossed the line in 8:40.24 to take Ethiopia’s first ever women’s World Indoor gold. Dominguez held on well for the silver (8:42.17), while Defar who had closed on her, took the bronze for Ethiopia in 8:42.58.
The men’s 400m semi-final stage was much less ‘bloody’ than Friday’s first round heats, with USA’s Tyree Washington and Britain’s reigning World champion Daniel Caines - in the second of two races - restricting themselves to running without physically clashing. Caines took the win in their heat, 46.24 to Washington’s 46.50. In the other semi Paul Mckee set an Irish indoor record of 46.24, besting 1999 Champion Jamie Baulch (46.74) and Australia’s Daniel Batman(46.76), who collided in the final 20 metres of the run in to the line.
Remarkably, with David McCarthy finishing in the third qualification spot in the Caines and Washington heat, Ireland suddenly found itself with two finalists for tomorrow’s final along with the two Brits, Washington and Batman.
The women’s 400m would seem to be going firmly in the direction of the Russian Natalya Nazarova, who was the fastest qualifier for the final ( Heat 1 - 50.90), though Germany’s ‘veteran’ Grit Breuer (heat 2 – 51.56), the 1999 champion might wish to contest that statement in tomorrow’s final.
The women’s 60m Hurdles semis were of the highest quality, conjuring up a championship record for America’s Gail Devers (7.80 seconds) and a Spanish record for Glory Alozie (7.83) in the first of two heats.
World Indoor record holder Regina Jacobs progressed into tomorrow’s women’s 1500m final in a time of 4:09.07 effortlessly controlling her heat. Morocco’s Hasna Benhassi, the defending champion also qualified as a fastest loser, third behind the American – 4:09.37.
Wilson Kipketer was another World Indoor record holder – men’s 800m – who also took his place in his event final on Sunday, running a 1:47.84 qualification to win the second of the two semi-finals.