Russia’s Svetlana Feofanova won the women’s Pole Vault final in the last session of the 9th IAAF World Indoor Championships in Athletics (14-16 March) in the National Indoor Arena, giving the championships the ultimate kudos of a 4.80m World record, the 29th in the history of the World Indoors.
Though the women’s Pole Vault final had been prematurely robbed of the presence of the then World indoor record holder (4.78m) Stacy Dragila who no heighted in yesterday’s qualification, a quality battle still awaited to delight the packed stadium of spectators.
Today’s final turned into a Russian parade with Yelena Isinbayeva, the World junior record holder battling against her more illustrious colleague, the European senior record holder Feofanova.
With the junior Russian having problems at her first height (4.20 – second attempt), and Feofanova similarly held up at 4.55, Isinbayeva was fatally flawed at 4.65, and after one miss had two further failures at 4.75 to end with the silver (4.60m). Bronze went to Poland’s Monika Pyrek (4.45m).
Feofanova had been flying cleanly since her problems at 4.55, with first time successes at 4.60, 4.65, 4.70, and 4.75, and with the gold already won she could be forgiven for a first time failure, when the bar was raised to a new World record of 4.80m, after such an impressive series of vaults.
With huge crowd support as she made her run in towards the bar, Feofanova rattled the bar with her legs but to the delight of everyone it stayed put, and Birmingham had a World record, to go with the one the Russian had set in this stadium on 21 February (4.77) - prior to Dragila raising the standard to 4.78 at the USA championships at the beginning of March.
“It was a very technical competition and it was down to someone to make a mistake,” said the new World record holder. “Isinbayeva was jumping well today and I was fearful that she would beat me today, so I was impressed by her performance.”
“I didn’t think that I would have a problem to jump a World record today as I was jumping 4.70m and 4.75m very easily…. Thank you to the crowd and the organizers of a great World Championships.”
As impressive as Feofanova’s record was, further delights awaited the championships in the men’s Triple Jump final, which was taking place simultaneously with the women’s Pole Vault.
Local hero, the World and Olympic champion Jonathan Edwards held the lead at half way but it was by no means a secure position as his best was only 17.01m. The fragility of the Briton’s lead was proved when in round four European champion Christian Olsson bounded to 17.28, a mark which he improved to 17.31 with his next jump. Edwards also improved in second place in round five with 17.19.
However, the medal positions were blown apart in the final round, when American Walter Davis who had been lying fourth (16.92), dramatically took the lead with a mighty 17.35 personal best performance.
There was nothing certain about this contest though, and Olsson showing the greatest tenacity immediately responded to grab the lead back and ultimately take the gold with a world season’s lead of 17.70m.
For British medal hopes, worse was to follow as Cuban Yoelbi Quesada leapt to a season’s best 17.27m pushing Edwards down to fourth.
With Edwards finishing with a sixth round 17.00m attempt, Olsson had won Sweden’s fourth gold medal of these championships. Davis took the silver (17.35) and Quesada the bronze (17.27).
“I had a difficult start but it all started to come together with my 17.28 in the fourth round. By that time, I started realizing that I can actually triple jump,” confirmed a delighted Olsson.
Britain’s Colin Jackson completed the last 60m Hurdles of his competitive career as World outdoor and indoor sprint hurdles record holder this afternoon, but like Edwards was not in the sort of shape required to make the day complete with a medal, finishing fifth in 7.61. Jackson’s nemesis on this and so many other occasions of his 18 year international career was the USA’s World 110m Hurdles champion Allen Johnson (7.47), with Cuba’s Olympic gold medallist Anier Garcia taking the silver (7.49), and Asian senior and World junior 110m Hurdles record holder Xiang Liu in third (7.52).
Five laps out from the finish of the men’s 3000m final and Spain’s hopes of over turning the gold medal ambitions of Ethiopia’s Haile Gebrselassie seemed to be taking shape. European champion and indoor record holder Alberto Garcia took the lead with a burst of speed down the back straight passing the second Ethiopian representative Abiyote Abate. Gebrselassie covered the break immediately and stayed on the Spaniard’s heels.
With 300 metres to go, the Ethiopian ‘Emperor’ made his own passing move and that was it for Spain’s golden hopes. Though Garcia didn’t falter, Gebrselassie was just too good, and as the two went into the final bend he opened a decisive gap on the Spaniard, and in the end was a comfortable winner in 7:40.97. Garcia was second (7:42.08), and Kenya’s Luke Kipkosgei was the best of the rest (bronze 7:42.56).
America’s Tom Pappas held on to his lead to win gold in the highest quality indoor Heptathlon ever seen, with a personal best of 6361 points (8th best all-time) from Russia’s Lev Lobodin (silver - 6297) and World Decathlon record holder Roman Sebrle of the Czech Republic (bronze - 6196).
Pappas who had ended yesterday’s last event – High Jump – with 3700 points for a 197 lead over Sebrle, and a further four points advantage over Lobodin, had a 7.80 60m Hurdles race but then a 4.90m Pole Vault led to his lead shrinking to exactly 100 points (5913), from Lobodin who literally jumped into second with a marvellous Pole Vault of 5.30m. Sebrle’s 5.00m best meant he slipped to fourth (5390), with Iceland’s Jon Arnar Magnusson taking hold of third (5394) thanks to a 5.10 clearance.
The final 1000 metres event righted the situation for Sebrle, his 2:41.79 bringing him back into bronze (6196), with Lobodin’s 2:41.83 reaffirming his silver (6297) and Pappas with 2:51.65 confirmed in gold (6361)
“I am very excited. My training went well and now I am definitely looking forward to outdoors,” said Pappas.
USA’s Tyree Washington and Britain’s Daniel Caines were the pre-billed protagonists in the men’s 400m. This prediction was confirmed when as the runners broke out of their lanes coming off the second bend, Washington took the advantage from Caines, and that’s how the positions were to stay despite the crowd’s encouragement of the local boy, the defending champion from Lisbon 2001, as he battled to catch the American. Washington’s winning time was 45.34 (world season’s lead), Caines 45.43 (PB), Jamie Baulch, Briton’s 1999 World champion in a tie for bronze (45.99) with Ireland’s Paul McKee (national record).
Britain’s Jo Fenn did her best to make up for Caines’ disappointment by taking the women’s 800m final by the scruff of the neck, leading the major players Maria Mutola of Mozambique, Slovenia’s Jolanda Ceplak and Stephanie Graf of Austria to the bell in 57.89. It was a brave bid by the Briton, who did not finally release the lead until Mutola passed her on the crown of the final bend.
Mutola eased effortlessly away to gold, retaining her World title and equally in process the all-time record total of five World Indoor Championships golds, held by Cuban long jumper Ivan Pedroso, who was only prevented from bidding for a sixth title in Birmingham by injury.
Graf took yet another silver medal (1:58.94) in Mutola’s wake, having also succumbed to the same fate in Sydney 2000 and Edmonton 2001. Spain’s Mayte Martinez nipped Ceplak for the bronze with a national record of 1:59.53, to the Slovenian’s 1:59.54. Fenn was rewarded in fifth, with another sub two minute clocking – 1:59.95.
Wilson Kipketer, who had blasted the 1997 championships apart with two World record runs during that successful gold medal campaign including the current 1:42.67, looked to have recaptured his 800m title as he entered the final straight but was outsprinted by USA’s David Krummenacker - 1:45.69 (PB) to 1:45.87 – who edged the Dane just before the line. Kenya’s Wilfred Bungei was third in 1:46.54. This was the first global 800m title won by an American since David Wottle in the Munich Olympics of 1972, and their first ever gold at the distance in the World Indoor championships.
With Sweden’s Stefan Holm retaining his World High Jump title yesterday evening, the expectation that Kajsa Berqqvist the 2001 women’s champion would also repeat her Lisbon triumph was intense but watching the smiling face of the Swede throughout the final you wouldn’t have known she was feeling any extra pressure.
1.96m took an early casualty with 1999 World outdoor champion Babakova going out and Russia’s world season’s leader Anna Chicherova was also in serious trouble after two failures, before producing a sublime clearance on her third.
Bergqvist’s consistency made itself felt at 1.99 with her fourth consecutive first time clearance of the competition – 1.88, 1.92, 1.96, 1.99. It was at this height that the only other athlete with a clean jumping card to that point 19-year-old Blanka Vlasic, twice World junior champion, began to falter – twice – and then moved unsuccessfully to 2.01 for her third attempt.
2.01 further demoralised the opposition with another fine first time leap for the Sweden’s jumping ace, and Bergqvist’s face broke into a wide smile in acknowledgement.
Soon after, the golden reality really struck home, as the only other jumpers left in the competition, Russia’s Olympic champion Yelena Yelesina, and Anna Chicherova, the national record holder, failed three times. Bergqvist had completed the retention of Sweden’s Lisbon High Jumping double.
Jo Fenn had earlier in the day made a brave - but unsuccessful - bid in the women’s 800m to give Britain a middle distance medal at these championships, and Kelly Holmes on the same campaign in the 1500m, approached her final in the same determined manner, and a silver medal resulted this time.
Holmes couldn’t manage to keep up with World record holder Regina Jacobs (USA) who took the lead with two laps to go and took the field through the bell in 3:30.87. Jacobs winning time was 4:01.67, Holmes’ silver came in 4:02.66 (a national record) with Russian Yekaterina Rozenberg taking the silver (4:02.80).
The American’s season has been exceptional and after a poor summer last year Jacobs will be hoping she can transfer her sub-4 minute World Indoor record form to the outdoors where she has still to break that particular barrier.
Russia’s Natalya Nazarova dominated the women’s 400m final. The national champion who had been reinstated at the semi-final stage after a lane infringement disqualification was overturned on appeal, faced no credible challenge, with the Nararova winning in 50.83. Christine Amertil of the Bahamas was pulled to a national record of 51.11 (silver) and Germany’s Grit Breuer to bronze (51.13).
It was to be two golds for both the individual 400m champions, with Nazarova helping the Russian squad secure the 4x400 gold (3:28.45 season’s world lead) from Jamaica (3:31.23) and USA (3:31.69), while Tyree Washington brought the USA home to the men’s gold (3:04.09), ahead of the Jamaican squad (3:04.21 National record) and Great Britain (3:06.12)
The women’s Long Jump reaffirmed the dominance of Russia’s European champion Tatyana Kotova, the 1999 World Indoor champion and silver medallist last time in Lisbon, who took the gold with a first round world season’s lead of 6.84m. No one came close to threatening the Russian’s golden campaign, though Ukraine’s World outdoor Triple jump record holder Inessa Kravets (6.72) took silver at 36-years of age, and Brazil’s Maurren Maggi floated out to an Area Record of 6.70m in round three for bronze.
Another 36-year-old Gail Devers got a good start in the women’s 60m Hurdles and was never headed winning in 7.81 from Spain’s Glory Alozie (7.90) and USA’s Melissa Morrison (7.92).
Also taking into account Regina Jacobs’ (gold 1500m) 39 years of age, the final day at the 9th IAAF World Indoor Championships in Athletics had been one for the ‘old guard’, with the most poignant memory of the day being Allen Johnson’s acknowledgement of the retirement of his great rival, 36-year-old Colin Jackson. As the two men met on their respective laps of honour, the American enveloped the Briton in the Stars and Stripes, in a bond of friendship and admiration.
The 10th IAAF World Indoor championships in Athletics will be held in Budapest, Hungary in 2004.
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