Gulnara Samitova at the water jump on the way to World record (Serafim Tracharis for the IAAF) © Copyright
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2004 IAAF Grand Prix Review – Part Two

The most significant moments from last year’s 28 IAAF Grand Prix meetings are recalled by Mel Watman of “Athletics International”.

We now present Part Two - July to September 2004.

4 July, Iráklion (Crete), Greece
(Super Grand Prix)

What a meeting it proved for a trio of Russian women. Pride of place went to Svetlana Feofanova, who (for just three weeks, it would transpire) replaced Yelena Isinbayeva as the world’s highest flying vaulter. On this occasion Isinbayeva cleared a mere 4.65m, failing at 4.75m, but Feofanova displayed inspired form as she mastered 4.88m at her second attempt. Perhaps only Americans would appreciate the significance of that height, but it represented the first 16-foot clearance by a woman, 42 years after John Uelses became the first man to break the barrier. Gulnara Samitova smashed her own World 3000m Steeplechase record of 9:08.33 with a time of 9:01.59, followed at a distance by Uganda’s Dorcus Inzikuru whose time of 9:29.30 was an African and Commonwealth record. With five women under 9:40 and four more inside 9:50 this was the best race yet in a swiftly developing event which will be added to the World Championships programme in 2005. Finally, Tatyana Lebedeva (who had long jumped 7.01m two days earlier) set a Russian Triple Jump record of 15.34m, a distance surpassed only by Inessa Kravets’ 15.50m in 1995 and her own 15.36m when winning this year’s World Indoor title.

6 July, Lausanne, Switzerland
(Super Grand Prix)

Tatyana Lebedeva maintained her exceptional form by triple jumping 15.33m, taking off from behind the 20cm board and thus travelling in excess of 15.53m from lift off to landing. Trailing far behind were such formidable rivals as Yamilé Aldama (14.95m) and Francoise Mbango (14.85m). Yelena Slesarenko scored another significant high jump victory at 2.03m ahead of Blanka Vlasic (1.98m) with the normally ultra-consistent Hestrie Cloete unable to go higher than 1.95m for equal third. However, a bigger shock occurred in the 800m where Maria Mutola’s two-year win streak was broken by Svetlana Cherkasova, 1:58.91 to 1:59.06. An even longer winning sequence, by Felix Sánchez in the 400m Hurdles, was kept alive although he was pushed to his best time so far that season of 47.86 by Llewellyn Herbert (48.03). His own long period of 1500m supremacy ended in Rome four days earlier when, suffering the effects of a chest infection, he trailed in ninth, Hicham El Guerrouj bounced back with a 3:32.20 victory albeit by just 2/100ths over Isaac Songok.

9 July, Kazan, Russia
(Grand Prix II)

Danila Burkenya, a former 8.31m long jumper now in his first year as a specialist triple jumper, confirmed the wisdom of the change by leaping to a personal best of 17.43m. He would later improve to 17.68m and win an Olympic bronze medal. Otherwise, all the best action came in the women’s events, highlighted by Tatyana Andrionova’s 800m victory in 1:57.71 with 49.77 400m performer Olga Kotlyarova smashing her previous best of 2:05.17 with 1:57.96 in second place.

17 July, Madrid, Spain
(Super Grand Prix)

With the Olympics barely a month away, the two stars of this meeting – Wilfred Bungei with a world-leading 800m mark of 1:43.72 and Svetlana Feofanova with a 4.80m Pole Vault victory and attempts at a World record 4.90m – must have boosted their gold medal hopes … although it was not to be. Bungei would wind up fifth and Feofanova would be well beaten by Yelena Isinbayeva in Athens. Of the soon to be crowned Olympic champions who were present, long jumper Dwight Phillips (8.36m) and Javelin thrower Osleidys Menéndez (67.87m) won their events without trouble but Kelly Holmes was beaten at 1500m by Wioletta Janowska, 4:04.38 to 4:05.27, creating a crisis of confidence over which event or events to contest at the Games. Perhaps the most remarkable performance came from Merlene Ottey in the 200m, timed at 22.90 into a 1.1m/sec wind for a world best by a 44 year-old woman. How many men of that age could match it?

19 July, Thessaloniki, Greece
(Grand Prix II)

It has all happened so quickly for Anna Rogowska. Until two years ago, after six seasons of pole vaulting, her personal best was merely 3.90m. Then in 2002 she shot up to 4.40m, and consolidated that with 4.45m and 4.47m indoors in 2003. Indoors in 2004 she progressed to 4.52m, while outdoors she moved up to 4.60m in Gateshead and a Polish record of 4.65m in Iráklion. Now, in Greece’s second city, she cleared 4.66m and 4.71m to become the fifth highest vaulter in history. No wonder she couldn’t stop smiling.

27 July, Stockholm, Sweden
(Super Grand Prix)

How ironic that it was in Sweden of all places that Christian Olsson should lose his only Triple Jump competition of the year. Marian Oprea opened with 17.30m and that stood up as the winning distance although the Swede, who had won at 29 consecutive meetings since February 2003, came tantalisingly close with jumps of 17.25m and 17.28m. Still, the capacity crowd had other home victories to celebrate as Stefan Holm high jumped 2.33m in heavy rain, Carolina Klüft long jumped 6.85m and her partner Patrik Kristiansson vaulted 5.80m. Unusually, in two events the winning mark was faster in the ‘B’ race than in the ‘A’: Jerry Harris proved he should have been granted a lane in the main race by taking his 400m in 44.72 as against Alleyne Francique’s 44.99 in the featured event, while junior 5000m star Mulugeta Wondimu knocked nearly six seconds off his previous best with an Ethiopian 1500m record of 3:32.38 whereas Ivan Heshko won the ‘A’ race in 3:35.31.

30 July, London, United Kingdom
(Super Grand Prix)

How Yelena Isinbayeva, not to mention her bank manager, must love Britain. For the fourth time within a year she went back to Russia with a $50,000 cheque for vaulting a World record height at an English meeting. She had reclaimed the record from arch-rival Svetlana Feofanova just five days earlier in Birmingham with 4.89m and at Crystal Palace she topped that by a centimetre. After herself missing at 4.90m Feofanova reserved her remaining two attempts for 4.95m but was unsuccessful and thus became the first woman to clear 4.80m outdoors and lose. There was fine jumping too by Hestrie Cloete, whose High Jump leap of 2.03m matched her best of the year. On the newly laid track Maurice Greene promised to break 10 sec and kept his word with a 9.98 heat and 9.97 in the final; trouble was that Asafa Powell finished well clear of him in 9.91, equalling his Jamaican record. Watching the race no one could have foreseen that Justin Gatlin, three metres behind the winner in 10.20, would wind up as Olympic champion. The final event, the 5000m, was an emotional occasion as it marked the last track appearance in Britain of that most popular of visitors, Haile Gebrselassie. He gained the victory the sell-out crowd desired, in a UK all-comers record of 12:55.51 … but only just as he was pushed all the way by Craig Mottram whose Oceania record of 12:55.76 made him the second fastest non-African born runner in history.

31 July, Heusden-Zolder, Belgium
(Grand Prix II)

A world-leading 1500m time of 3:29.18 was just the morale booster needed by Hicham El Guerrouj after a shaky start to his season. “I am extremely happy today,” he remarked after a 54 sec last lap carried him well clear of runner-up Mulugeta Wondimu whose 3:31.13 broke his recent Ethiopian record and made him the second fastest ever junior. Local star Kim Gevaert clocked the Belgian 100m record time of 11.14 for the third time this season, yet close behind in third place was Merlene Ottey who reduced her Slovenian record and world age-44 best to 11.17. Three days later, in Liege, the former Jamaican legend progressed to 11.09.

2 August, Linz, Austria
(Grand Prix)

With barely three weeks to go before the Olympics, Dwight Phillips emphasised his status as hot favourite by opening with a mighty leap of 8.60m, a personal best by 16cm and the world’s longest jump for four years. After fouling his second attempt he decided to sit out the rest of the contest as no one got closer than 8.14m. A more competitive women’s Triple Jump produced outstanding performances also. That one-woman United Nations, Yamilé Aldama, the Cuban-born British resident who now represents Sudan, jumped 15.28m for an African record and that brought out the best in Trecia Smith who added 26cm to her Jamaican record with 15.16m, improving on Ashia Hansen’s Commonwealth record by a centimetre. Upset of the meeting came in the women’s javelin where Nikola Brejchová (née Tomecková) set a Czech record of 65.91m to defeat the otherwise all conquering Osleidys Menéndez (65.68m).

5 September, Rieti, Italy
(Grand Prix)

With three men inside 1:44, the final Grand Prix meeting of the season produced one of the classiest 800m races of the year. Olympic bronze medallist Wilson Kipketer finished third again (1:43.89) but ahead of him were two men who had run way below form in Athens the previous week. Victory went to Joseph Mutua (eliminated in Olympic semi-final) in 1:43.35 with Youssef Saad Kamel (shut out in his heat) second in 1:43.43. A name to mark for the future… Augustine Choge. The 17 year-old Kenyan, winner of the 2003 IAAF World Youth 3000m title ahead of Tariku Bekele, clocked 7:36.82 for the distance to smash the World under-18 best.

Click here for PART ONE of this review