Haile Gebrselassie en route to his 23rd and 24th World Records (Golden Spike) © Copyright
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2007 IAAF Grand Prix Review – Part ONE

MonteWith its opening fixture in early March and a closing date in September, the 2007 IAAF World Athletics Tour - Golden League, Super Grand Prix and Grand Prix - offered a six-month packed attractive, entertaining season which climaxed at the IAAF / VTB Bank World Athletics Final, Stuttgart, Germany (22 – 23 Sep).

Click here for 2007 World Athletics Final

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IAAF Golden League review

The Super Grand Prix and Grand Prix meets were highlighted by Haile Gebrselassie and Asafa Powell’s World records in Ostrava and Rieti respectively.

David Powell reminds us of some of the highlights of the meetings which took place March to June 2007…

Melbourne, Australia
2 March

The Telstra Melbourne Track Classic marked the opening of the six-month long IAAF World Athletics Tour 2007 in warm and humid conditions - far removed from the British winter where, on the same day, the European Indoor Championships began in Birmingham. As popular as Craig Mottram’s 5000m victory was before a home audience at this Grand Prix meeting, it was Lisa Corrigan’s Australian Mile record which proved the landmark performance.

Both Corrigan (4:22.66) and Sarah Jamieson (4:23.40) beat the record of 4:25.84 held by Margaret Crowley since 1996. In the Peter Norman Memorial 200m, Olympic champion Shawn Crawford (20.32) beat LaShawn Merritt (20.38) into a headwind, although Merritt won the 400m (45.31). Michelle Perry won the 100m Hurdles (12.82) while Mottram’s victory came in a modest 13:32.67.

Dakar, Senegal
27/28 April

A men’s Shot Put competition on Goree Island, just off the Dakar coastline, got the Meeting International d’Athletisme de la Ville de Dakar under way on the Friday, one day before the main thrust of this Grand Prix meeting was staged on the Saturday. So it was from this historic and atmospheric location (a former transit point for slaves in colonial days), in the middle of a natural harbour four kilometres from Dakar, that Reese Hoffa began his season’s journey towards World title in Osaka.

Hoffa, from the United States, recorded a winning 21.30m, one of four marks that were superior to the best that runner-up Andrei Mikhnevich, of Belarus, could manage. The next day a crowd in excess of 50,000 poured into the Leopold Sedar Senghor Stadium, witnessing the perfect end to the occasion as Senegal’s own Amy Mbacke Thiam, the 2001 World champion, won the 400m in 51.73.

Osaka, Japan
5 May

In the Nagai Stadium, where the World Championships would be held three months later, the Osaka Grand Prix generated great excitement for the newly laid track’s potential for fast times. With Olympic and World 400m champion Jeremy Wariner and the sprint hurdlers Liu Xiang and Sally McLellan showing good form on the surface.

Wariner clocked 44.02, the quickest the American had run so early in the season. “I love the track, it was real fast,” Wariner said, adding that he could not wait to return in August to try for the World record. McLellan improved the Australian 100m Hurdles record to 12.71, proclaiming: “I don’t know how I did it.” Liu, the Olympic champion and World record holder for 110m Hurdles, clocked 13.14, his fastest time to open a season.

Doha, Qatar
11 May

The Qatar IAAF World Super Tour meeting lived up to its Super Grand Prix status with Allyson Felix and Blanka Vlasic leading a long list of high quality performances. Felix won the 100m in 11.27 and the 400m in a marked improvement on her personal best from 51.12 to 50.40. Here was a foretaste of a 48.0 leg in the 4x400m in Osaka, which would help Felix towards her third gold medal of the World Championships.

Vlasic jumped a Croatian women’s outdoor High Jump record of 2.04m for victory and there was a win too for Kamila Skolimowska as she set a Polish women’s Hammer record of 76.83m. The men’s middle distance and distance events brought good performances from Wilfred Bungei in the 800m (1:44.14), Augustine Choge at 1500m (3:31.73) and Eliud Kipchoge in the 3000m (7:33.06).

Belem, Brazil
20 May

He may have moved his family to England but home brought out the best in Brazil’s Jadel Gregorio in the Grande Premio Brasil/Caixa de Atletismo.

Gregorio’s South American record of 17.90m for the Triple Jump in this Grand Prix meeting would survive the season as the world’s longest distance. It is the farthest jumped since Jonathan Edwards, the World record holder, recorded 17.92m to win the 2001 World title.

The record to fall was the longstanding mark of 17.89m set at altitude by Joao Carlos de Oliveira in 1975. Another Brazilian jumper, Keila Costa, won the women’s Long Jump. Her 6.88m was the second best in history by a South American, albeit some way behind Maurren Maggi’s 7.26m, set at altitude in 1999.

Hengelo, Netherlands
26 May

A record 10 athletes in one race broke 27:15 for 10,000m in the Thales FBK-Games, including, in fifth place, Haile Gebrselassie (26:52.81).

Gebrselassie came out of retirement from track racing for this Grand Prix meeting, and to smash the 20,000m and one hour World records in Ostrava on 27 June, only to return to the marathon in September with a World record in Berlin. The 10,000m here, where Gebrselassie broke the World record twice in the 1990s, was won by his fellow Ethiopian, Sileshi Sihine (26:48.73), while 2003 World 5000m champion, Kenya’s Eliud Kipchoge, recorded 26:49.02 for second place in his track debut at the distance.

A capacity 18,000 crowd also saw a Dutch victory in the Shot by Rutger Smith (20.85m) and world bests for the year by Kenya’s Paul Kipsiele Koech in the 3000m Steeplechase (8:01.05) and Ethiopia’s Gelete Burka in the women’s 5000m (14:38.18). Irving Saladino, from Panama, equalled the year’s best men’s Long Jump (8.53m) into a 1.2mps wind.

New York, United States
2 June

In the Icahn Stadium, on Randall’s Island, Tyson Gay played a major role in ensuring that the Reebok Grand Prix stamped its name on the athletics map after being elevated to IAAF Grand Prix status. Gay ran marginally quicker than the men’s 100m World record assisted by a similarly marginal illegal tailwind. Having recorded 9.79 (+2.5) two weeks earlier, Gay recorded 9.76 - the World record stood at 9.77 at the time – with +2.2 wind. Yet it still took the American the best part of 70m to shake off Derrick Atkins, of the Bahamas (9.83).

The sprints and hurdles were strong almost throughout the programme.

Wallace Spearmon, Gay’s training partner and fellow American, clocked 19.82 to win the 200m, Veronica Campbell, from Jamaica, won the women’s 100m, in 10.93, while Allyson Felix, third in the 100m (11.01) behind Campbell and Torri Edwards (10.96), won the 400m in 50.53. Liu Xiang recorded his fourth sub 13 seconds time in the 110m Hurdles (12.92) while Terrence Trammell, of the United States, beat the barrier too (12.95) to move up to eighth fastest all time.

Eugene, United States
10 June

A capacity 13,000 spectators at Hayward Field for the Prefontaine Classic were rewarded for braving the chill and light rain by witnessing the fastest Mile seen in the United States. Daniel Kipchirchir Komen took the Bowerman Mile at this Grand Prix meeting in 3:48.28, beating the athlete who would become the star of the World Championships, in Osaka, less than three months later. Komen defeated Osaka 1500/5000m winner Bernard Lagat by more than two seconds to surpass the previous all-comers’ mark (3:49.92) set by Hicham El Guerrouj in 2001.

Australia’s Craig Mottram ran the quickest two miles in history by an athlete from outside Africa (8:03.50), moving into third place behind a different Daniel Komen and Haile Gebrselassie. Tariku Bekele, Kenenisa’s younger brother, chased Mottram home to go fourth all-time (8:04.83). In third place, Matt Tegenkamp beat Alan Webb’s US record with 8:07.07. The crowd got their local hero as Nick Symmonds, a resident of Eugene, beat Olympic champion Yuriy Borzakovskiy to win the 800m in a personal best 1:44.54.

Maria Mutola scored an extraordinary 15th successive Prefontaine victory, taking the 800m in 1:58.33. A fabulous line-up for the men’s 200m brought together Asafa Powell, Jeremy Wariner, Shawn Crawford, Xavier Carter and Wallace Spearmon. However, a strong headwind prevented a fast race. The top 100m man may be have been facing the top 400m runner but it was the 200m specialists who prevailed, Carter winning in 20.23, with Spearmon second (20.25), Powell third (20.55) and Wariner sixth (20.78).

Ostrava, Czech Republic
27 June

There is no keeping Haile Gebrselassie out of the headlines for long. As a forerunner to the great Ethiopian breaking the Marathon World record in Berlin on 30 September, he proved in the 46th Ziatra Tetra-Golden Spike Grand Prix that he still has what it takes on the track. From his 26:52.81 for 10,000m on his return to track racing in Hengelo in May, it was clear that he was on form - and the full extent of that form was demonstrated here in the Mestsky Stadium.

Gebrselassie dismantled the World records for 20,000m and one hour. Both had been held by Mexican Arturo Barrios since 1991. Barrios’s marks were 56:55.6 and 21,101m. Now, courtesy of Gebrselassie, they stand at 56:25.98 and 21,285m. On his own from 12 kilometres onwards, the 34-year-old Gebrselassie also set a World track best for 10 Miles (45:23.80).

Although Meseret Defar recorded another good 5000m victory (14:30.18), 12 days after setting a World record 14:16.63 in the Golden League meeting in Oslo, the Ethiopians did not have things all their way. Craig Mottram defeated Tariku Bekele in a closely fought 5000m, in which the Australian recorded 13:04.97. For home fans, there was a Czech record in the women’s Pole Vault as Katerina Badurova cleared 4.66m for second place behind Russia’s World record holder Yelena Isinbayeva.

David Powell for the IAAF

Click here for Part TWO (July to September)