Linet Chepkwemoi Masai of Kenya celebrates winning the gold medal in the women's 10,000m (Getty Images) © Copyright
General News 15 August 2009 – Berlin, Germany

Berlin 2009 - Day 1 SUMMARY - 15 Aug

15 August 2009Berlin, GermanyMove over Usain Bolt, Tyson Gay, and you other assorted speedsters. Your time will come on Sunday. Because one of the coolest pieces of tactical running in a distance race in a generation resulted in Linet Masai of Kenya edging the heavily favoured Ethiopians, and winning the women’s 10,000m with a prolonged sprint. So late was Masai’s decisive run for the line that Meselech Melkamu, who had disposed of colleague Meseret Defar with 30 metres to run, threw her hands up a metre or two from the line, ignoring that Masai, two lanes outside her was hijacking the victory, in 30:51.24.

The slowish time was perhaps due to two factors, firstly that most of the favourites are running the 5000m later in the week, secondly the fact that at trackside it seemed considerably warmer than the advertised 27C.

Ethiopians and Kenyans were content to let Japanese and Russians take the early intiative, with the US trio featuring highly. Then Masai, who had been loping along, dangerously it seemed, at the back of the huge pack decided enough was enough. Within half a lap, with eight to go to, she eased from around 20th to first. And the race was on.

The first casualty was Olympic silver medallist, Elvan Abeylegesse of Turkey, who dropped out with seven to go, as Masai led Melkamu, Defar, their colleague, Wude Ayelew, and the second Kenyan, Grace Momanyi further and further clear.

Ayelew was labouring at the back of that group, but bravely stayed in contention, and there was the inevitable and probably universal belief that the long loping strides of Masai and Momanyi were not going to favour them when the shorter Ethiopians unfolded their explosive finishes. But, after successive kilometres well outside three minutes, three in succession well inside was taking its toll.

Sure enough, Defar and Melkamu surged to the front with 300 metres to run, but Masai in particular hung in, and the Ethiopians pursuing their own private elbow to elbow struggle were unaware that Masai’s long legs were suddenly loping very quickly indeed. She had made the race, and then won it, for a thoroughly deserved victory. Melkamu, who quickly put her arms down, was second in 30:51.34, Ayelew was third in 30:51.95, Momanyi was fourth, and Defar who relaxed completely when she saw she couldn’t win was well out of the medals in fifth.

Borchin’s championship momentum continues

Earlier in the day, the first favourite of the championships won in fine style, when Valery Borchin took the 20k Walk, in 1:18.41. For much of the race he was pressed by Wang Hao of China (who’ll be 20 years old on Sunday), and by Eder Sanchez of Mexico. But Borchin, still only 22 himself, broke away with two kilometres to go, and ended up 25sec ahead of Wang, who set a personal best of 1:19.06, with Sanchez third in 1:19.22, thus becoming the first Mexican to win a medal since Edmonton 2001.

The decision to finish the walks (like the marathons) at the Brandenburg Gate seems to have paid dividends. Thousands of people (who may not be able to make it to the stadium) lined the route, and many of them were assembled down the Unter den Linden, effectively the finishing straight, since the famous street leads to the Gate itself. When Borchin crossed the line shortly after 2pm, the temperature had risen to 26 degrees.

In dramatic shot showdown, Cantwell comes through

Polish supporters on the way to the stadium had few doubts who would win the men’s shot. Their T-shirts with a cartoon of Tomaz Majewski in Superman pose told the story. And when Majewski threw first 21.68m in the fourth round, to dislodge Christian Cantwell of the US from the lead, then followed it up with 21.91m in the fifth, a world title to go with Olympic gold looked almost certain for the Pole. But Cantwell had other ideas. He responded with a world leading 22.03m, dislodging Majewski both from the lead and the season’s best of 21.95m that the Pole had thrown two weeks ago. ‘SuperTom’ couldn’t respond in the final round, and the gold was Cantwell’s. Ralf Bartels got the biggest cheer of the night for the first German medal, a bronze with a personal best 21.37m.

Quick quarters

Wth Asafa Powell on 9.95sec, Tyson Gay on 9.98sec, and Michael Rodgers, Daniel Bailey, Usain Bolt, Dwain Chambers, Darvis Patton, Richard Thompson and Michael Frater all under 10.10sec in second round heats, Sunday’s semi’s and final look like being a blast.

Powell caused a few flutters when, having blasted out of his blocks in his first round heat in exemplary fashion, and building up a handy lead, he throttled back so much, he only just snatched the third automatic qualifying place. As things turned out, he would still have qualified as a fastest loser, but with such a poor championship record, it was hardly an inspiring start.

Powell rectified matters in the second round. He didn’t get a good start, but rocketed through the next 60 metres, to the day’s fastest time. Despite two poor starts in both races, Gay returned the second fastest, while Bolt let his training partner, Bailey take victory in their heat.

Ennis on cruise control

Jessica Ennis got off to a flying start in the Heptathlon, clocking 12.93sec in the hurdles, and barely looked back. The Briton was also the only competitor over 1.92m in the High Jump, then recorded a personal best of 14.14m in the shot. Although Olympic champion Nataliya Dobrynska inevitably retrieved points in the shot, with 15.82m, Ennis then ran a season’s best of 23.25sec in the 200m to end the first day on 4124 points, over 300 ahead of Dobrysnka.

Pat Butcher for the IAAF