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Ceplak defeats Graf and smashes World Record – High Five for Feofanova

Ceplak defeats Graf and smashes World Record – High Five for Feofanova
Sean Wallace-Jones for the IAAF
3 March 2002 – Vienna, Austria – It was time for the race that most of the Austrian population had been waiting for, but few in the packed Ferry Dusika Hallenstadion here in Vienna would have predicted the outcome. Austria’s darling Stephanie Graf was lining up against 5 athletes in the final of the women’s 800 metres, but this was really a two women race, with only Jolanda Ceplak from Slovenia able to challenge the Austrian powerhouse.

And that it just what Ceplak did – and more.

Going straight into the lead at the gun, Ceplak led Graf around the track until the two leaders came into the back straight, when Graf started to move out, gradually pushing past the Slovenian and leading into the final bend, but as the two cam into the home straight with Graf narrowly in the lead, the unexpected happened. Ceplak started to come back and powering towards the line edged ahead of Graf to beat the Austrian for the line and set a new world record of 1 minute 55.82 seconds, demolishing Christine Wachtel’s (GDR) record of 1:56.40 set in this very stadium on 13 February 1988.

Graf had to settle for silver and a new national record for Austria of 1:55.85.

A delighted Ceplak said afterwards: “I gave everything I had, as I understood that I was getting close to the world record and that was my main goal. I was really shaking because the crowd was cheering for Graf.

“A fast race was convenient for both of us, so I went for it telling myself ‘if I die, I die.’ All the hard work I have done this winter finally paid off.”

Graf was gracious in defeat: “It was a perfect race, I took the lead 100 metres before the finish, but Jolanda was physically better today.

“We made a big show for the fans, both under the world record. Now this is my third silver  - the consequence is: I have to change my manager.” (Both Ceplak and Graf are managed by Robert Wagner).

The Ceplak effect played over into the men’s 800 metres, as the man the commentator had described as “Switzerland’s Stephanie Graf” , Andre Bucher lived up to the nickname today, suffering a surprise defeat in the final metres at the hands of Polish runner Pawel Czapiewski.

Opening the race in his characteristic frontrunning style, Bucher was way out in front of the rest of the field for most of the race. But as he came out of the final bend, Czapiewski had broken away from the middle of the pack and was powering in pursuit of Bucher.

Bucher sensed something was happening as the crowd started to roar, but it was too late, Czapiewski drew level on Bucher’s outside and eased past the young Swiss who had nothing in reserve to resist the unexpected attack.

Czapiewski set a new competition record with his winning time of 1:44.78, Bucher set a new national record for Switzerland with his time of 1:44.93, as did bronze medallist Antonio Reina for Spain with 1:45.25. Right in the back of the field, sixth-placed David Fiegen set his second national record of the championships for tiny Luxembourg with his time in the final of 1:47.44 bettering his semi final time, itself a NR of 1:47.81.

For Czapiewski it was a dream come true: “I thought that I might have had a chance to beat Andre in a slow race, but to win today running with such a fast time when he forced the pace, I can’t quite believe it yet, a dream!

“200 metres from the finish I still thought that he would win, but by 100 metres I knew that Andre was starting to fade and at that point I knew that gold was in my hands.

“This is turning into quite a championships of gold medals for Poland.”

Bucher expressed his disappointment at the result: ”I am very disappointed because I did everything perfectly. I ran a Swiss record, my first time under 1:45, but he was not to be beaten today. Perhaps the first 400m were too fast, then I missed my power in the final sprint.”

Russia’s Svetlana Feofanova lived up to expectations as she continued her record setting run with a fifth successive world record in the women’s pole vault in just 28 days. The diminutive 21-year old cleared 4.75 metres with her first attempt, and though the bar trembled as she brushed lightly on the way down, it stayed up there and Feofanova added another centimetre increment to the record progression.

Silver medallist Yvonne Buschbaum (GER) cleared 4.65 (a national record), before two successive failures at 4.70 and one failed attempt at 4.75. Bronze went to Poland’s Monika Pyrek with a third attempt clearance at 4.60, also a national record, before three failures at 4.65.

Feofanova started her record collection in Stuttgart on 3 February with 4.71 metres

In the first of this afternoon’s finals, the women’s 400 metres, Natalya Antyukh of Russia took gold for Russia after Great Britain’s Catherine Murphy ran out of steam coming off the final bend.

Murphy had gone out fast at the gun and had led the field through the first 300 metres only to be caught first by Antyukh and then the rest of the field as her speed dropped off around the last curve. Murphy finally crossed the line in last place before dropping to the track completely out of resources. Antyukh crossed the line in 51.65, with silver going to Germany’s Claudia Marx of Germany (52.15) and Karen Shinkins of Ireland taking bronze in 52.17.

The 2000 world junior champion in the 400 metre hurdles, Marek Plawgo, surprised himself as he set a new competition record with his winning time of 45.39 in the men’s 400 metres final, bettering the record he had set in his semi final heat with 45.49.  “I never expected to run so fast this indoor season. I would not have dreamt about my times and this gold medal in Vienna. A championship record!

“Hopefully this means that my hurdling times will improve this summer too.”

The men’s 400 will probably qualify as one of the competitions where the most national records were broken, with silver medallist Jimisola Laursen establishing a new national record in his first round heat, another in the semi final and a third with his time of 45.59 in the final. “I missed the gold, but I could not feel happier,” he said. “I never got a medal in nay championships before so it’s my biggest achievement. I’m really pleased with the time as I managed to run under 46 seconds.”

Ioan Vieru of Romania set new national records in his first round race and in his semi-final heat (45.94). He failed to match Laursen’s progression however in the final, crossing the line in 46.17. “My coach told me I was ready to run 46.60 in Vienna and on the first day I ran 46.19,” recounted Vieru. “Then I ran 45.94, which was even more of a surprise. The I suddenly thought that I would be capable of a medal here and in some way this bronze is a little disappointing as I did not run so fast today. But of course I am still very pleased with my improvement here in Vienna.”

Jason Gardener and British teammate Mark Lewis-Francis redeemed some of the standing of British sprinters as they took gold and silver in the men’s 60 metre finals. Defending champion Gardener equalled the competition record with his winning time of 6.49, Lewis-Francis crossed the line in 6.55 and bronze medallist Anatoliy Dovgal (UKR) ran 6.62.

In the women’s race, Belgium’s Kim Gevaert equalled the national record she had set in her first round heat as she took gold with a time of 7.16. Marina Kislova of Russia won silver  with a time of 7.18 in second place and Georgia Kokloni from Greece won the bronze medal in 7.22.

Marta Dominguez further strengthened the Spanish medal haul, when she won the women’s 3000 metres in 8:53.87. Dominguez dominated the race from start to finish, leading the field through 1000 metres in 3:09.48 and through 2000m in 6:05.56. Despite the race favourite, Carla Sacramento (POR), making a spirited attempt to take the lead in the final lap, Dominguez held her off to the line, finishing just 9 tenths of a second ahead of the Portuguese athlete. Dominguez, 28, won her first European indoor gold after three bronzes in past editions. Yelena Zadorozhnaya (RUS) was third in 8:58.36.

In the other distance event of today’s competition, Yekaterina Puzanova ran a personal best time of 4:06.30 to take the highest step of the podium ahead of Elena Iagar (ROM – 4:06.90) and Alesya Turova (BLR – 4:07.69) in the women’s 1500 metres.

In the men’s triple jump competition, yet another championships record was equalled when Sweden’s Christian Olsson bounded 17.54 metres in his first round attempt, setting a standard that the rest of the field were unable to match throughout the competition. Silver went to Marian Oprea of Romania with 17.22 and bronze to Aleksandr Glavatskiy from Belarus.

Sweden took gold again in the final event of the last day of the championships, the men’s high jump, as Staffan Strand cleared 2.34 metres to beat his compatriot Stefan Holm ((2.30) for the highest step of the podium. Third place on countback went to Yaroslav Rybakov (RUS), who also cleared 2.30 metres but had had more unsuccessful jumps during the competition.

The high jump competition was carried out in the intervals between the running of the two 4x400 metre relays, where two new competition records were set, first in the women’s race, with Belarus running 3:32.24 for their sole gold of this championships and in the men’s event, where Poland clocked up another gold medal with their winning time of 3:05.50.