Team Europe took its first men’s World Cup since Rome in 1981 here in the Athens Olympic stadium tonight, finishing four points ahead of the USA, while Russia secured the women’s overall standings.
How the Cup points played out
Olympic and European champion Andreas Thorkildsen of Norway, throwing for Europe, put the result almost beyond doubt when he won the men’s Javelin Throw to give the continental team an eight-point lead over the USA with only the 4x400 metres relay to go.
The USA got four of those points back when Darold Williamson stormed home to a wafer-thin 0.03 second win over The Americas, with Europe fifth. Africa, chasing a fifth straight men’s title, was 20 points behind the USA in third.
Russia retained the women’s title it won for the first time in Madrid four years ago, also making a decisive break in the second-last event when Liliya Shobukhova’s second-pace behind Meseret Defat of Africa in the 5000 metres gained four precious points over Sabrina Mockenhaupt who finished sixth for Europe. Third against fourth in the 4x400 made it a nine-point final margin. The Americas finished third.
Oceania secures three, and Bekele is defeated in the process
As the giants battled for the spoils, however, it was a day for minnows in the Olympic stadium. Oceania, with just four wins in nine previous editions of the World Cup, picked up three in one day through team captains Craig Mottram and Valerie Vili in the 3000 metres and Shot Put, respectively, and Steve Hooker in the Pole Vault.
Mottram already had one of those four precious Oceania victories, marking his breakthrough to top international class with his win in the 3000 metres in Madrid.
After an up-and-down season in Europe, Mottram arrived in Athens confident of putting up a strong defence of his title. That confidence was dented a little when Kenenisa Bekele swapped from the 5000 into the 3000.
Nothing in the manner in which Bekele led for four laps in just over four minutes suggested what was to come. Even when Mottram moved into the lead coming up to 2000 metres, Bekele still looked serene and supreme.
Three hundred metres out jaws started sagging with surprise, however, as the big Australian powered away to win in a national, Oceania and World Cup record 7:32.19. Now he has two out of seven Oceania wins.
Double for Shaheen…Johnson takes upset win over Xiang
Saif Saaeed Shaheen completed a 5000 metres/steeple double and Allen Johnson upset world record holder Liu Xiang in the 110 metres hurdles, but nothing could top Mottram’s win.
Richards’ day again
In women’s track, it was Sanya Richards day again. They say she is not yet a 200 metre runner. Well ‘they’ may just have to revise that point of view after Richards blitzed to a 0.49 second victory in the women’s event, her 22.23 relegating European 100/200 champion Kim Gevaert to a distant second.
Richards finished second in the World Athletic Final 200 last week to her compatriot Allyson Felix, the reigning World champion, and ahead of World Cup 100 winner Sherone Simpson. Adding today’s win, it’s pretty good company for a 400 specialist to be keeping. She did not run in the long relay, in which the Americas beat the USA.
Thorkildsen lock’s up event and Cup for Europe
Andreas Thorkildsen has had an enthralling battle with Finland’s Tero Pitkämäki for the world number one spot in the Javelin over the last two seasons. Without his arch-rival here, he did what he had to do for his team, producing an 87.17 metre effort on his first throw to virtually lock up the event.
His second throw of 83.70 was also superior to the best by the rest, 83.62 by Gerhardus Pienaar of South Africa and Africa, and he added an 83.29 for good measure. Three of the best four throws in the competition and clinching the World Cup for your team is not a bad day’s work.
Defar goes solo
Meseret Defar was another athlete who could not have been blamed for feeling a little lonely. Defar has had a series of epic battles with her teammate Tirunesh Dibaba this year, depriving her of a six win and an extra US$125,000 share of the IAAF Golden League Jackpot, losing by a hundredth of a second in the World Athletic Final in the most recent two 5ks But then winning the 3000 on the second day of the Final.
With the World Cup format of one per team per event, Defar ran the 5000 here and Dibaba the 3000. Dibaba had Oceania’s Eloise Wellings to thank for a decent pace in the 3000 on day one; Defar did it in magnificent isolation in the 5000m today.
Ahead by 20 metres after a lap, Defar continued to grind out a solo tempo only she and a handful of others have managed in combination this year. Successive kilometres went by in 2:54.25, 2:59.83, 2:58.16 and 2:59.38 before she sped through the last in 2:48.49 to win by a ‘country mile’ in a World Cup record 14:39.11.
One great Ethiopian may have bitten the dust this day; Defar made darned sure it was not going to be two.
Len Johnson (The Age) for the IAAF
Click here to read Reports of ALL (20) Events contested today in Athens at the 10th IAAF World Cup in Athletics