Birmingham, UKJustin Gatlin, the US 60m champion added World gold to his fast developing sprint reputation, in the process dashing the hopes of a home gold for the British duo of Jason Gardener and Mark-Lewis Francis, during the evening session of the first day’s competition at the 9th IAAF World Indoor Championships in Athletics, at the National Indoor Arena.
Also, in the spotlight tonight were Zhanna Block, who took the women’s 60m title in a world season best - 7.04 -, Spain’s Manuel Martinez who took a surprise last round win in the men’s Shot (21.24m), and of course the athlete of the entire day, Sweden’s Carolina Kluft, who set a Championship record (4933 pts) in the women’s Pentathlon.
To the delight and noise of the crowd, the two Brits Lewis-Francis (6.55, heat 2) and Gardener (6.54, heat 3) were semi-final heat winners in the 60m, with Gatlin taking the other heat win (6.56), so the pre-final billing couldn’t have been much closer.
In the final it was Kim Collins (SKN) the Commonwealth100m champion who got away the quickest, running in lane two. However, within 20 metres it was Gatlin who cruised into the lead and was never headed, crossing the line in 6.46. Collins kept his shape through to the tape for the silver (6.53), with Gardener, the double European 60m champion taking bronze (6.55).
“I feel like a rookie, the start was the key to the race,” confirmed Gatlin. “…I kept my mind clear on the start line – I knew that if I was to think about the race, then it would get to me. I just wanted to go out there and execute the race to the best of my ability.”
In the women’s 60m, Block was very much the most fluent runner in the semis (heat 2), with a world season’s lead of 7.08. Merlene Ottey (heat 1) was also showing solid form with a new national record for her adopted Slovenia (7.17). Austria’s Karin Mayr was also flying with 7.18 in the tightest of the three heats, in which three women followed her home with a 7.19 clocking.
The final was about one person, and one person only. While sentiment pointed to another win for 42 year-old Merlene Ottey, reality said Ukraine’s Zhanna Block, and so it turned out to be, with a dominant gun-to-finish solo win by Block. Her 7.04 clocking was the fastest of this international indoor season, and in the World Champion's wake, America took silver and bronze – Angela Williams 7.16 and Torri Edwards 7.17 (PB).
“I cannot describe just what I’m feeling. I have never won a World Indoor Championships before,” said Block, whose only other medal at these Championships was a bronze back in 1993. “The time does not surprise me…I was expecting to finish around 7.05 – 7.03. As I’m not an indoor specialist this result opens up the prospect of a great summer season.”
John Godina, the men’s Shot champion from 2001 was lucky to make it into the last three rounds of the final, having fouled out over the right hand side of the sector on his first two puts of the competition. However, his third round attempt of 21.23m both secured the American’s advance to the final three throws, and established a lead over Spain’s Manuel Martinez (21.14m - second round) and Ukraine’s European outdoor champion Yuriy Bilonog (21.13 – first round).
That’s how the positions stood until the final round, with only Finland’s Olympic champion Arsi Harju seeming to threaten the top three places with fourth (20.96) and fifth (20.90) round puts which peppered the 21m tape on the landing sector.
Godina, who had continued his erratic series with another two fouls in rounds four and five, was putting last by virtue of being the halfway leader and had the misery of watching Martinez sail his shot one centimetre further than his lead with his sixth attempt – 21.24. Martinez lifted his arms in celebration, and it was not to be a premature gesture, as Godina was way short with a last 20.66m heave, which for once in this final landed centrally in the sector. The gold was Spain’s, their first at the World Indoors since the World Games of 1985 in Paris (Coloman Tradado, 800m). Third place remained with Bilonog’s 21.13m first round effort.
In the women’s Pentathlon, Swedish sensation Carolina Kluft continued where she had left off at the end of the morning session, by setting a fourth consecutive personal best when jumping 6.61m in the Long Jump, which kept her on course (4048pts) for a shot at the World record (4991pts). In the fourth event, France’s Marie Collonville went into third position, thanks to a 6.40m PB of her own (3752pts), with defending champion Natalya Sazanovich remaining second (3959pts).
The World record was not to be, despite a game attempt by Kluft who still seemed on course at the halfway mark (65.67) of the 800m. By the bell the Swede was faltering and was passed by Collonville, who went on to win the event in 2:15.06 to establish a new French record of 4644 points. Kluft clung on remarkably well given such an exhausting day to finish second (2:15.58), taking the overall competition gold in a new championships record of 4933 points. Sazanovich was a brave but well beaten second with 4715 points – 800m 2:25.04.
“I had a chance for the record (world indoor) and I knew that I had to try and get it,” said Kluft, “but I’m still young. I can try another time.”
The first heat of the men’s 400m brought the first pitched battle of these championships as the reigning World Indoor champion and favourite Daniel Caines of Britain, and USA Champion Tyree Washington bumped and bashed themselves into the semi-final stage, with the Briton taking the advantage 45.85 to the American’s 45.90. This was more than just a physical battle, it was a matter of mental dominance too, with thoughts focused way beyond tomorrow’s semi-final to Sunday’s gold medal confrontation.
However, new Australian super hero Daniel Batman may yet make his powers tell on the outcome of the 400m title (46.11, 4th heat), as could 1999 World Indoor champion Jamie Baulch (46.44, 3rd heat), and David Canal (46.39, 2nd heat) the European silver medallist from 2002, as they were also impressive heat winners. The final is set to be one of the toughest confrontations of these Championships.
Yet if the head to head battle in the first heat of the men’s 400m was the best contest, the women’s 200m semis threw up the best standards in the preliminary round, as the season’s world lead which had stood at 22.59 at the beginning of the afternoon, was first reduced by Muriel Hurtis to 22.49, and then updated again by USA’s Michelle Collins who ran 22.31.to win her semi.
Defending champion Shawn Crawford set a season’s best of 20.50 in the men’s 200m semi-final round, the fastest of the three heats. Well, so it initially seemed but on closer examination of the race video it was confirmed that Crawford had stepped out of his lane on the final bend, and so was disqualified.
Rui Silva of Portugal was another reigning champion who was unfortunate, as he finished third in a blanket finish in his 1500m heat (3:48.41), just two hundredths of a second off the second automatic qualification spot, and so will not appear in Saturday’s final to defend his World crown.
Another 2001 World gold medallist had better luck, Sweden’s Stefan Holm in the men’s High Jump made it through to his final with a 2.25 qualification leap.
There were also no surprises for Wilson Kipketer of Denmark the World indoor and outdoor record holder at 800m, who eased through his first round 800m qualification heat (1:48.47).
Ethiopia secured wins in both the women’s 3000m heats from Berhane Adere (8:53.64 – heat one) and double World Junior champion Meseret Defar (8:49.80 – heat two).
All the qualifiers for the men’s Pole Vault final came from Group B, with the exception of Viktor Chistiakov who won the first qualification pool with 5.60. Rens Blome (NED), Vasiliy Gorshkov (RUS) and Tim Lobinger (GER) were the best of the seven 5.65m automatic qualifiers from the second group.
NB. Terrence Trammell injured in this morning’s heats of the men’s 60m, announced later that he had now withdrawn from the 60m Hurdles and so will play no further part at these championships.
For detailed event reports go to –