Large crowds flocked to first day of the 10th IAAF World Championships in Athletics. Nearly 65,000 people attended the opening day's sessions according to official figures released by the organisers.
The figures showed that 31,176 attended the morning session at Helsinki's historic Olympic Stadium, while the evening session, including the prestigious Opening Ceremony attended by dignitaries including Lamine Diack (SEN), IAAF President, and Jacques Rogge (BEL), the President of the International Olympic Committee, drew 32,730.
It’s been close to 30 years since Finland had a great 10,000 metres runner, when Lasse Viren won the second of his Olympic ‘doubles’ in Montreal 1976. But even as temperatures plummeted in the 1952 Olympic Stadium on the evening of Day One, the only stirring that any of the capacity crowd was doing was getting to their feet to applaud the women’s 25 lap race.
And they saw a finish that was reminiscent of Viren at his best. The first glimmering of the pile of gold that the Ethiopians have mined in recent years began immediately after Viren, when Miruts Yifter ‘The Shifter’ won the same double in Moscow 1980. Old Miruts had a fine turn of speed, and so has his young compatriot, double World Cross Country champion, Tirunesh Dibaba.
She used it to good effect, to run away from defending champion, Berhane Adere, and her elder sister, Elegayehu Dibaba on the last lap. But the last kilometre had been run in 2:48.43, and the younger Dibaba covered the final 400 metres in just over 58 seconds to take her third major gold of the year. And what price the 5000 metres?
The Ethiopians were always going to be the quartet to beat, but there was much interest in, and no small criticism of Paula Radcliffe’s participation. Even former champions had criticised the Briton’s decision to run both the 10,000 metres and the Marathon, the more so since she had dropped out of both races in Athens. But critics forgot that running a 10,000m, usually on the road is standard practice a week before a big Marathon.
Radcliffe took the lead, as we all assumed she would do, and a group of 11 had detached itself from the rest after four laps. But the Briton’s metronomic pace was not worrying anyone, since the same group was still together and even bunching at halfway, in 15:16.29. Kayoko Fukushi of Japan took the lead shortly afterwards, as did the Kenyans, Edith Masai and Irene Kwambai, and finally Paris silver medallist Sun Yingjie of China.
But the Ethiopans were just biding their time. They took control with three to go, with Olympic champion, Xing Huina of China the only one to muster any challenge. But it was too little too late. The Ethiopians were just preparing their charge to the top of the rostrum.
Men’s Shot Put
The Shot was one of the great competitions in the Olympic Games in Athens, the more so since it was held in ancient Olympia. There cannot have been a better contest in the Ancient games. Yuri Belonog of Ukraine beat Adam Nelson of the USA on the countback, ie his second best put was further than Nelson’s after they both threw 21.16 metres.
Nelson was determined to make amends, and opened with a season’s best of 21.73 metres, to lead after the first round. His pugnacious celebrations must have put off his opponents, because they couldn’t get close to him. Thus, after so many silver medals – two Olympic, one outdoor, one indoor – the shortest man in the field had finally hit the mother lode.
With European, World and Olympic gold in successive years, Carolina Klüft of Sweden had to be Heptathlon favourite in neighbouring Finland. But the return to form and fitness of 1999 World champion, Eunice Barber of France lent extra significance to the competition. And Barber, who was born in Sierra Leone made her intentions clear from the start. She clocked 12.94 in one of her specialist events, the High Hurdles, to amass 1133 points, over 40 points ahead of Klüft. Barber turned the screw in the High Jump, with 1.91 metres, for another big score, 1119, while the Swede, favouring a slight ankle injury, could only manage 1.82m.
But the setbacks were not affecting Klüft’s habit of playing to the crowd and camera. And she used her greater height and bulk in the shot to record 15.02 metres, to Barber’s 13.20m, and she was back within 50 points of the former champion. A 23.70sec 200 metres into a headwind, to Barber’s 24.01 left the Swede a tantalising two points adrift at the end of Day One, and the rest of us anticipating a great contest for the gold on Sunday.
20km Race Walk
And what can we say about the remarkable comeback of Jefferson Perez, the 31-year-old Ecuadorian who dropped by the medallists in last summer’s Olympics made the latest of his many career comebacks to retain his World 20km crown despite a determined challenge from Spain’s Francisco Fernandez who had to settle for silver for the second world championships in succession.
After a below-par 2005 season, the 1996 Olympic champion proved once more that with the retirement of Robert Korzeniowski of Poland he is now world’s ultimate championship race walking performer.
Pat Butcher for the IAAF
Written coverage of the
10th IAAF World Championships in Athletics,
Helsinki, Finland (6 – 14 August)
on the IAAF Website:
‘Event by Event’ PREVIEWS and REPORTS
provided by the
Helsinki 2005 local organizing committee media team
FEATURES - Gold medal winners
As in Paris 2003, the IAAF's own team of writers will be producing a feature story/interview with every individual gold medallist crowned in Helsinki 2005. These stories will be published as soon as possible after each final in the main NEWS section
Daily Highlights - Preview and Wrap
A concise preview at the start and a wrap of the main highlights of the competition will also be a daily aspect of the IAAF website's coverage of the World Championships.
Dunaway's 'Helsinki Herald'
And our regular major championship columnist Jim Dunaway will again give his own unique view of some of the more bizarre or quirky aspects surrounding events at Helsinki 2005.
We hope you will enjoy our coverage.
IAAF Editorial Manager