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General News Doha

History is made in the magnificent Khalifa Stadium

History is made in the magnificent Khalifa Stadium

After 15 centuries of male supremacy, Michelle Freeman struck a blow for women's rights when she won the first women's international race ever permitted in the Gulf State of Qatar.

The significance of Michelle Freeman's victory in the 100m hurdles, was more than a matter of tenths or hundredths of a second simply because eight women, from six nations, had not just been clearing barriers but breaking them down . The 20,000 crowd in the magnificent Khalifa Stadium whistled and clapped Freeman on her victory lap. Although the Jamaican had been an emphatic winner in 12.72 the real winner had been the Athletic Movement thanks to the initiative shown last year by IAAF President Primo Nebiolo, who insisted that women be allowed to compete alongside the men.

Yet the women were not content just to show up. There were some excellent results too, like Beverly McDonald's 10.99 in the 100m - a new personal best for the burly sprinter with only the hint of a breeze (+0.7mps) helping her along. There was also Romania's Ionela Tirlea who claimed the scalp of World silver medallist Sandie Richards in the 400m and Olympic 400m hurdles champion Deon Hemmings who was also contesting the flat race but finished last in 53.09 - slower than her best over hurdles of 52.82. Kenya's Jackline Maranga won the 1500m to complete a successful and multi-faceted few months: in March she won team gold at the World Cross Championships, in April she won an individual silver at the World Road Relay Championships and tonight a track honour - truly a woman for all seasons.

110 m hurdles world record holder Colin Jackson, got his season off to the worst possible start when he crashed out of his debut race at the very first hurdle. Jackson, who had earlier spoken of his desire to combine hurdling with long jumping (he wants to break the UK record of 8.23) was out of the blocks fast but hit the first obstacle so hard that he went down like a sack of cement. "I was much too close to the hurdle'" said Jackson. "But it was first race of the season and can only get better.

Earlier, Jackson had said he was unhappy about the type of heavy endurance training he had been doing recently and believed it would slow him down. "With the right speed training I could run 13.1 but I don't expect more than 13.3 tonight. I'll blame my coach if I ran badly." Malcolm Arnold will certainly get an earful now. With Jackson out, American Jack Pierce took first place in 13.37 with two countrymen behind Courtney Hawkins and the veteran Roger Kingdom, still competitive 14 years after winning his first Olympic title.

Olympic 100m champion Donovan Bailey seems to have put some disappointing recent results behind him as he powered to a convincing 10.07 victory tonight in Doha. The Canadian edged past his faster starting compatriot Bruny Surin at around the 70 metre point and, despite grimacing a little near the finish, had done enough to win.

Noureddine Morceli looked to have done just enough to earn a hard fought victory in the 1500m after a stirring duel with Kenya's William Tanui, until World Cross Country "short course" champion John Kibowen edged past in the final few metres. Kibowen warned he would try and break Morceli's world record this year and he has started the right way with this victory in 3:33.99.

America has found a new sprint star in Ramon Clay. Track nuts may recall he was a reserve for the 1996 Olympic Team but now he has finished his apprenticeship. Powerful and relaxed, Clay blew away a top class field to finish in 20.06 - more than four metres ahead of 1997 World Indoor Champion Kevin Little. Clay won three out of three races this winter in South Africa and will be a man to watch this summer.

World junior champion Faraj Mubarak Al-Nubi, brought the crowd to their feet with a bold display in the 400m hurdles. The lanky 23 year-old took the early lead only to fade in the home straight. Victory went to the American Bryan Bronson in 48.33 with Al-Nubi finishing fifth in 49.13 - not far off his personal best of 48.95.

With 6.0 metre vaulter Dimitry Markov failing three times at 5.50, Sergey Bubka faced the strongest competition from his own rusty technique.. Bubka, who admitted he preferred to start the season later, didn't enter the competition until the bar was at 5.60 and promptly knocked it off with his first attempt. But the "Czar" made up for that aberration by clearing on his second attempt, passing at 5.70 and 5.75 (by which time all his rivals had fouled their way out of the competiton) and soaring over 5.80 to win..

 Report by Nick Davies in Qatar