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The Dawn of a new era

Dawn of a new era
By IAAF correspondent

IF Sydney ruined an American dream, Lisbon create one in a long jump competition which saved its best to last.

Dawn Burrell may be best known as the brother of Leroy, the former 100 metres world record-holder, but she climbed out of the sandpit and out of his shadows with a personal best leap in the last round to win the gold medal, the first major title of her career.

Burrell, 27, took over as world leader with her clearance of 7.03m--the first time she has broken the seven metres barrier indoors and out.

And she could not hide her delight, dancing around the track, jumping about in the bowels of the main stand as she left the arena and with a permanent grin which was so wide it could have stretched from Portugal all the way to Philadelphia.

It was there that Burrell honed the skills which had the crowd at the Atlantico Pavilion captivated as she overcame a field including Olympic champion Heike Dreschler.

In Sydney, Dreschler's delight was despair for American Marion Jones. As the German turned back the clock then to win gold, her victory ended Jones bid for five Olympic titles at one Games.

By the end of the fifth round, Burrell had created a pattern of looking at the electronc scoreboard and rimacing as she failed to edge any higher than third place with jumps of 6.67m, 6.83m, 6.08m, 6.69m and a failure.

Italy's Fiona May took the lead in the first round with 6.87m before Russian Tatyana Kotova took over with 6.88m in round two, a distance she extended to 6.94m in round four.

But with her last attempt, Burrell composed herself, took a few extra seconds longer than usual in her rhythmical swaying before finding an extra injection of speed and landing like never before.

When the figure of 7.03m flashed up, she could not believe it.

"I knew I was capable of a seven metres jump but you never expect it to happen like it has today," she said.

"I had to dig deep for that jump. It was tough crowd, a tough competition with the world's best here, jumps close to seven metres and I knew I would have to hit that to win.

"In my last competition in Europe, in Halle in Germany, I strained my back and I was not even sure I was going to be competing here. I was thankful to be here and I am now delighted with the outcome.

"Leroy and I are close though I still have to achieve a bit more in my career to match what he has done. But you have to start somewhere and you never know, one day I might be in the record books like him. Naturally he has been an inspiration but you cannot go out there thinking I have to match him because it cannot work tt way."

If Burrell needed a barometer to measure her triumph, Kotova, who took silver, had achieved a season's best as did Dreschler who was fifth with 6.75m.

Not her title this time but the start of a new era perhaps with a familiar name at the helm.