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General News Closing report from Maebashi 99

Two double golds and two world relay records in Maebashi

Double golds for Szabo and Gebrselassie and 2 world record relays in Maebashi
Ed Gordon for the IAAF

7 March 1999, Maebashi  -The 7th IAAF World Indoor Championships came to a close on Sunday as Haile Gebreselassie of Ethiopia and Gabriela Szabo of Romania each scored double wins in the 1500 and 3000 metres during the three-day program.

Gebrselassie proved that he is indeed a man with a theatrical bent. Always entertaining in an interview, he found the means to extend his magic to the track with a stunning come-from-behind win in the 1500, clocking 3:33.77 for his second gold medal in the championships.

Kenyan William Tanui took the lead in the early stages, with the Ethiopian glued firmly to his shoulder. Right behind were Laban Rotich (KEN) and Rui Silva (POR), two potential spoilers for Geb's plans.

At the kilometer mark, Andres Diaz (ESP) ran wide, trapping Rotich momentarily. But the Kenyan decided the time had come to make a move, and he ran outside and into the lead with 400 metres left. Gebrselassie followed the fast tempo of Rotich for the next 350 metres before finally outkicking the Kenyan down the stretch for the dramatic win, covering the final 400 in 55.1. Rotich took the silver in 3:33.98, while Diaz (3:34.46) outdueled Tanui (3:34.77) for the last medal.

Gabriela Szabo showed no outward signs of having run both of the previous days, as she sprinted away from Zahra Ouaziz (MAR) for the 3000-metre crown (8:36.42). The two had staged a fast-paced duel after the first kilometer, with Ouaziz holding a one-step advantage during much of the time. But with 200 metres remaining, the Romanian went into her "victory gear", covering the final lap in 29.5. Ouaziz's silver-medal performance of 8:38.43 established a new African record.

During the penultimate circuit, Regina Jacobs (USA) moved permanently into third ahead of Violeta Szekely (ROM) and ran strongly into the finish for the bronze (8:39.14), a North American area record. Just as had been the case in the women's 1500 yesterday, when the first seven finishers established personal bests, the hot pace of today's 3000 pulled career bests from seven of the first eight women crossing the line (all but Szabo).

Maurice Greene (USA) added a world indoor title to his outdoor crown with a narrow win in the 60 metres. Greene and countryman Tim Harden were running virtually even with 10 metres left, but with a good lean, Greene was able to pull out a victory with a 6.42, as Harden clocked 6.43. Jason Gardener (GBR) followed the American pair closely into the finish to win the bronze (6.46), while fourth was claimed by an outsider to the sprinting fraternity, 20-year-old Matt Shirvington of Australia (6.52).

The three rounds of the women's 60 metres drew a trio of national records from Ekaterini Thanou, the final one being 6.96 which was good enough to capture the first world title for the Greek sprinter.
At the race's halfway mark, Thanou was running near the rear of the group, but with a powerful finish she overhauled the two Americans, Gail Devers (7.02) and Inger Miller (7.06), as they took the remaining medals.

A long winning streak came to a surprising end as Maria Mutola was defeated in the women's 800 metres. Until today, the Mozambique star had lost only one indoor race in her career, that being her initial competition on the boards at the 1992 Millrose Games in New York City. Since then, her victory string had stretched to 36 consecutive races.

The three-time world indoor champion took the lead from the gun, pulling Natalya Tsyganova (RUS) and Ludmila Formanova (CZE) away with her and leaving the others behind. The trio maintained close company for 750 metres before Formanova--a protegee of former world outdoor champion Jarmila Kratochvilova--moved out and surprised Mutola with 15 metres remaining for the win in a world-leading 1:56.90, the second-fastest performance ever. Mutola's second-place time was 1:57.17. Tsyganova stayed close throughout to claim the bronze in a superb 1:57.47, the all-time best for a third place and a Russian record.

The men's 800 was almost as surprising, as Wilson Kipketer (DEN) miscalculated his final sprint ever so slightly in his attempt to repeat as world champion. Nico Motchebon (GER) set the early pace, with Kipketer and Johan Botha (RSA) following closely.

Just after the midpoint, Motchebon and Botha turned up the heat and moved away from Kipketer by as much as five metres. With 100 left, Botha had a miniscule advantage over Motchebon with Kipketer still several steps behind.

Off the final turn, Kipketer put everything he had into his final sprint, covering the final 100 metres in 12.7, but the day belonged to the South African, who held on to win in 1:45.47 and finished his first-ever indoor season undefeated. At 1:45.49, Kipketer claimed the silver, with Motchebon taking third in 1:45.74.

Grit Breuer of Germany solidified her claim as the season's top female 400 runner, winning in a world-leading 50.80 to finish the year with an unblemished record and capture her first world indoor title. As usual, Breuer ran her opening 200 quickly (23.59) to lead at the break, with Fali Ogunkoya (NGR) right behind, where she remained through the remainder of the race for the silver medal (51.25). On the final backstretch, Ana Guevara (MEX) made a move into third and held that spot coming off the last turn, but the defending champion Jearl Miles-Clark (USA) came up and pipped her in the final metres for the bronze (51.45).

In the men's 400, Jamie Baulch appeared to make his job more difficult than necessary, as he ran conservatively over the first 120 metres. Coming into the break, it was clear he wanted the lead at the bell, but he had to sprint hard off the turn to get it from Bahamian Troy McIntosh (21.13). That move ultimately turned out to propel the Briton into supreme control over the last 200 metres as he ran smoothly into the tape for his win (45.73), a step up from his world indoor silver medal from 1997.

The battle for the other awards was developing three meters behind Baulch. Milton Campbell (USA) ran wide for the silver (45.99) and Alejandro Cardenas (MEX) slipped through on the inside for the bronze (46.02) just ahead of McIntosh (46.05).

Ashia Hansen (GBR), the world indoor record holder in the women's triple jump, secured her first gold medal in world competition with a first-attempt 15.02, the longest in the world this season. Coming so early in the event, the mark served as a target for the others. Iva Prandzheva (BUL) won the chase for the silver with 14.94, while Sarka Kasparkova finished third at 14.87, both marks establishing national records.

An amazing eighth gold medal at the world championship/Olympic level went into Javier Sotomayor's pocket as a result of his 2.36 win in the men's high jump. The Cuban won on misses ahead of Vyacheslav Voronin of Russia, as both established world-leading marks for the season. The 1997 champion, Charles Austin (USA), tried without success to steal the win at 2.38, but had to settle for the bronze at 2.33.

By the time the men's long jump had reached the final round, the running events had been completed. This put the jumpers on centre stage to deliver an exciting climax to their event. A new competition procedure, which revises the jumping order of the final three rounds based inversely on position, made the dramatic finish possible. Gregor Cankar (SLO) leaped a national-record 8.28 to move into third place ahead of Erick Walder (USA), prompting the American to respond with 8.30 to claim back the bronze.

Then, Yago Lamela of Spain--whose overall best at the start of the indoor season was 8.14--moved into the top spot with a mammoth jump of 8.56. Three-time indoor champion Ivan Pedroso was to have the final say in the competition, however, and the Cuban's answer to the Spaniard was a personal-best of 8.62, a performance bettered only by Carl Lewis' world record of 8.79.

The men's heptathlon championship went to Sebastian Chmara in an exciting finish. The reigning European indoor champion from Poland started the second day in third place, but after a pole vault of 5.20, he had worked his way up to the top spot with one event remaining.

The win was sealed when Chmara defeated the field in the final event, the 1000 metres, as he accumulated a final point total of 6386, the best of the indoor season. Finishing second with 6374 was European outdoor champion Erki Nool (EST), who had moved within striking range of Chmara thanks to a 5.50 in the pole vault. But a chance for the Estonian to win slipped away when Chmara outsprinted Nool over the final 30 metres of the track event. The bronze medal was awarded to Roman Sebrle (CZE) with 6319, just ten points ahead of countryman Tomas Dvorak.

Almost when it looked as if the weekend would end without a world record, the Russian women's 4x400 relay clocked 3:24.25, more than two seconds under the previous global standard they had achieved two years ago in Paris (3:26.84). Australia (3:26.87) and the US  (3:27.59) completed the top trio of teams.

The atmosphere proved infectious for the men, as the US quartet followed with a world-record time of 3:02.83, ahead of Poland (3:03.01) and Great Britain (3:03.20). The old record of 3:03.05 had been set by the German team at the 1991 championships in Seville.

In the final medal tabulation, the United States was the leader with 19, including three golds. Following the American team was Russia with 8 (two golds), Germany with 7 (three golds), and Great Britain with 5 (three golds). In addition, Romania collected three gold medals plus a silver.