Svetlana Feofanova jumps to gold in Munich (Getty Images) © Copyright
General News Villeneuve d'Ascq, France

Women make the show in Lille, setting three 2003 world leads

The women made the show in the Lille Metropole Grand Prix today with three new world leading marks in the Pole vault (4.72m by Svetlana Feofanova), the Hammer throw (74.50m by Manuela Montebrun # see note below)  and the 3000m (8:41.89 by Joanne Pavey of Britain).

Other noticeable performances were achieved by Senegal’s Kene Ndoye with a new national record of 14.91m in the Triple Jump (African record is held by Francoise Mbango (CMR – 14.95, African champs 2002), Anastasiya Kapachinskaya with a 22.48 sprint in the 200m, and Yaroslav Rybakov with a 2.32 in the men's High Jump.

Feofanova makes failed attempt at 4.82m

The long-awaited match between the three best pole vaulters in the world Stacy Dragila, Svetlana Feofanova and Tatyana Polnova, unfortunately didn't materialise. The 2003 world leader with 4.70m, Polnova was requested by the Russian federation not to compete before next weekend’s European Cup in Florence, thus depriving Dragila of the possibility of revenge after her defeat by Polnova in Ostrava.

However, the Russian vaulting squad is so strong that when one of them is not there, there is usually another ready as a replacement, in this case Yelena Isinbayeva, and as it happened Dragila had to settle for third place with 4.62m behind Feofanova (4.72m) and Yelena Isinbayeva (4.62m).

The rankings remained uncertain for a long time as all three athletes experienced difficulties after 4.40m, which they all cleared at the first attempt. Isibayeva then just needed one attempt to clear 4.52m, while Feofanova and Dragila needed three jumps at the height. Feofanova was lucky as she touched the bar but it didn't fall.

Things then started to get difficult for Isinbayeva who jumped 4.62 at her third attempt (her best ever outdoors), before succeeding at the height. Dragila also needed three jumps to clear. Neither progressed any further, losing to Feofanova who cleared 4.72m at her first attempt, before failing three times against the World record.

Montebrun trounces opposition

The women’s Hammer was expected to produce a fierce battle between currently the two best throwers in the world, Manuela Montebrun of France and Cuba's Yipsi Moreno. But in the end Montebrun proved superior, destroying the opposition with a first throw of 74.50m, a new French record and 2003 world season's lead. # NB. It is reported that Montebrun’s early season national record throw of 75.20m has not been ratified.

Moreno had to wait for her fifth attempt to break the 70m barrier (70.04 at the 5th attempt and 71.59 at the last), while Montebrun had four throws over this mark. Her series was the following (74.50m, X, 73.19, 68.52, 71.50, 71.09). German Susan Kiel was third with 70.84m.

Montebrun was naturally pleased with her results but didn't want to take things for granted for all that. “It’s a good thing that I beat Moreno today but she just came from Cuba, so I don't know which state of shape she was in. I beat her today, but she can still defeat me in the future.”

Ndoye's big breakthrough in the Triple Jump

The most unexpected performance of the day was certainly achieved by Senegalese Kene Ndoye who won the women's Triple Jump with 14.91m (+1.7m/s), just 9cm off Cuban Yamile Aldama's world leading mark. She thus added 40cm to the Senegalese outdoor record.

”The outdoor record didn't reflect my real level since I jumped 14.73m during the last World Indoor championships. It was my aim since the beginning of the summer season to bring them closer" said Ndoye who hurt herself on her last attempt, but believed it wasn't too serious despite limping back from the podium. Ukraine's Olena Hovorova was second with 14.81m and Baya Rahouli of Algeria third with 14.45m.

Joanne Pavey - 3000m world lead

The women's 3000m turned into a two women race between Joanne Pavey of Great-Britain and Isabella Ochichi of Kenya but the latter lost contact when Pavey made her move a few metres before the bell. Having secured the victory, the Briton didn't slow down for all that and her effort led her to a leading mark this season of 8:41.89. The previous mark was held by Elvan Abeygelesse of Turkey with 8:42.29.

The other middle-distance races developed into tactical competition and thus went to the best sprinters, respectively Naomi Mugo of Kenya in the women's Mile (4:28.03) and her fellow countryman Paul Bitok in the 5000m (13:14.03).

French athletes get ready for the summer

The home athletes had mixed fortunes with encouraging performances for Christine Arron, Eunice Barber and Mehdi Baala, though Muriel Hurtis ran out of gas in the 200m.

As expected, pre-race favourite Christine Arron had no competition in the women's 100m which she led from the start, producing the 5th fastest time this season. The result 11.08 fulfilled her expectations : "I wished to get close to 11 seconds, so I'm really satisfied by my performance. My ambition is now to be regular at this level and why not dip under as soon as next week at the European Cup" commented Arron after the race.

World junior champion Anay Tejada took the 100m hurdles just ahead her fellow countrywomen Yahumara Neyra, 13.01, against 13.03, as Eunice Barber stayed with the leaders until the 6th hurdle, cloking 13.15, just 16 hundredth off her previous best this season. 

As for European 1500m champion Mehdi Baala, who chose to make his debut on 800m, it seems he likes to scare the public with close victories. Last summer, he won the European title, 2 thousandth of second ahead of Spaniard Reyes Esteves. This time, 2 hundredths of a second separated him from South African Mbulaeni Mulaudzi, 1:44.17 to 1:44.19. Both men had chosen different tactics, as Mulaudzi was the only one to follow the pacemaker, while Baala remained in the pack. With 400m to go Baala launched a counter-attack as Mulaudzi had opened a 5m gap. 200m further on, the two men were together for a long sprint which finally turned in favour of the Frenchman.

Running in lane 4 of the women’s 200m, Hurtis could observe her strongest opponents' move (Anastasiya Kapachinskaya of Russia was lane 5 and Belgian Kim Gevaert lane 6). It didn't help her though, as she clearly lacked resistance in the second half of the race. Hurtis produced the fastest start, having joined Kapachinskaya in the middle of the bend. However, the Russian waited another 50m before producing an acceleration that no one could resist and ended up first in 22.48 (4th world best performance this season and the first one not aided by altitude). While Hurtis was struggling to reach the finish line (22.89), she was also overtaken by Gevaert (22.64).

The outcome of the men's 400m Hurdles remained uncertain until the last metres, when Hadi Souaan Al Somaily of Saudi Arabia finally upstaged South African Llewellyn Herbert with 49.40 against 49.47, a best for both men this season.
In the men's 100m, Australia's Matthew Shirvington had the better start but rapidly faded away. Uchenna Emedolu of Nigeria then looked like he was about to win with 10m to go but couldn't resist the late surge of fellow countryman Deji Aliu. Aliu clocked 10.08, against 10.12 for Emedolu as Ghana's Abdul Aziz Zakari was third in 10.20.

Frankie Fredericks won the 200m in 20.23, overcoming Ghana's Zakari (20.34) and Nigeria's Emedolu (20.46) in the home straight.

The High Jump saw most of the competitors improve their season’s best as the event was won by Russian Yaroslav Rybakov, with 2.32m ahead of Czech Jaroslav Baba (2.30m) and South African Jacques Freitag (2.30m). World Indoor champion Stefan Holm of Sweden had to be satisfied with 2.27m for his season debut.