Just a little shy.. Meseret Defar frustratingly close to her own World 5000m record in Stockholm (Hasse Sjögren) © Copyright
Report Stockholm, Sweden

Blazing 5000m run by Defar in Stockholm

Stockholm, SwedenThe "World Record attempt" label is often used somewhat frivolously in promoting athletics meets but that was certainly not the case for Meseret Defar and the 5000m at the 2010 GE Galan in Stockholm on Wednesday (10). Because if there was a prize for really trying hard but in the end coming up frustratingly close no one could deserve it more than Defar for her effort in the Globe Arena.

The GE Galan is the fifth of nine meetings in the IAAF Indoor Permit series for 2010.

From 400m to 4800m she was slightly ahead of her own pace when she set the current record of 14:24.37 in the same meet one year ago. The advantage was at its maximum of 3.5 seconds with just four laps remaining and even though Defar managed to speed up inspired by the vociferous support from the crowd the advantage shrunk: 3.0 s with three laps left, 1.9 s with two laps, 0.6 s at the bell.

And when she flashed across the finish line the clock showed 14:24.79 – i.e. 0.42 seconds too late which corresponds to 0.05 percent of the total time (864 seconds!). Of course Defar herself was very disappointed – especially as she had been about as close to her 3000m record in Stuttgart four days ago – but to call the second best mark ever a failure would be grossly unfair.

The obvious answer to the question "Where did she loose it?" is of course the last lap, but 31.2 is not a slow last lap in any way, the only problem was that incredible 30.2 she finished with last year. Her kilometre splits 2:51.1 – 5:48.0 (2:56.9) – 8:41.2 (2:53.2) – 11:34.8 (2:53.6) – 14:24.79 (2:50.0) instead indicates that a fairly slow second kilometre was the main reason Defar missed the record and the sub-14:20 she was aiming for.

Behind Defar, A. Bekele clocks European record

Somewhat unnoticed – as they had two thirds of a lap left when Defar hit the finish line – the race produced runners getting into places 5 and 6 on the indoor all-time list: Her countrywoman Sentayehu Ejigu who acted pacemaker for Defar until almost four kilometres continued the race but was just before the end caught by a fast finishing Alemitu Bekele of Turkey. With her 14:46.44 Bekele erased Gabriela Szabo's European record that has stood for almost 11 years.

Just like Defar high jumper Blanka Vlasic had narrowly missed the World record last Saturday but Vlasic was not able to match that performance on Wednesday. Probably due to her recent virus infection she seemed slightly tired but still displayed an impressive professional work ethic: Vlasic still had a clean sheet until securing the win at 1.95m and then scored her 85th 2m-competition by clearing 2.01m on her second attempt. But only the last of her three attempts at the would-be Arena record 2.04m could be called "close".

Kaki fends off Borzakovskiy

The highly anticipated 800m race for men turned out somewhat disappointing. Only Abubaker Kaki followed the not-at-all-too-fast pacemaker Vincent Mumo who passed 400m at 51.8. Yuriy Borzakovskiy – in his 8th appearance in the last 9 editions of GE Galan – ran his typical race far back in the main group. The Russian also displayed his trademark come-from-behind last lap but when he came up on the shoulder of Kaki the reigning World indoor champion responded and won by 0.22 in 1:46.29.

Choge prevails in deepest men’s 3000m race of all time

If the 800m didn't reach the expected level of performance the 3000m surpassed all expectations: It simply was the best ever indoor 3000m quality-wise with the top-six all dipping under 7:35 and the top-four moving into the top-10 of all-time! The start was fast (57.5 first 400m, 2:29 first kilometre) but at the end of the second kilometre the pacesetter Vincent Rono started to slow down somewhat (2:35 second kilometre).

Then Paul Kipsiele Koech took over and started winding it up gradually but he never managed to get free of all the other runners. With half a lap to go Augustine Choge sprinted past and at the very end Tariku Bekele came from behind to almost surprise Choge right at the line. The winner had 55.8 last 400m and 27.1 last 200m – and Bekele probably closed even slightly faster.

In a race dominated by runners from Kenya (No 1, 3, 4, 7 and 8) and Ethiopia (No 2 and 6) Bob Tahri of France finished 5th in 7:33.73 which was just 0.75 off Alberto Garcia's European record from 2003.

4:03.28 world leader for Teenager Gezahegne

The third world leading mark on the oval track in the Globe Arena came in the women's 1500m through Ethiopian Kalkidan Gezahegne who stayed somewhat off the early pace set at the front (63.1 – 2:08.5) but who gradually moved up closer to Russian Anna Alminova. At the bell Gezhegne sprinted past to win by a second in 4:03.28, a time that is also an unofficial world junior record indoors.

The activity on the sprint straight was limited to just two races. The main event of those the men's hurdles where the re-match between Dayron Robles and David Oliver (7.48 vs 7.49 in Stuttgart) never materialised as Oliver was disqualified for causing a false start. The lack of opposition capable of really challenging him didn't stop Robles from missing his World leading 7.48 from four days ago by the narrowest of margins (i.e. one hundredth).

A women's 60m race was won by World Indoor champion Angela Williams four hundredths ahead of super veteran Chandra Sturrup (7.32 vs 7.36).

Copello takes loaded Triple Jump competition

On the field the men's Triple Jump rivalled the women's High Jump for the attention of the spectators and the athletes repaid the crowd by delivering an exciting competition with the top-4 jumpers all surpassing the 17m-barrier. As usual in early season competitions on built-up runways the event started a little hesitantly but gradually grew.

The lead was changing around quite a lot: Jadel Grégorio was first past 16.50m with his opener of 16.67m (despite chopping his stride markedly at the end of the run-up) but lost the front position in the last jump of the first round where Christian Olsson reached 16.73m. That stood up for almost one round until Phillips Idowu hit 17.00m to be passed by Alexis Copello's 17.03m in the third round.

In the fifth round the "re-born" Olsson (only 6th meet since 13 July 2007!) got back on top with his first 17m-jump of the year: 17.07m! In the final round World leader David Giralt almost replaced Olsson but fell one centimeter short (17.06m). The final word then belonged to Copello who left the others well behind with 17.23m, just 4 cm off Giralt's World leading distance from last week in Gothenburg.

But for many of the spectators the return to the 17+ level for Olsson was the main news of the competition and for the second straight meet he defeated the reigning World champion Idowu. However, both those meets have been in Sweden and in their third meeting this winter in ten days in Birmingham it will be Idowu having the homecourt advantage.

The attention gathered by the Triple Jump meant that the men's Long Jump going on simultaneously ended up a little bit in the shadow. So it is quite possible that very few in the arena really noticed the new world leading mark in the Long Jump when it happened. It was Ukraine's Viktor Kuznetsov who in the second round added four centimeters to the previous 2010 top mark of 8.05m which also had belonged to him.

The special three-eventer for men consisting of Long Jump, 60m Hurdles and 400m featured World Decathlon champion Trey Hardee plus three more from the Berlin top-7. One of them, Sweden's Nicklas Wiberg, however felt a slight pain in his groin during his first Long Jump and had to abandon the competition to not risk a serious injury.

The other three – Hardee, Oleksiy Kasyanov and Aleksandr Pogorelov – were very evenly matched after the first two events. Kasyanov won the Long Jump with 7.51m (he narrowly fouled on a much longer jump), Hardee dominated the hurdles with 7.85 (despite hitting the 2nd hurdle quite hard) and Pogorelov was 2nd in both events.

So it all came down to the 400m where Hardee went off very fast leading Kasyanov by a full second at halfway. However, it turned out that the Ukrainan had chosen the best tactic and coming off the last turn he was even with the lactic acid-stricken American and then passed him to win by almost four tenths which secured the overall win. Final scores: Kasyanov 2690 points, Hardee 2661 and Pogorelov 2538.

The crowd of well over 9000 spectators also witnessed two gun-to-finish front running triumphs at 400m. In the men's race it was Rabah Yousif of Sudan who won in 46.49 with Cuba's William Collazo and Italy's Claudio Licciardello accompaning Yusif sub-47. In the women's race it was Berlin finalist Debbie Dunn who ruled all the way drawing also Ebonie Floyd and Shereefa Lloyd to 52-second times.

A. Lennart Julin for the IAAF

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