Friday may have been the local rest day, but the athletes at the Qatar Super IAAF Grand Prix certainly weren’t taking part. There were stadium and meet records galore, an African and two Asian records/bests, a World Junior record, two Olympic champions beaten, and a 'local' a whisker away from a World best on 13 May.
Kipchoge’s win, as Choge follows in with a World Junior record
Pick of the bunch has to be the men's 3000 metres. Last year when 2003 World 5000m victor Eliud Kipchoge of Kenya beat three other World champions, Saif Saaeed Shaheen (2003 Steeplechase), John Kibowen (98 & 00 World Cross) and Richard Limo (2001 World 5000m), it looked like a hard act to follow. But Kipchoge managed it. He led all the way after the pacemakers dropped out, and came home in 7:28.56. Yet right behind him was 18-year-old compatriot, World Junior Cross and 5000m track champion, Augustine Kiprono Choge, in a World Junior record of 7:28.78. Ben Limo crashed his way back to form in third place, with 7:29.60. All three were well under Kipchoge's meet record of 7:33.37.
One bemused spectator was former Moroccan superstar Said Aouita, hosting the local TV coverage for Al Jazeira. Just 20 years ago, Aouita ran a world record (one of five he held consecutively) of 7.29.45 for this distance, and he was out on his own.
Defar defies Burika’s youthful talent
Choge was only just shy of victory, but if his female counterpart as World Junior Cross champion, Gelete Burika of Ethiopia had had more tactical awareness, she might have beaten her two illustrious colleagues, Meseret Defar and Berhane Adere. But when she had them straining to keep up, she slacked off the pace so much, she let them back in for victory, for Olympic champion Defar, in 8:39.75, and second for Adere in 8:39.87, with Burika out-leaned in 8:39.90.
Obikwelu upstages the Americans
The men's 100 metres proved you don't need super fast times to have a great race. Francis Obikwelu has been a nearly man for a long time, since he won the 1996 World Junior sprint titles. He only entered the Olympic 100 metres, when his coach decided he should use it as a warm-up for the longer sprint. He surprised himself by winning 100 metres silver in Athens. Well last night, in his first race of the outdoor season, he surprised the two men who won those Olympic sprints. The Nigerian-born Obikwelu, representing Portugal won in 10.05, ahead of Olympic 200m champion, Shawn Crawford and Olympic 100m gold medallist Justin Gatlin, both on 10.14.
Gatlin had had a sore hamstring after his opening win, in 10.15, in Osaka the previous week, but he wasn’t blaming that.
“I got a good start, and there was no problem with the hamstring. Well done to Francis, he beat me and Shawn fair and square, and I’m not comlaining. It’s only my second race of the season”.
Gatlin’s partner, Olympic 200 metres silver medallist, Allyson Felix looked as if she might go the same way, lingering behind Christine Amertil of the Bahamas until the American smoothly changed gear in the last 50 metres, and ended up the most unstrained winner of the night, in 22.78.
More meet records fall
Reese Hoffa, Aki Parviainen and Tatyana Lebedeva lit up the field. Hoffa of the USA killed the Shot competition with his first put of 21.29 metres, and underlined that the US putters will again be the men to beat in Helsinki this summer. But there’ll be high, or even long hopes of Parviainen of Finland bringing a World Javelin Throw title back home, as Tiina Lillak did in the inaugural World Champs back in 1983. Parviainen too won on his first attempt, 83.79 metres. India’s first World Championship medallist, Anju Bobby George (third in Paris ’03) looked briefly as if she might repeat her victory of last year in Doha. But Lebedeva of Russia was only measuring her approach with a first round foul, and on her second attempt, she leapt out to win the women’s Long Jump, with 6.70 metres. They were all meet records.
Just short of World best
Qatari Shaheen, formerly Stephen Cherono of Kenya, avoided Kipchoge this year, and had a crack at the World 2000 metres Steeplechase best of 5:14.43, set by Seoul Olympic champion (3000m variety), Julius Kariuki of Kenya in 1990. When Shaheen learns to hurdle, he'll do it, which begs the question as to what he'll do with his 3000m Steeplechase record when he stops stuttering at every barrier. He clocked 5.14.53 last night, and it was only an Asian best. Former colleague, Wesley Kiprotich of Kenya stayed close enough to keep Shaheen off balance, and the young Kenyan ended on 5.16.46, to go fourth all-time.
But the Gulf states’ policy of buying (mostly) Kenyan talent is beginning to pay off elsewhere. Dahan Bashir of Qatar finished second in the 1500 metres in 3.31.04 (national record), and colleague Jamal Salem finished fourth in the 3000 metres (Area record). Mohamed Al-Salhi of Saudi Arabia won a competitive 800 metres in 1.45.64 (national record), while a visitor from across the Arabian Gulf, Nagemendin-Ali Abubakr of Sudan won a tight 400 metres race – they both fell over the line – against Tyree Washington of the USA, in 45.52.
The women's 3000 metres Steeplechase might have been a curious choice to end the programme, but Docus Inzikuru made it pay, both for herself and the organisers. The Ugandan ran away from Salome Chepchumba on the last lap, to break her own African record, and set another stadium record, as well as make her a long distance favourite for a medal when the event is contested for the first time in the World Championships in Helsinki. Her winning time was 9:28.50.
Olijars beats Trammell in 110mH, as Kipchirchir wins 1500 in 3:30
Former hurdler and now coach, Ludmila Olijar spent most of the day on the computer, and her research (whatever it was) paid off, because her son, Stanislav Olijars of Latvia had probably the best win of his career, passing Olympic silver medallist, Terrence Trammell of the USA 10 metres from the line, and clocking 13.11 to win the High Hurdles. In the women’s 100m Hurdles, Jamaica’s Delloreen Ennis-London took the win (12.77), while the Discus Throw was taken by Russia’s Natalya Sadova with 65.10m.
In the men’s 1500m, Kenya’s Daniel Kipchirchir Komen announced his intent by getting in the lee of the pacemakers from the start. He took over when they dropped out, and deserved his front-running victory in an exciting finish, in 3:30.77. Former Olympic champion, Noah Ngeny could only finish 12th, and the look on his face summed up the impact of the meeting on the spectators. Whew!
Pat Butcher for the IAAF