United States finishes on top of the heap

SVETLANA FEOFANOVA posted a world record in pole vault to provide a fitting finale to the ninth World Indoor Athletics Championships at Birmingham even as the host earned a record number of medals and wholesome praise for its organisational abilities.

SVETLANA FEOFANOVA posted a world record in pole vault to provide a fitting finale to the ninth World Indoor Athletics Championships at Birmingham even as the host earned a record number of medals and wholesome praise for its organisational abilities.

Russian Svetlana Feofanova is congratulated by legendary World champion Sergei Bubka after she set a new world record of 4.80 metres in the pole vault final. — Pic. AFP-

The United States finished on top of the medals tally, with 17 medals, 10 gold, three silver and four bronze. Russia was second with a dozen medals, five of them gold. Sweden was third with four medals, all of them gold, while Britain and Northern Ireland catapulted from the seventh last time to the fourth with seven medals, two of them gold.

In a competition which had got off the blocks quite dramatically, with the elimination of the then existing world record holder, Stacy Dragila of the U.S., at the qualification stage, Feofanova pushed herself up to 4.80 metres for the world record. Dragila had set the previous record of 4.78 at Boston earlier this season.

Dragila no-heighted on the opening day at 4.30 metres during the qualification round and thus deprived the Britons of a chance to witness what could have been a high-class contest between her and Feofanova. In the event, though the Russian took the title, past the routine heights, she too must have missed the thrill of fighting it out with the American.

"To quote Forrest Gump, `life's a box of chocolates and you never know what you are going to get when you open it up'", said Dragila after she was eliminated. On the eve of the championships, the American had forecast that a world record height might be required to win the title in Birmingham. How true it turned out to be! The sad part was, she was not there when the bar was raised to a new WR.

Feofanova's effort apart, there were several keen contests, but a world record did not come about. Many of the top-notchers, including Hicham El Guerrouj of Morocco, Frankie Fredericks of Namibia, Tim Montgomery, Maurice Greene and Marion Jones of the U.S. were missing from the field.

Of the stars who did make it, the spotlight was on Briton Jonathan Edwards, if only for the fact that this was probably going to be his final appearance at a World Indoors and he had never won this title. And what better way than to go out with the gold, in front of home fans. But that did not happen.

Swede Christian Olsson, who had battled with Edwards right through the last outdoor season — and came on top — once again took the top honours, going up to a world-leading 17.70 on his last jump to edge American Walter Davis who was leading till then. Edwards who was the last to jump in this last competition of the championships, had the crowd behind him as he darted down the runway. But his jump measured just 17.00 metres. With a fifth-round 17.19 Edwards was fourth, his worst showing in a championship in eight years.

"This is probably my greatest victory," said Olsson. "At one stage I was very very far from gold. I started out very poorly and I thought some ghosts were coming back from the last time I competed in Birmingham.

"When I got that 17.28 jump in the fourth round, that gave me a lot of confidence, especially when no one else really put in a big one. Then Walter (Davis) came up with that big one in the last round (17.35) and I thought, oh no, I will have to do it all over again."

Davis was philosophical in the end. "I am disappointed. After that last jump, I thought I had the gold, but then I see him put in a 17.70 and it's back to silver. Then I got to thinking about where I started from and I am happy with that," the 23-year-old American said.

On his farewell appearance, Colin Jackson also failed to strike a medal. The 36-year-old Briton, after raising hopes by winning his semifinal heat in the 60m hurdles, ultimately finished fifth in the final, won by American Allen Johnson. The favourite, another American, Terrence Trammell, pulled out of the heats because of an injury. He could not cross the first round in the 60 metres dash. Significantly for Asia, Chinese Liu Xiang took the bronze in the hurdles, just three-hundredth of a second behind Cuban Anier Garcia.

Like the triple jump contest, the men's long jump also produced a high-class fare, though five-time world indoor champion, Cuban Ivan Pedroso, was absent. American newcomer Dwight Phillips, clinched the gold with a final jump of 8.29, a centimetre better than the last-round jump of Spaniard Yago Lamela who had jumped ahead of him. Miguel Pate of the US, with 8.21m, was third.

On the track, the spotlight was firmly on Haile Gebrselassie and Wilson Kipketer since many of the other top stars were not competing.

Gebrselassie obliged, winning the 3000 metres in typical style but Kipketer, having made a great comeback to the outdoor season last year, failed to match American David Krummenacker on the home straight, settling for the silver in the 800 metres.

"Anybody can have a great day on any given day and I feel like today was one of those days for me. I am really grateful," said Krummenacker. "The last 200m, I said, `hey, just let it all hang out and see where I end up. Fortunately, I was strong enough to pass Kipketer and win."

Kipketer was disappointed, of course. "I was not thinking that Krummenacker was a threat to me winning today, but that's how life goes," said the Kenya-born Dane.

For Britain, the gold medals came from woman triple jumper Ashia Hansen and the male sprinter, Marlon Devnish, who won the 200 metres. American Justin Gatlin took the men's short sprint title.

Two women veterans also had the spotlight on them and fared in contrasting styles. Two-time Olympic sprint champion, Gail Devers, won her first world indoor 60m hurdles gold, but Jamaican Merlene Ottey, now in Slovenian colours, finished fourth in the 60-metre dash, an event won by Ukrainian Zhanna Block in a National record of 7.04 secs.

"The fans were great. They were very supportive of me. It has been a great World championships," said Devers.

"I have seen all World championships, indoors and outdoors, and we have never experienced more local support from the host city," said the IAAF Secretary, Istvan Gyulai.

The results: Men:

60m: 1. Justin Gatlin (USA) 6.46s, 2. Kim Collins (SKN) 6.53, 3. Jason Gardener (Gbr) 6.55; 200m: 1. Marlon Devonish (Gbr) 20.62s, 2. Joseph Batangdon (Cmr) 20.76, 3. Dominic Demeritte (Bah) 20.92; 400m: 1. Tyree Washington (USA) 45.34s, 2. Daniel Caines (Gbr) 45.43, 3. Jamie Baulch (Gbr) 45.99; 800m: 1. David Krummenacker (USA) 1:45.69, 2. Wilson Kipketer (Den) 1:45.87, 3. Wilfred Bungei (Ken) 1:46.54; 1500m: 1. Driss Maazouzi (Fra) 3:42.59, 2. Bernard Lagat (Ken) 3:42.62, 3. Abdelkader Hachlaf (Mar) 3:42.71; 3000m: 1. Haile Gebrselassie (Eth) 7:40.97, 2. Alberto Garcia (Esp) 7:42.08, 3. Luke Kipkosgei (Ken) 7:42.56; 60m hurdles: 1. Allen Johnson (USA) 7.47s, 2. Anier Garcia (Cub) 7.49, 3. Liu Xiang (Chn) 7.52.

High jump: 1. Stefan Holm (Swe) 2.35m, 2. Yaroslav Rybakov (Rus) 2.33, 3. Gennadiy Moroz (Blr) 2.30; Pole vault: 1. Tim Lobinger (Ger) 5.80m, 2. Michael Stolle (Ger) 5.75, 3. Rens Blom (Ned) 5.75; Long jump: 1. Dwight Phillips (USA) 8.29m, 2. Yago Lamela (Esp) 8.28, 3. Miguel Pate (USA) 8.21; Triple jump: 1. Christian Olsson (Swe) 17.70m, 2. Walter Davis (USA) 17.35, 3.Yoelbi Quesada (Cub) 17.19.

Shot put: 1. Manuel Martinez (Esp) 21.24m, 2. John Godina (USA) 21.23, 3. Yuriy Belonog (Ukr) 21.13. Heptathlon: 1. Tom Pappas (USA) 6361 pts, 2. Lev Lobodin (Rus) 6297, 3. Roman Seberle (Cze) 6196. 4 x 400m relay: 1. USA 3:04.09, 2. Jamaica 3:04.21, 3. Britain 3:06.12.

Women:

60m: 1. Zhanna Block (Ukr) 7.04s, 2. Angela Williams (USA) 7.16, 3. Torri Edwards (USA) 7.17; 200m: 1. Michelle Collins (USA) 22.18s, 2. Muriel Hurtis (Fra) 22.54, 3. Anastasiya Kapachinskaya (Rus) 22.80; 400m: 1. Natalua Nazarova (Rus) 50.83, 2. Christine Amertil (Bah) 51.11, 3. Grit Breuer (Ger) 51.13; 800m: 1. Maria Mutola (Moz) 1:58.94, 2. Stephanie Graf (Aut) 1:59.39, 3. Mayte Martinez (Esp) 1:59.53; 1500m: 1. Regina Jacobs (USA) 4:01.67, 2. Kelly Holmes (Gbr) 4:02.66, 3. Yekaterina Rozenburg (Rus) 4:02.80; 3000m: 1. Berhane Adere (Eth) 8:40.25, 2. Marta Dominguez (Esp) 8:42.17, 3. Meseret Defar (Eth) 8:42.58.

60m hurdles: 1. Gail Devers (USA) 7.81s, 2. Glory Alozie (Esp) 7.90, 3. Melissa Morrison (USA) 7.92.

High jump: 1. Kajsa Bergqvist (Swe) 2.01m, 2. Yelena Yelesina (Rus) 1.99, 3. Anna Chicherova (Rus) 1.99; Pole vault; 1. Svetlana Feofanova (Rus) 4.80m (World indoor record), 2. Yelena Isinbayeva (Rus) 4.60, 3. Monika Pyrek (Pol) 4.45; Long jump: 1. Tatyna Kotova (Rus) 6.84m, 2. Inessa Kravets (Ukr) 6.72, 3. Maurren Higa Maggi (Bra) 6.70; Triple jump: 1. Ashia Hansen (Gbr) 15.01m, 2. Francoise Mbango (Cmr) 14.88, 3.Ken Ndoye (Sen) 14.72.

Shot put: 1. Irina Korzhanenko (Rus) 20.55m, 2. Nadezhda Ostapchuk (Blr) 20.31, 3. Astrid Kumbernuss (Ger) 19.86. Pentathlon : 1. Carolina Kluft (Swe) 4933 pts, 2. Natalya Sazanovich (Blr) 4715, 3. Marie Colonville (Fra) 4644. 4 x 400m: 1. Russia 3:28.45, 2. Jamaica 3:31.23, 3. USA 3:31.69.

Anju George places seventh

ANJU B. GEORGE could manage only the seventh place in the long jump event of the World Indoor Championships.

This was the Kerala girl's indoor debut and though she was hoping for a much better performance than the 6.40 metres, she was much the wiser at the end of it for the experience gained.

Anju started with 6.25 and then posted two consecutive 6.40. "After that I had to go all out since the aim was to go for a medal,'' said Anju, on her return to Delhi.

The all-out efforts ended up in three fouls on the trot and Anju, who had qualified for the World meet with her National mark of 6.74m achieved last year, finished just ahead of Tude Vaszi of Hungary (6.39) and Spaniard Concepcion Montaner, who jumped 6.34.

This was a straight final and as such Anju's feat of figuring in a senior world championship final, the first Indian to do so, would have lost much of its significance.

Last year, she had become the first Indian woman to win an athletics medal in the Commonwealth Games, the bronze in long jump.

Russian Tatyana Kotova, the favourite, took the gold in Birmingham with a world-leading 6.84 metres while Ukrainian Inessa Kravets had the silver at 6.72 and Brazilian Maureen Higa Maggi the bronze at 6.70 metres.