Cross Challenge on 24 October 2021

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El Guerrouj beats Lagat at the Meeting Gaz de France Paris Saint-Denis

Morocco’s world 1500m record holder and world champion Hicham El Guerrouj let it be known that he is not prepared to relinquish his title as the world’s best miler, as he fought off Kenya’s Bernard Lagat, the world’s second fastest all-time and world silv


By IAAF Staff / - real,- BERLIN-MARATHON thanks the IAAF for its support

Surging into the penultimate bend in the men’s 1500m, El Guerrouj quickly established a 10 metre lead which Lagat could never narrow. El Guerrouj simply laid his cards on the table and asked the rest to follow with a better suit but Lagat and the others had no better hand. The winning time for Guerrouj was 3:29.96, a world season’s best, to Lagat’s 3:31.59 – his season’s best - with France’s Mehdi Baala a distant third in a respectable 3:33.55.

By the time the metric milers set foot on the track the weather conditions had dramatically improved. Throughout the earlier part of the programme the track glistened and sparkled as the rain poured into the Stade de France.

Romania’s Gabriela Szabo, the world 1500m and Olympic 5000m champion, who has yet to decide whether to run the shorter or longer distance at the European championships in Munich this August, started in the first track race, the 3000m.

It was pace makers all the way until two laps to go when Szabo found herself in the lead with Ethiopia’s Berhane Adere, the world indoor 3000m record holder and runner-up to Szabo last week in Oslo at 5000m, on her shoulder. This was how the situation stayed until the Romanian stepped up a gear with 300m to go.

It was clear that this increase of pace would not be enough as Adere stayed within a metre or two of her down the back straight. But as she entered the final bend, Szabo sensed the danger, switched on cruise control and eased away from the Ethiopian, opening up a 2-metre gap by the finish.

Szabo’s winning time was a dramatic improvement on her previous world season’s lead (8:38.03) finishing here in 8:31.88, with Adere second 8:32.31 and Kenya’s Edith Masai third 8:33.94. Kayoko Fukushi’s 8:44.40 in 7th was a Japanese record.

The start list for the men’s 400m hurdles possessed all the right ingredients: the Sydney Olympic champion, the Edmonton world champion and the gold medallists from the previous two editions in 1999 and 1997. The race lived up to its billing as Felix Sanchez, the world champion from the Dominican Republic blasted out of the blocks, establishing an early lead which he was never to relinquish.

This was only Sanchez’s second hurdles race of the season and it confirmed he had been right to concentrate on his speed by running flat 400’s during the last month or so, as his pace was certainly not lacking tonight. Sanchez’s time was 47.91 was way inside the previous world season’s best of 48.02. Though his victory was never in doubt, Britain’s Chris Rawlinson (2nd 48.26) and France’s Stephane Diagana (3rd 48.28) did close down a little on him in a desperate battle for second place.

“This may only be my second race of the year at 400m hurdles but I already feel strong, “ said Sanchez, who also confirmed he had suffered an injury earlier this year. But after two wins in a row over the world’s best, he was now thankful for the enforced rest.

Minutes later the women’s one lap hurdles was won by Australia’s reigning world junior champion Jana Pittman in 54.58 - a new personal best - with Jamaica’s 1996 Olympic champion Deon Hemmings second in 54.64, USA’s Sandra Glover third in 54.94 and 1999 world champion Daimi Pernia of Cuba fourth in 55.24, all setting season’s bests. It is quite possible that the 1, 2 positions here today will be replicated in a few weeks time when Pittman and Hemmings travel to Manchester, England for the Commonwealth Games.

Reuben Kosgei, the Kenyan world and Olympic steeplechase champion, finished back in 5th place in a race won by Kenyan compatriot Ezekiel Kemboi in a personal best of 8:10.11. Kemboi who is only 20 years old, lives and trains at the IAAF High Performance Centre in Eldoret, Kenya, and was the victor in the Lausanne Grand Prix.

The steeplechase was particularly well received by the Paris crowd as finishing second behind the young Kenyan was Bouabdallah Tahri, whose 8:10.83 establishes him as the firm favourite for European gold in Munich this summer. His time was the continental season’s lead by some seven seconds.

The start of the women’s 100 metres coincided with a heavy downpour which turned the well-roofed Stade de France into a shower cubical for the Olympic champion Marion Jones. But she determinedly ignored the wet conditions winning in an impressive 10.89 world season’s best in a negligible wind (+0.1 m/s). Jamaica’s Tayna Lawrence, second in 11.04, and America’s Chryste Gaines, third in 11.06, also ran superbly considering the conditions.

Two defeats in three days at the end of last week was not on the season’s schedule of 100m world record holder, Olympic and world champion Maurice Greene who has ruled the roost of men’s sprinting since taking his first world title in 1997. Greene had sat out the Lausanne Grand Prix on Tuesday but came to Paris knowing he would not be facing his Oslo and Sheffield conqueror Britain’s Dwain Chambers, who sustained a shoulder injury during those two encounters with Greene.

Greene was in no mood to let his defeat streak run any further and like Jones in the women’s straight sprint, put his head down and drove through the rain to a solid 9.99 win. If anyone thinks the king has lost his crown, then they have under-estimated Greene who doesn’t look set to leave centre stage yet.

Behind Greene, Bernard Williams came second in 10.03. Following both Americans over the line was one of the three British sprinters who beat both Greene and Williams last Sunday in Sheffield, world junior champion Mark Lewis-Francis who ran a legal 10.04 PB here for third (+0.4 m/s).

The sprint hurdlers also said ‘boo’ to the weather, with three time world champion Gail Devers keeping her Golden League Jackpot quest on track with a 12.56 victory. World champion Anjanette Kirkland clocked a season’s best of 12.63, while Jamaica’s Bridgette Foster was third with 12.68. All nine starters broke 13 seconds - the first time ever in the same race.

In the men’s 110m hurdles, Cuba’s Olympic champion Anier Garcia was the emphatic winner in 13.14, dominating Terrence Trammell (2nd 13.28) and Yoel Hernandez (13.42), as well as Britain’s world record holder Colin Jackson (4th 13.44) and USA’s world champion Allen Johnson (7th 13.72).

Romania’s Maria Cioncan, who won in Oslo, foundered in her bid to stay on the trail of the Golden League Jackpot which requires seven wins from seven meetings. The USA’s Nicole Teter just outpaced her, winning in 4:05.52 to the Romanian’s 4:05.64. Violeta Szekely, who won all seven Golden League events last summer for a share of the Jackpot, was never in the hunt, finishing back in 13th 4:10.94. What a difference a year makes!

In the men’s 5000m, Kenya’s Benjamin Limo who won his first Golden League meet in Oslo a week ago and also took the victory in Lausanne, was not prepared to let his Jackpot chances disappear. Entering the final 100m in 4th place, Limo sprinted past the leaders to win from Morocco’s Abderrahim Gourmi 13:03.17 and Mohammed Amyn 13:03.80 (both personal bests) in 13:02.34.

With all the rain the approach to the high jump and pole vault bars, triple jump pit and javelin runway looked perilous for all concerned.

Of these four events the triple jump runway was the driest as it was slightly under the stadium roof and the 15 competitors made good use of the weather protection. Cuba’s Alexander Martinez and Britain’s world record holder Jonathan Edwards passed 17 metres in the first round with the former leading with 17.10m. Sweden’s European indoor champion Christian Olsson took the event by the scuff of the neck in round two with 17.32 and improved to 17.60 with his third. Both Martinez and Edwards improved to 17.20 and 17.40 respectively in the same round.

However, the British World and Olympic champion Jonathan Edwards was not going to let his route to the Golden League Jackpot be blocked by the Swede and in the fourth produced a massive 17.75m (+1.1m/s) to slap down the challenge.

Edwards’ riposte was enough to dampen Olsson’s resolve on a wet and cold evening and though Martinez improved to 17.32 in the fifth, Edwards leap had killed the opposition and effectively ended the competition.

Sweden’s world indoor high jump champion Kajsa Bergqvist, who had jumped to a new personal best and world lead of 2.04 in Lausanne on Tuesday, kept up her form with a third time clearance at 1.97 but couldn’t progress past 2.02. However, 1.97 was good enough to beat Russia’s European indoor champion Marina Kuptsova and South Africa’s world champion Hestrie Cloete, who finished joint second having taken 1.95 on their second attempts.  

Following the earlier victory by Marion Jones in the 100m, there were two longer women’s sprints towards the end of the programme in Paris, the 200m and 400m. The former ended with another American victory taken this time by Kelli White (22.56) from France’s double European indoor champion Muriel Hurtis (22.74), and a second Golden League victory for Mexico’s Ana Guevara in a world season’s best of 50.00 seconds.

Two other Golden League contenders who failed at this second meeting ‘hurdle’ were USA’s Tim Mack in the pole vault (4th 5.55) and women’s javelin world champion Cuba’s Osleidys Menendez (2nd 64.29). Their vanquishers were France’s Romain Mesnil (5.65) and Russia’s Tatyana Shikolenko (64.59) respectively.

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