Yulia Pechonkina of Russia in action in the women's 400M heats (Getty Images) © Copyright
General News Paris, France

Day Six – What to expect at the Stade

So the hosts France now have three medals, a silver from Eunice Barber, a bronze from Marc Raquil in the men’s 400m, and last night a rapturously received silver medal in the men’s 1500m for Mehdi Baala, who was close on the heels of Morocco’s Hicham El Guerrouj until 20 metres before the finish.

So what price a first gold medal for France on Day Six in the Stade de France?

Montebrun is the home favourite

The women's Hammer thrower Manuela Montebrun is France’s number one hope for a World title in Paris 2003 Saint-Denis. With a season’s best of 74.50 metres, a national record, the 23 year-old student stands third on the world season’s list behind World champion Yipsi Moreno of Cuba (75.14), and Russia’s Olga Kuzenkova, the European gold medallist (74.98).

However, a 75.20m release on 18 May, which was not ratified due to technical reasons concerning the composition of the throwing field is Montebrun’s best ever throw, and would otherwise have been the equal sixth furthest performance of all-time.

Montebrun leads the qualifiers into today’s final with a 71.36m heave to win preliminary pool “A” but significantly Moreno was the next best with her 70.91 taking the second group. Kuzenkova overall was the third best qualifier with 69.53 behind Montebrun, while Romania’s World record holder came to the final with 67.27m.

Markov to successfully defend Pole Vault title?

The men’s Pole Vault is the other field event World title up for grabs today. The qualifying round saw the demise of the French hope Romain Mesnil whose 5.95m vault on 6 August leads the world, but it was not enough to prevent the 26 year-old for registering a ‘no height’. The same ignominy also befell European champion Alex Averbukh of Israel, who was second on the world list for 2003 with 5.93m.

With these two leaders gone the title should be a contest between World Indoor champion Tim Lobinger of Germany, World Cup winner Okkert Brits of South Africa, and Australia’s defending World champion Dmitri Markov.

The track programme presents us with two finals, the women’s 200m sprint and the 400m Hurdles.

Hurtis versus White

The 200m is another good opportunity for France to take a medal as European champion Muriel Hurtis has the possibility to grab perhaps even gold. However, even after leading the qualifiers for the final with a 22.41 run in yesterday’s semi-final stage, it is still America’s Kelli White, the winner of the 100m dash, who looks the firm favourite for the title (22.50).

Watch out for Zhanna Block, who won this title in 1997. Returning from an upper thigh injury sustained earlier this season, the Ukrainian snatched bronze while defending her 100m title earlier this week, and ran a 22.61 season’s best behind White in their 200m semi-final.

400m Hurdles - anything is possible for Pechonkina

The final of the women’s 400m Hurdles should be about just one athlete, Russia’s Yuliya Pechonkina, who stormed to a World record of 52.34 at the national championships in Tula on 8 August. Here in Paris she ran a 54.01 heat but the manner of her 53.57 victory in the semi-final stage is enough to predict a possible World record race today, should the conditions be right.

By conditions I mean the opposition, because if Commonwealth champion Jana Pittman of Australia (53.62), Romania’s double European champion Ionela Tirlea (53.97) and USA’s Sandra Glover (53.90) - who are the next three best in the world in 2003 - can get their act together and push the 25 year-old Russian hard around the lap, anything could happen in terms of time.

There will also be a 200m Amputee race, and a 400 metres for Cerebel Palsy suffers