France take shock win in the men's 4x100m relay (Getty Images) © Copyright
General News Helsinki, Finland

Helsinki 2005 – Highlights, Day 8

When these World Championships in Athletics were first mooted back in the late seventies/early eighties, there was a substantial body of opinion, which believed that the ‘three per event per nation’ that prevails at the Olympic should be abandoned, and the best in the world allowed entry.

After some debate, the status quo was retained, in the belief that it would be best to share out the spoils. After all, if the US had the top three sprinters, they would take all three medals; similarly the Soviet Hammer throwers; equally the British middle distance runners. The last phrase will raise a rueful smile back in Old Britannia nowadays. Yes, in 1980, five of the world’s top ten milers were British, but that tradition laid down and died in the 1990s. There was no Brit in the 800 and 1500 metres finals here, but Belarus is keeping up the old Soviet traditions in the Hammer, and the Americans are dominating the sprints.

Ethiopian quartet dominate 5000m

When the US quartet (defending champions, in this John Capel are now allowed, as well as the national select trio) took first four places in the 200 metres, we thought it might be a while before we saw that again. Well, yes, all of two days! Because the Ethiopian women gave us a reprise in the 5000 metres. Surprise, surprise, you might think. Not necessarily.

The Chinese, Sun Jingjie and Xing Huina have offered some real opposition to the Ethiopians over the last two years, with Sun’s bronze in the Paris 10,000 metres, and Xing’s surprise victory in the Athens 10,000 metres. They couldn’t prevent a clean-sweep of Ethiopian medals in last weekend’s long race here, but Sun certainly made her presence felt in the 5000. After a group start, she threw in a 2:52 second kilometre that whittled he field down to the East Africans – Ethiopians, Kenyans, and a Tanzanian – and her colleague, Xing. But that was her contribution, and after another kilometre she was shot.

Xing took over with three to go, but when 10,000 metres champion Tirunesh Dibaba took over at the bell, the ‘foreign’ hopes were gone with the wind.  Only Olympic champion, Meseret Defar could go with her, and looked ominous with 200 metres to run, as the pair got well ahead. Tirunesh would not be denied the double, she stayed ahead of Defar throughout the final lap, which she covered, as she had in the 10k race – in just over 58 seconds, viz 58.19. Tirunesh won in 14:38.59, Defar was second in 14:39.54, Elegeyehu Dibaba was third in 14:42.47, and Meselech Melkamu fourth in 14:43.47.  But such was the quality of the race that the next six set personal bests, two of which, for Zakia Mrisho Mohamed of Tanzania, and Olga Kravtsova of Belarus, were also national records.

Pechonkina gets it right at last

In the more explosive events, Yuliya Pechonkina finally got it right, and won a World title to go with her 400 metres Hurdles World record. When the Russian set her record of 52.34 just before the World Championships in Paris ’03, it looked as if she was set to improve on her second place in the previous champs in Edmonton. But, it was not to be. Pechonkina could only finish third behind the victory of Jana Pittman of Australia. Things got worse in Athens.  Pechonkina finished last while the formerly unheralded Fanny Halkía of Greece ran away with the title.

Pechonkina had looked good through her heats here, but so had the two Americans, Sandra Glover and Lashinda Demus.  And it was the latter who blasted out of the blocks from lane eight, to take an early lead. But Pechonkina kept her cool, took over at the eighth hurdle, and was never troubled on the run-in.  She won in 52.93, only her second time under 53seconds.  Demus won the domestic battle for silver, in 53.27, a personal best, as was the 53.32 for bronze for Glover.

All over from round one

It was no contest in the women’s shot, as Nadezhda Ostapchuk dashed her opponents’ hopes with 20.37 metres in the first round for a two and half metre lead. That lead was diminished to less than a metre by the Russian, Olga Ryabinkina, who threw 19.64 metres. But Ostapchuk responded with 20.51 metres to wrap it up at the last. Not quite as dominant as her colleague, Ivan Tikhon in the men’s Hammer, but easily good enough for Belarus’s second gold of the championships. Ryabinkina took silver, just two centimetres ahead of Valerie Vili of New Zealand, who took bronze.

Phillips tops out a night of ‘home celebrations’

Dwight Phillips also wrapped up his Long Jump title with his first attempt, his 8.60 metres also being the best in the world this year.  It was just as well his first attempt was a class ahead of the rest, because the Olympic champion proceeded to foul the rest of his jumps.

Ignisious Gaisah jumped a Ghanian national record of 8.34 metres in the fourth round, but Tommi Evila of Finland who jumped 8.25 metres in the fifth, moved into the bronze medal position, and got the biggest cheer of the night. And that was from someone sitting in the IAAF desks! There’s just no equanimity in some people, is there?

<<Editor’s note – I, Chris Turner, stand guilty as charged>>

Smooth changes for USA quartet

The US women’s 4x100 metres quartet rubbed their men’s noses in it again when they gave as smooth a display of baton changing as sprinting, to take the gold medals with a world leading 41.78. Jamaica, who looked as if they might challenge made a mess of the last change-over, but were well enough clear to take silver in 41.99. The Belarussian quartet outdid themselves, to set a national record of 42.56 to take bronze. US joy was unconfined, until it transpired that their 4x400 metres women had been DQ’s after cutting into the kerb too early on the second leg.

France triumph in men’s relay

In the absence of the US men’s sprint relay squad, who had dropped the baton at the first change-over in the heats, to emulate their disasters of Gothenburg ‘95 and Athens ’97, France, would you believe some slick baton changes, took gold in a world leading 38.08?  Trinidad & Tobago took silver in 38.10, and Olympic champions, GB & NI ran 38.37, to take bronze, their first medal of the championships.


Jaouad Gharib from Morocco became the second man to successfully defend a World marathon title (2:10:11),  while there was a first ever medal for Tanzania. Christopher Isegwe Tanzania, took silver and Tsuyoshi Ogata of Japan took bronze. Japan won the World Marathon Cup team competition.  

Audience - The stadium was a sell-out this evening.

Pat Butcher for the IAAF


Written coverage of the

10th IAAF World Championships in Athletics,
Helsinki, Finland (6 – 14 August)

on the IAAF Website:

‘Event by Event’ PREVIEWS and REPORTS
provided by the
Helsinki 2005 local organizing committee media team

FEATURES - Gold medal winners

As in Paris 2003, the IAAF's own team of writers will be producing a feature story/interview with every individual gold medallist crowned in Helsinki 2005. These stories will be published as soon as possible after each final in the main NEWS section

Daily Highlights - Preview and Wrap

A concise preview at the start and a wrap of the main highlights of the competition will also be a daily aspect of the IAAF website's coverage of the World Championships.

Dunaway's 'Helsinki Herald'

And our regular major championship columnist Jim Dunaway will again give his own unique view of some of the more bizarre or quirky aspects surrounding events at Helsinki 2005.

We hope you will enjoy our coverage.

Chris Turner
IAAF Editorial Manager