Svetlana Masterkova wins the 1500m at the 1998 IAAF World Cup (Getty Images) © Copyright
Preview Seville, Spain

Svetlana offers final Master-class

Svetlana Masterkova, the double Olympic champion from Russia, goes into the world championships here looking for one last honour to round off her glittering career.

The 31-year-old Masterkova, who comes from Siberia originally but has been living in Alicante, Spain, in recent years, national career which began when she place sixth at 800 metres in the 1985 Europan junior championships.

"I've won everything but a world title and it would be nice to have one to look back at in years to come when my career ends," Masterkova, in reflective mood, said Friday ahead of the 800 metres heats on Saturday evening, the first day of the championships.

Two years ago, at the last world championships in Athens, Masterkova broke down injured in the semi-final of the 1500m, and later that year she had her third operation on the Achilles tendon of her right leg.

Although she returned to top form last year, winning the European 1500-metre title, such surgery has taken its toll on the blonde Russian, and even she has some doubts about her form for Seville.

Having concentrated on 800m, Masterkova heads this year's world rankings with 1min 55.87sec, but said, "Before Atlanta, I'd had 18 months of injury-free training. But recently I've had a lot of trouble with the Achilles.

"I can't say how long I'll keep racing. I'll have to see how I do at these championships."

Masterkova's main rivals seems likely to be the 1993 world champion, Mozambique's Maria Mutola. "Maria's the only athlete who always runs quickly, and who always performs at her best," Masterkova said.

Mutola, now aged 26, is Mozambique's sole competitor at these championships. Now based in Eugene, Oregon, this former schoolgirl soccer player is unconcerned about the possibility that the 800m might become a slow, tactical and physical affair.

"Pushing and shoving won't be important to win," Mutola said. "There might be some pushing if the race is slow, but I don't want to be a part of it."

Steven Downes (AFP) for the IAAF