Nigeria's Olusoji Fasuba en route to winning world indoor 60m gold in 6.51. (Getty Images) © Copyright
General News Valencia, Spain

Valencia 2008 - HIGHLIGHTS Day 1

Three hundredths of a second. Fifteen points in a 4800-point Pentathlon. Or less than .01 second. Those were the margins that decided medals in just three of the competitions tonight (7) on the first day of competition at the 12th IAAF World Indoor Championships, at the Palau Velodromo Luis Puig in Valencia, Spain.

Williams turns silver to gold

Three hundredths of a second was the margin between first and third in the women's 60m final, where Angela Williams, twice the silver medalist here (in 2001 and 2003), took gold after several seasons of injury. She had to run faster than anyone else in the world this year to pull it off, faster even than she had before. Her 7.06 shaved .03 off the previous world lead of 7.09 (also Williams' PB), but the silver medalist, Janette Kwakye of Great Britain, also beat the old world leading mark in 7.08. Tahesia Harrigan of the British Virgin Islands matched it in 7.09 for bronze.

"I owe this to my father who trained me when I was young," said Williams. Williams' father took her to age-group competitions where she ran national-class times as early as 1990; she returned to him to get her running back on course in 2006. "I had to make it fun again."

Fasuba flies away

Less than .01 second was the gap between silver and bronze in the men's 60m, but gold was quite easy to pick out: Olusoji Fasuba of Nigeria. Fasuba, who ran the world-leading mark of 6.51 on this track four weeks before and equalled it in the semi-final rounds, ran it yet again tonight in the final. He matched strides with the quick starters (his own reaction was solidly in the middle of the pack), then drew away in the last third of the race to win by .03 over Kim Collins and Dwain Chambers.

It was separating Collins, the 2003 outdoor 100m World Champion from St. Kitts and Nevis, and Chambers, of Great Britain, which took some time, and in the end both were given the same finishing time, 6.54. Collins in lane 2 and Chambers in lane 3 were nearly inseperable at the finish line.

"I know I can do even better than 6.51," said Fasuba. "My target now is to get an Olympic medal. I am getting stronger and stronger."

Hellebaut's odyssey

Tia Hellebaut may be the European High Jump champion, but now she's the world Pentathlon champion. Hellebaut established a 130-point lead in her specialty, the second event, then fought through the evening to hold that lead. Hellebaut's 1.99m clearance in the High Jump was the highest ever reached in a Pentathlon, scoring 1224 points, and a full 15cm higher than the next-highest jumper.

She faced strong challenges in the remaining events from Russian Anna Bogdanova and Britain's Kelly Sotherton. Hellebaut lofted a PB 13.85m in the Shot Put, losing fifty points to Sotherton and Bogdanova there, and then got a 6.41m Long Jump, the second-best on the day and enough to lose only 13 points to Sotherton. It would be down to the 800m, but Sotherton would need 7.7 seconds to overtake Hellebaut.

She very nearly got it. Following pacemaker and race winner Karolina Tyminska (POL), who ran 2:08.64, Sotherton put up a PB 2:09.95, good for 965 points. Behind her, Hellebaut was running fourth, but wobbled in the final homestretch and staggered to the line, collapsing as she reached it. Hellebaut's time was 2:16.42 for 873 points, 92 fewer than Sotherton but enough to hold her off. As the results were posted, Hellebaut wobbled on her feet, waiting for a flag to carry to celebrate her first global championship.

"It was an amazing Heptathlon," said Hellebaut, but she's not finished with Valencia. "I will try to feed off these feelings during the High Jump performance tomorrow morning."

Cantwell and Hoffa trade shots and gold medals

Reese Hoffa was the defending shot put champion from 2006. Christian Cantwell was the champion in 2004, and defeated Hoffa at the U.S. nationals two weeks ago. The shot final looked like nothing so much as a duel between the two titans, and when Hoffa heaved the ball out to 21.49m in qualifying, the standard was set.

In the final, Cantwell opened with a 21.14m blast in the first round, which Hoffa answered immediately with a 21.20m heave. Cantwell bounded back with a 21.59m in the third round - all five of his legal puts were over 21m - and while Hoffa then struggled to stay in the ring, fouling his remaining three throws, Cantwell got his fifth effort out to 21.77m, and underlined it with a 21.69m final hurl.

Third place went to Poland's Tomasz Majewski, who set a new Polish National Record with his 20.93m toss in the third round.

"I know you can have good days and bad days," said Cantwell, who hadn't won a major competition until his victory at the U.S. championships. "Today was a good day. Hoffa is a great athlete, but he can also be beaten."

Hoffa, still working on his conditioning for the Olympics this summer, admitted he expected to have a hard time besting Cantwell. "I'm not disappointed. I think I did pretty well, it's a good result."

Qualifying rounds

Most of the favorites advanced easily in qualifying rounds. Yelena Isinbayeva got a good nap at the arena before clearing 4.55m, on her first attempt, with plenty of room to spare. Meseret Defar and compatriot Tariku Bekele both advanced in the 3,000m, both economically off the fastest qualifying times, but Bekele for one will face fierce competition from Kenyans Paul Kipsiele Koech and Edwin Cheruiyot Soi, not to mention Aussie Craig Mottram.

The surprise in the men's long jump will be a final without a single American, as neither Trevel Quinley nor John Moffitt advanced; Godfrey Khotso Mokoena of South Africa led qualifying with an 8.01m leap which was both the longest and last of the day.

800m qualifying was led by Tetiana Petlyuk of Ukraine, but Maria Mutola of Mozambique, back once again, also advanced with a minimum of effort. Abubaker Kaki Khamis of Sudan led the men's qualifying by almost half a second, running 1:47.80 while nobody else went under 1:48. Mbulaeni Mulaudzi of South Africa had the laziest qualifier, winning the slowest heat in 1:50.86.

400m qualifying was led by two Russians, Olesya Zykina and Natalya Nazarova, on the women's side; on the men's side, Johan Wissman of Sweden ran a PB 46.12, but two-time defending champion Alleyne Francique of Grenada failed to advance, running only 48.64.

Parker Morse for the IAAF