Meseret Defar celebrates her third successive world indoor 3000m gold (Getty Images) © Copyright
General News 8 March 2008 – Valencia, Spain

Valencia 2008 – HIGHLIGHTS Day 2

Valencia, SpainStefan Holm and Yaroslav Rybakov have reduced the World Indoor Championships High Jump title to their own private derby, as Holm won the title in 2001, 2003, and 2004, with Rybakov second in 2003 and 2004, then Rybakov won in 2006.

The competition came down to the pair yet again Saturday evening in Valencia, with no other jumper clearing 2.32m. From that height, Rybakov and Holm used all their skill and strategy in their struggle for the gold.

Rybakov jumped first, and after he cleared 2.34m Holm passed up to take him on at 2.36m. There, Holm cleared and Rybakov passed, this time to 2.38. This would be the final height, as Rybakov used his two remaining misses there, and Holm's 2.36m clearance stood as the winning mark.

"From the beginning of the competition, all my hopes were set on winning," Holm said after claiming his fourth title. "As I get older, it gets a bit harder to win medals."

"I'm very disappointed," said Rybakov. "I hope and I'm sure that at the Olympic Games everything will be different."

Behind Rybakov, two bronze medals will be awarded, as Kyriakos Ioannou (CYP) and Andra Manson (USA) both cleared 2.30m.

Defar dominant in women's 3000m

There was nobody in the women's 3,000m with the closing speed to contend with Meseret Defar. After letting everyone else control the race and the pace, she took charge with 400m remaining, then at the bell accelerated to a speed which would be the envy of an 800m runner, bounding to the finish in 8:38.79.

Countrywoman Meselech Melkamu, the second-fastest woman in history at this distance, was simply unable to respond, taking silver in 8:41.50 with Morocco's Mariem Alaoui Selsouli close behind in 8:41.66. Sylvia Jebiwott Kibet ran a Kenyan national record of 8:41.82, but it was not enough for a medal.

"Today was an easy race for me," said Defar afterward, words which should serve as warning to any other woman hoping for 5000m gold in Beijing.

This was Defar's third consecutive victory in the World Indoor Championships 3000m, and extends an indoor unbeaten streak which goes back to the 2003 World Indoor Championships, where she placed third in this race.

Isinbayeva first on misses

As she had in the qualifying rounds, Yelena Isinbayeva arrived, warmed up a bit, then started a nap. Once the nine-strong field was reduced to six, she entered the competition at 4.65m, cleared it with room to spare, passed to 4.75m, cleared that, and then... missed three times at 4.85m.

"I felt that I could jump higher, I don't know what happened," said Isinbayeva afterward. Fortunately for Isinbayeva, her remaining rival, Jennifer Stuczynski (USA) had similar difficulty at 4.85m, and one miss at 4.75m, so Isinbayeva won the gold on the strength of that miss.

"I passed on 4.80m because I was after the American record of 4.85m," said Stuczynski, who might have upset Isinbayeva with a clearance at the lower height.

With Kallur gone, Jones is ready

The women's 60m Hurdles field was rocked when new World Record holder (pending ratification) Susanna Kallur injured a hamstring during her warm-up for the semi-final. With the outdoor season and the ÅF Golden League just around the corner, Kallur opted not to risk compounding the injury by competing, and LoLo Jones (USA) became the favorite.

Jones justified the expectations in the final, storming away from the gun to win in 7.80. Behind her, teammate Candice Davis picked up her first international medal with a 7.93 performance to take the silver; Anay Tejeda of Cuba took bronze in 7.98. Josephine Onyia (ESP), the fastest through the preliminary rounds and a resident of Valencia, struck the last hurdle disastrously and crossed the line only after lying on the ground for some seconds.

Xiang has all the titles

Like Jones, Liu Xiang benefited from an unexpected lack of competition, but unlike Jones, he arrived in Valencia with a World record and World and Olympic gold medals on his resume. When Dayron Robles' misjudgement of the start in the preliminaries took him out of contention, Xiang became the favorite, and he came through with a 7.46 to win in the final. The apparently ageless Allen Johnson was second in 7.55, and yet a third double bronze will be awarded in the hurdles as Evgeniy Borisov (RUS) and Stanislavs Olijars (LAT) both ran 7.60.

Savigne at the last minute

Hrysopiyi Devetzi's given name, we're told, means "Source of Gold" in Greek, and indeed anyone wanting the women's Triple Jump gold this evening would have to go through Devetzi to get there. She opened with a 14.93m leap in the first round and improved it to 15.00m even in the fourth, at no point conceding the lead, but on the last round outdoor World Champion Yargelis Savigne (CUB) bounded out to 15.05m, vaulting from her second-place 14.89m into the lead.

"I risked everything on the last jump," said Savigne. "I feel so good I can't explain it."

Devetzi's 14.91m final attempt was a valiant one, but not enough to regain the lead or even improve her mark. If Devetzi was the source of gold, it was for Savigne tonight.

"I feel very unlucky," said Devetzi. "I always seem to lose the gold medal on the last jump."

Mokoena a late leader as well

Chris Tomlinson (GBR) set the standard for the men's long jump in the first round with an 8.06m leap which stood until the end of the last round. It was then that Godfrey Khotso Mokoena of South Africa, who had hit four previous jumps over 8m and a best of 8.05m, finally reached 8.08, enough to best Tomlinson. In the sixth round, Mokoena tried for a big mark, but risked too much and fouled; Tomlinson, however, was unable to improve his own mark and reclaim the gold.

After initial uncertaintly Mekonnen takes men's 1500m

After a protest for lane infraction was rejected, Ethiopian Deresse Mekonnen was the surprise winner of the men’s 1500, holding off Kenyan Daniel Kipchirchir Komen. Spaniards Juan Carlos "The Lion" Higuero and Arturo Casado finished third and fourth, with Higuero taking the first medal for the hosts this weekend.

Heptathlon standings

After four events in the Heptathlon, Bryan Clay (USA), normally a first-day athlete, has a lead of 174 points over Roman Sebrle (CZE). Clay led three of the four events, and only gave up 28 points to Sebrle in the High Jump.

Preliminary action

World Champions Blanka Vlasic (CRO), Valerie Vili (NZL), and Brad Walker (USA) all led qualifying for the finals of their events, the women's High Jump, women's Shot Put, and men's Pole Vault, respectively.

Parker Morse for the IAAF