ParisAmerican Tim Montgomery dramatically stole the show in Paris with a 9.78 100m World Record, that unexpectedly deprived Morocco's Hicham El Guerrouj of the Overall men's Grand Prix title at the 18th IAAF Grand Prix Final.
Just moments after the start of the men's 100m, all the well rehearsed predictions and analysis about who would win the Overall Men's Grand Prix title, quickly became waste paper on the floor of the press tribune of the Stade Charlety.
All the pre-event talk had been of El Guerrouj and Dominican Republic's Felix Sanchez, respectively the World Champions at 1500m and the 400m Hurdles, who were tied on 92 points at the start of the meeting and then again on 116 points after their event wins during the afternoon. At that point, on the basis of a better relative performance - 3:29.27 1500m / 47.62 400m hurdles - (** see note), it was El Guerrouj who looked certain to win the $100,000 award for the Overall title on his birthday.
Yet there are never any certainties in athletics, and the bang of the gun at the start of the men's 100m sounded the death knell for the Moroccan's birthday celebrations, as Tim Montgomery charged through the finish in 9.78 (+ 2m/s legal wind) to beat Maurice Green's old World Record of 9.79, which was set in Athens in 1999.
The race itself was a classic, with Britain's European champion Dwain Chambers pushing Montgomery all the way to equal Linford Christie's European figures of 9.87 (1993). In third was USA's Jon Drummond in 9.97 (season's best) and Commonwealth Champion Kim Collins of St. Kitts and Nevis established a new national record of 9.98 in fourth.
Starting the IAAF Grand Prix Final with a relatively lowly 74 points, well adrift of the two main Overall contenders, Montgomery's win brought him 24 points. But his World Record brought him a double bonus. Firstly, he won 18 extra points which brought the American into a three way tie with El Guerrouj and Sanchez on 116 points. Secondly, Montgomery's 9.78 was a better performance than El Guerrouj's 3:29.27 run in the 1500m (**see note).
So effectively, just 100th of a second brought Montgomery a combined $250,000 pay day. Had the World silver medallist in Edmonton last summer, 'only' equalled Green's previous record, he would have obtained 9 extra points instead of the 18 he captured for actually bettering the mark.
So Montgomery ended up winning $50,000 for winning the 100m, another $100,000 for the Overall Grand Prix title and another $100,000 for the World Record. All in all, a lucrative total for 9.78 seconds of sprinting genius.
A hour and half before Montgomery's win, every thing seemed to be going according to the script. A typically gutsy run from Felix Sanchez, had seen the Dominican Republic's World 400m Hurdles champion blast out from the blocks in lane five and quickly close down on the stagger of the three men outside him.
Sanchez might have been attempting a remarkable double but, naturally, the spectators in the Stade Charlety were more keen to encourage France's European champion Stephane Diagana. But despite a spirited effort he never came close to the peerless Sanchez, one of the quartet of athletes who had already collected a share of this season's IAAF Golden League Jackpot.
Sanchez's winning time was 47.62, a Grand Prix Final record, with Diagana also going sub -48 in second place with 47.82.
The result, and most particularly the finishing time, left El Guerrouj, previously tied on the same number of Grand Prix points (92) as Sanchez, seemingly needing only to win his 1500m in 3:30.36 to take the Overall men's Grand Prix title.
At yesterday's Press Conference Sanchez had predicted that the Overall Grand Prix would be his birthday present to the Moroccan, as he was more concerned about completing his 400m hurdles / 400m flat double. Sanchez would later finish 5th over 400m in 45.25.
El Guerrouj exuded confidence, and already in the lead way before the bell (2:34.54) entered the final 100 metres with a sizeable lead on Kenya's Bernard Lagat which he continued to build, sailing across the finish line in 3:29.27, comfortably inside his target.
It seemed that Sanchez's birthday present had been safely delivered into the Moroccan's hands, but just at the moment when El Guerrouj was poised to unwrap his $150,000 (100,000 1st Overall + 50,000 1st individual event) Montgomery dashed in leaving the Moroccan World Record holder with "just" $50,000 for the 1500m event win.
Five points ahead of hurdler Gail Devers in the Overall Women's Grand Prix, Marion Jones needed to show again the dominant form which took her to a share of the 2002 Golden League Jackpot last week. Jones did all that was required and a little more, running a quick 10.88 despite a sluggish start which meant she had to play catch up with her six opponents. Six? Yes, because after two false starts her main rival World Champion Zhanna Pintusevich-Block was eliminated. For Jones the outcome was more satisfying: the second Overall Grand Prix title of her illustrious career.
After defeat in Berlin last week, it was back to the top of the podium for Gail Devers in the women's 100m Hurdles. The three time World Champion eased through the race with a clear margin over a field, which included American World champion Anjanette Kirkland, and the two women, Jamaica's Brigitte Foster and Spain's Glory Alozie who inflicted defeats on her in Zurich and Berlin, respectively. Devers finished in 12.51, with Foster and Kirkland split in that order with the same 12.62 clocking, to secure second place in the Overall Rankings.
Third in the women's Overall stakes was Mexico's Ana Guevara, who in her customary fashion crushed her opponents in the women's 400m, coming home in 49.90 with a solid lead over Jamaica's Lorraine Fenton (50.47), to add a respectable $80,000 ($30,000 3rd Overall + $50,000 1st individual event) to her quarter share of the 50 kilos of gold which she grabbed as one of the four winners of the IAAF Golden League.
** as established on the basis of the IAAF Scoring Tables which are used in the case of ties.