A familiar sight - Haile Gebrselassie next his Hour Run World record board (© Golden Spike)
Despite his recent career shift to the roads, Haile Gebrselassie illustrated quite clearly that he’s still very much at home on the track after breaking the World record in the One Hour Run at the 46th Golden Spike Grand Prix in Ostrava tonight (27), the Czech stop of the IAAF World Athletics Tour 2007.
Running before a near capacity crowd at Mestsky Stadium, the legendary Ethiopian covered 21,285 metres* over the course of 60 minutes to break the previous best, 21,101m, set by Mexican Arturo Barrios in La Fléche, France, on 30 March 1991.
“Today is just a fantastic day,” said a beaming Gebrselassie, after adding 184 metres to the classic distance running challenge. “I thought at half way that I would get the record. But 50 percent of the record is because of the spectators, and they were fantastic.”
This was the second attempt by Gebrselassie to tackle the record. In his first, in Hengelo in 2002, a calf problem forced him off the track after 39 minutes. Besides a few grimaces, he showed no signs of faltering this time around. Assisted by three pacesetters, he reached the 10,000m point in 28:11.24 and two kilometres later (33:50.74), he was on his own. With his long refined surgical precision, Gebrselassie knocked off 68-second lap after 68-second lap before displaying remnants of his swift legendary finishing kick when the final minute countdown began. In the waning moments he even won another race, dashing past a judge who tried desperately to keep up and mark the spot where the hour would end.
“I was expecting something special today,” he said. “I was worried a little bit about the wind, but it was ok. I think I could have run even faster.”
En route, the 34-year-old Ethiopian also broke the World record for 20,000m, covering 50 laps in 56:25.98*, well within the previous 56:55.6 also set by Barrios. These were the 23rd and 24th World records set by the two-time Olympic 10,000m champion.** see list below.
Defar challenged, briefly
With Gebrselassie setting the tone for the meeting in the late afternoon, it was appropriate that the two longest events on the evening programme would produce some drama of their own.
Meseret Defar didn’t promise another world record in the 5000; racing again just 12 days after her scintillating 14:16.63 performance, another certainly wasn’t expected. When she and compatriots Gelete Burka and Meselech Melkamu reached 2000m in just over 5:51, it was apparent that another record would have to wait for another day. But Defar did predict a strong race, and her compatriots gave her one.
The Olympic champion made her first attempt to break away with three laps to go, but the pair in pursuit stayed with her, with Melkamu even retaking the lead with less than two laps to go. Even when Defar shifted into her sustained kick for home entering the final lap, the company remained on her shoulder until she mustered yet another gear over the final 150 metres. Her 14:30.18 winning time might have seemed anti-climactic in comparison to her performance in the Norwegian capital, but it’s important to bear in mind that only seven other women have ever covered the distance faster.
“I felt tired after the meeting in Oslo, and that was also the reason why I did not break the World record again,” Defar said. “Ten days are not enough to recover.”
Both Burka (14:31.20) and Melkamu (14:33.83) in second and third were rewarded with career bests.
Mottram out-maneuvers, out-kicks T. Bekele
The men’s 5000 was a much deeper affair, with a large pack in contention some seven minutes into the race. With five laps to go, Tariku Bekele, Craig Mottram and Ethiopian teenager Ali Abdoosh were pushing the pace until Mottram took control a lap later. Moses Masai forged forward to take his turn at the lead with three laps remaining. Making a move similar to his decisive one to take last September’s World Cup 3000 over Kenenisa Bekele, Mottram again jetted to the front with about 650m to go, forcing Bekele into an early kick. When he crossed the line and blew a kiss to the crowd, Mottram was clearly delighted that his plan had worked.
“I just wound up faster, faster and faster,” said Mottram, who covered the final lap in about 53 seconds en route to his 13:04.97 victory to Bekele’s 13:05.42. “I felt Bekele coming up with about 650 to go, so I thought, ‘OK, let’s get it on.’” Smiling, the Australian added, “I dropped his brother doing the same thing last year, and I figured he’s not that good yet so I’d smash him too.”
Abraham Feleke closed fast to finish third, clocking a season’s best 13:05.83.
Hoffa’s momentum continues
Reese Hoffa, the winner of last weekend’s U.S. Championships, hardly seemed worse for the war after a solid series to beat back the challenge of compatriots Christian Cantwell and Dan Taylor. Opening with a 21.55 throw, the 2006 World Indoor champion sealed the victory with a 21.77 heave to take his third Grand Prix victory of the season. Hoffa produced a pair of long fouls, but each of his legal throws went beyond 21.35.
World leader Christian Cantwell opened with a 21.35 and improved to 21.68 in the fourth round to take second while Osaka-bound Taylor was a distant third with a 20.52 best.
Despite win, Isinbayeva shows frustrations
There aren’t too many women vaulters who shed tears after winning a competition at 4.66, but World record holder Yelena Isinbayeva isn’t your typical pole vaulter.
While she expressed confidence prior to the meet, the evening clearly wasn’t the 24-year-old Russian’s. After missing her first attempt at her opening height of 4.61, she passed to 4.66 and missed again before clearing with plenty to spare to move on. She didn’t fare much better at 4.80, missing twice before bowing out with a miss at a would-be world leading 4.90. None of the three jumps at the higher heights were particularly close.
“I just don’t know why I jumped so bad,” Isinbayeva said, not hiding her frustration. “That’s just the way it is in sport sometimes.” The Olympic, World and European champion competes next in the Paris Golden League stop on 6 July.
A successful leap at 4.66 brought the opposite response from Katerina Badurova, who added 24cm to her outdoor best to set a new Czech record. The 24-year-old, who jumped 4.65 indoors last winter, went over on her third attempt before three tries at 4.71.
Favourites falter in the hurdles contests
On Tuesday, World champion Michelle Perry said she wanted to use her Ostrava appearance to bounce back from her runner-up finish at the U.S. championships. But after a false start disqualification, she never gave herself the opportunity. With Perry out and frustrated, Spaniard Josephine Onyia sped to a clear victory in 12.91, well clear of 2003 World champion Perdita Felicien (13.02). For the 20-year-old Onyia, who has a career best of 12.78 from last year, it was her fifth win in six starts this season.
In the men’s race, David Payne stormed over the last five hurdles to take a commanding victory in 13.25, well ahead of European champion Stanislav Olijar (13.44) who edged Cuban Dayron Robles by just .01 seconds. It was the first loss of the year for the 20-year-old Cuban, and his slowest performance of the year.
Though fading somewhat down the homestretch, reigning World champion Bershawn Jackson appeared clear enough of the field to be en route to victory in the 400m Hurdles until he experienced a career first: he tripped and tumbled very hard over the final hurdle. While he was trying to pick himself up, South African LJ Van Zyl stormed by to a 48.64 win. In his first race of the season, Two-time World champion Felix Sanchez paid dearly for the substantial lead he built over the first five hurdles, and faded to sixth (50.82).
In somewhat of a contrast, Yuliya Nosova, the reigning women’s World champion and World record holder over the full lap hurdles, also slowed dramatically over the final 30 metres, but still took a commanding win in 54.58. European champion Yevgeniya Isakova was runner-up (55.18) and Natalya Ivanova third (55.25) to round out a Russian podium sweep.
Sheena Johnson, the runner-up last weekend at the U.S. championships in 53.29, was never in the chase and was a distant fourth (55.73).
Ali, Cherkasova the 800 winners
Olympic champion Yuriy Borzakovskiy is one of the most predictable athletes in a very unpredictable sport. As has become his trademark, he began by running well to the back of the pack, moved up to eighth at the bell, into fourth with about 150m to go, but still ran out of room as he approached the line to finish second to Bahraini Belal Mansoor Ali who won in 1:44.74. With his strong closing charge, Borzakovskiy edged young Ugandan Abraham Chepkirwok for second, each credited with a 1:45.12.
Svetlana Cherkasova produced a solid outing in the women’s two-lapper, cruising to a 1:59.05 season’s best. Slovak Lucia Klocova was a surprise runner-up with a PB 1:59.88 with Olga Kotlyarova third (1:59.98).
Young Briton Craig Pickering picked up his second big win in the row in the 100m, winning handily in 10.16. Not the quickest from the blocks, the European Cup champion took command of the race by the midway point from Churandy Martina (10.31) and Tyrone Edgar (10.33). Australian champion Joshua Ross, who altered his bibb to read “Boss,” clearly wasn’t, finishing a distant fourth (10.34).
Paul Kipsiele Koech had a much better outing that his last in Ostrava. Last year he ended the race a lap early; this year he won handily in 8:10.01, well ahead of Kenyan compatriots Reuben Kosgei (8;11.94) and Willy Komen (8:12.46).
While the field was solid, the rapidly dropping temperatures played a key role in the men’s High Jump. Only four men – including Olympic champion Stefan Holm – managed to clear 2.27. Kyriakos Ioannou of Cyprus was the best on the night, taking the win in 2.30, with Holm, Slovak Peter Horak and Russian Andrey Tereshin following.
World leader Franka Dietzsch won a spirited competition in the Discus Throw with a fourth round 64.61 throw, beating back European champion Darya Pischalnikova (63.72) and Swede Anna Soderberg (62.98).
South African Robert Oosthuizen, the reigning World junior champion, won the javelin throw with a second round 82.35 throw, well ahead of Finn Teemu Wirkkala (78.42) and German Stefan Wenk (77.93). This was the first international senior victory for the 20-year-old, who was sixth at last year’s Commonwealth Games.
Malgorzata Tryanska of Poland reached 6.68 in the first round to win the Long Jump over Oksana Udmurtova (6.52) with World champion Tianna Madison a distant seventh (6.35).
Barbora Spotakova produced a home win in the women’s Javelin Throw with a 64.94 throw and Brianna Glenn won the women’s 100m in 11.38.
Bob Ramsak for the IAAF
* World record pending the usual ratification procedures
Click here for complete results
Haile Gebrselassie's World records
1) 12:56.96 5000m Hengelo 04Jun94
2) 8:07.46 * 2 miles Kerkrade 27May95
3) 26:43.53 10,000m Hengelo 05Jun95
4) 12:44.39 5000m Zurich 16Aug95
5) 13:10.98 5000m Sindelfingen (i) 27Jan96
6) 7:30.72 3000m Stuttgart (i) 04Feb96
7) 12:59.04 5000m Stockholm (i) 20Feb97
8) 8:01.08 * 2 miles Hengelo 31May97
9) 26:31.32 10,000m Oslo 04Jul97
10) 12:41.86 5000m Zurich 13Aug97
11) 7:26.14 3000m Karlsruhe (i) 25Jan98
12) 4:52.86 * 2000m Birmingham (i) 15Feb98
13) 26:22.75 10,000m Hengelo 01Jun98
14) 12:39.36 5000m Helsinki 13Jun98
15) 12:50.38 5000m Birmingham (i) 14Feb99
16) 27:02 10km Doha 11Dec02
17) 8:04.69 * 2 miles Birmingham (i) 21Feb03
18) 41:22 ** 15km Tilburg 04Sep05
19) 44:23 * 10 miles Tilburg 04Sep05
20) 55:48 20 km Tempe 15Jan06
21) 58:55 Halfmar Tempe 15Jan06
22) 1:11:37 *** 25km Alphen aan den Rijn 12Mar06
23) 56:25.98p 20,000m Ostrava 27Jun07
24) 21,285m 1 hour Ostrava 27Jun07
* not an IAAF record event
** not officially timed
*** no post-race EPO test
p = pending IAAF ratification
with additional thanks to Marty Post