Kenyan middle-distance runner Noah Ngeny (© Getty Images)
The poster of the 29th Rieti meeting, the final stage of the IAAF Grand Prix II circuit, read: "The temple of middle distances". Never had such intuition been so accurate as tonight, when Kenya's Noah Ngeny broke a long-standing world record.
The golden track of the Guidobaldi stadium proved its worth again with an extraordinary world record. A myth has been cancelled from the history books of athletics; the myth of a runner who has been a protagonist for some of the greatest moments in the history of athletics: Sebastian Coe.
Today, one of the oldest track world records was made obsolete: that 1000m time of 2:12.18 run by Seb Coe on the track of another temple of middle and long distances, the 1981 Bislett Games in Oslo.
Ever since he competed at the 1996 IAAF World Junior Championships, many thought Ngeny was destined for greatness.
Late this afternoon, Ngeny entered the race with only one thought in his mind: the 1000m world record. He had already attempted it a couple of months ago in Nice, coming just short of the mark with 2:12.66, the second-fastest performance of all time.
Today Ngeny asked for a fast pace and his compatriot and friend David Kiptoo led him to the 400m mark in 49.66. Ngeny passed the 800m mark in 1:44.6 exactly the same split of Coe’s 1981 record time. Ngeny then covered the last 200m in 27.2, 0.4 quicker than Coe managed, to stop the clock at 2:11.96.
Ngeny now plans to compete at the IAAF Grand Prix Final in Munich where he will come face to face with his Moroccan arch-rival, Hicham El Guerrouj, the man who finished ahead of Ngeny when setting the mile world record in Rome earlier this year as both men dipped below the previous record.
The Guidobaldi stadium provided splendid surroundings for a meeting attended by more than 7000 spectators. The crowd was delighted to watch Michael Johnson who had to push hard in the final few metres of the 200m to respond to the attack of Claudinei Quirino Da Silva, eventually winning in 20.02.
All eyes were nevertheless set on Fabrizio Mori and Fiona May. Mori, the world 400m hurdles champion, was defeated by France’s Stephane Diagana and Brasil’s Eronilde de Araujo. Diagana clocked 48.27 with De Araujo almost half a second behind.
May fared better than her compatriot, winning the long jump with a first-round leap of 6.74m. Algeria’s world junior triple jump champion Baya Rahouli set a long jump PB of 6.70m to finish second.
Elsewhere, Ekaterini Thanou clocked a wind-assisted 10.96 in the 100m (2.6m/s), fellow Greek Konstantinos Gatsioudis threw 84.20m to win the javelin, Svetlana Masterkova won the 1500m in 4:09.34, Sanderlei Claro Parrela clocked 45.32 to take the 400m, and Svetlana Krivelyova won the shot with a heave of 19.66m.
Ottavio Castellini for the IAAF