Sanya Richards en route to her 48.70 400m Area record at the 2006 World Athletics Final in Athens (Getty Images) © Copyright
General News 16 September 2006 – Athens, Greece

Richards takes down 22-year-old record - IAAF World Cup in Athletics, DAY ONE

Athens, GreeceSanya Richards was looking forward to running in lane seven in the Athens Olympic stadium at today’s opening session of the 10th IAAF World Cup in Athletics.

“Lane seven? That means nice big turns and hopefully I can do something special,” the 21-year-old American said yesterday.

So what is “something special”, when you have compiled an undefeated season, when you lead the world list, when you have won the World Athletic Final by almost 10 metres in a canter?

What about a personal best, fastest time in the world this year, national record, area record, with all that moving Richards to seventh fastest on the all-time list. Will that do it? Yes, I think so. There was no argument from the crowd of approximately 30,000 in the stadium.

Richards clocked 48.70 seconds, taking 0.13 off the USA and North American records held by Valerie Brisco-Hooks since the 1984 Los Angeles Olympic Games. She moved past Brisco-Hooks and Ana Guevara on the all-time list. Cathy Freeman, at 48.63, is her next target.

Marita Koch’s World, and World Cup record of 47.60 seconds may remain distant, but on day two Richards can emulate what Koch did in Canberra in 1985. She will be competing in the 200 metres and the 4x400 relay; winning both would match Koch’s achievements in the Australian capital 21 years ago.

At the half-way point of the women’s competition, The Americas shared the lead with Russia (65pts each). A multi-event star of their own, Jamaica’s Sherone Simpson, won the individual 100 metres and anchored the winning 4x100 metres relay to have the continental team locked with the favourite, Russia, with 10 events to go. Europe is in third (60pts).

Click here for Day One Standings

The US seems out of it, whatever Richards does, a disqualification in the sprint relay the killer blow. NB. A protest by both European and USA teams regarding the second leg change over was later rejected by the Jury of Appeal.

Gay dominant but USA still down 2pts overall overnight

Tyson Gay won the 100m and ran the third leg of the relay for the USA men’s team which trailed Europe by just two points after the first day (76 to 74pts). Africa, bidding for a fifth straight team win, had plenty of work to do 15 points off the lead in third place.

Gay did not have World record holder Asafa Powell to run against in the 100 metres, but the American sprinter produced a run of high class to win anyway.

Gay, whose 19.68 200 metres in the World Athletic Final took him to equal-third performer all-time in that event, powered up the straight here to a 9.88 seconds performance. His best is the 9.84 behind Powell’s equal World record 9.77 in Zurich. The margin to second-placed Francis Obikwelu of Europe, was a Powell-like 0.21 seconds, two full metres.

Marc Burns of Trinidad and Tobago, running for the Americas team in place of Powell, took third in 10.14.

Powell did not even get a run in the relay, the world record holder left stranded at the final change as his teammates failed to get the baton round.

Murofushi, Osaka 2007 favourite but Athens is his ‘home town’

Kobe, Japan might be home, but Koji Murofushi calls Athens “my favourite town.’’ An Olympic champion here in 2004, a world championships representative in 1997, Murofushi got Asia off to a wining start with a season’s best in the Hammer Throw.

The hammer men went to work a full 100 minutes ahead of anyone else. Murofushi clearly doesn’t mind an early start. A 79.70-metre effort took the first round lead, then he successively upped that to 81.30 and 82.01 before closing with 81.82.

The closest response was double World champion Ivan Tikhon’s 80.00 in round three, the Belarus man overcoming a mediocre start  - 69.58 metres - to give Europe second place. Ilya Konovalov took third for Russia (77.14).

But there was no denying Murofushi. Japan has superb men’s and women’s marathon depth, but the giant veteran stands out as his country’s best hope for an in-stadium gold medal at next year’s World championships in Athletics in Osaka. He looks as if he can take the pressure.

Lebedeva denies Greek crowd an early celebration

Olympic 400 metres Hurdles gold medallist Fani Halkia was only fifth in the flat 400, but 2004 silver medallist Hrysopiyi Devetzi went within a handspan of providing Greece with a home victory.

Devetzi leapt 15.04 metres in the first round of the women’s Triple Jump to put the pressure firmly on the favourite, Tatyana Lebedeva of Russia.

Lebedeva, who finished third in the Olympics behind Francoise Mbango Etone of Cameroon and Devetzi, responded like a true champion. Her second jump of 15.13 turned out to be the winner and she followed that with a 14.98 in the third round.

Devetzi, roared on and willed on by an adoring crowd, had narrow fouls in rounds two and three, then got out to 15.02 with her last effort.

Len Johnson (The Age) for the IAAF

Click here to read Reports of ALL (20) Events contested today in Athens at the 10th IAAF World Cup in Athletics