A familiar pose - Kenenisa Bekele next the clock after his 2000m world best (© Getty Images)
Birmingham, UKThere were records galore at the Norwich Union Indoor Grand Prix - IAAF Indoor Permit - this afternoon, topped by Kenenisa Bekele’s superb World best over the little-run distance of 2000m.
Among the supporting acts were a South American Long Jump record for Irving Saladino, the fifth fastest ever indoor 3000m from Bernard Lagat, another world leading 400m from Nicola Sanders, and a return to form for sprinter Jason Gardener. Only Yelena Isinbayeva disappointed, and she still won without drawing sweat.
Yet again, Bekele supplants Gebrselassie
When Haile Gebrselassie set a World 2000m best of 4:52.86 at Birmingham’s National Indoor Arena in 1998 it was considered a fine mark that would last for years – not least because the distance is not often attempted. But Bekele made mincemeat of Geb’s figures this afternoon when he clocked 4:49.99 to provide the highlight of an action-packed programme.
Bekele was paced through the first kilometre in 2:25.82, shadowed by Kenya’s Shadrack Korir, and set off on his own with three laps to go. He clipped through the bell with a five metre lead and stormed home to eclipse the mark by almost three seconds.
Others may have thought it was tough, but there was never any doubt in Bekele’s mind, as the Ethiopian said afterwards: “I am very happy to break the World (best) but I knew before today that I was going to do it. I’ve been feeling so good in training. Now I am going to Stockholm next week where I hope to break the World 3000m record.”
Bekele, who broke the World 5000m record in this arena in 2004, added: “I always seem to break records when I come here. It is a very special track. I really like it here in Birmingham.”
Bekele may have been the star but there were special runs by athletes pulled along behind him. Korir broke the Kenyan record in second with 4:55.72, while Remi Limo became the fastest ever junior over this distance with 4:59.02 in fourth, and all six finishers set PBs.
Isinbayeva: 'Not my day'
Isinbayeva, billed as the other great international star of the show, was less successful in her record bid. The Russian said it was “just not her day” after she had three unsuccessful attempts at 4.94m, scraping the bar with her torso on the way down with her first two efforts, but hitting it badly on the third.
In truth, it was an inconsistent day for the Pole Vault multi-World record breaker. She started slowly – failing once at her opening height of 4.65 – but went on to win the competition when she sailed over 4.73m.
“Close but not quite,” said Isinbayeva, after failing to set her seventh World record on British soil. “Everything seemed OK but I had problems with my run-up. Sometimes I was quick, sometimes I was slower.”
Svetlana Feofanova, who won the World indoor title in this arena in 2003, finished second with a best clearance at 4.65m. With Isinbayeva opting not to compete at the European Indoors here in two weeks she will be favourite for another title.
“I need to rest,” explained Isinbayeva with a smile. “It will be good to give Svetlana a chance to win something.”
Gardener 'justifies' Euro squad selection
The smile was back on Jason Gardener’s face after he exacted some revenge on his young training partner, Craig Pickering, with a focused display of 60m running. The Bath-based sprinter’s return to form was impressive, and clearly a huge relief for the three-time European champion who ran so poorly at the UK trials last weekend when he was suffering with illness.
Gardener kept his cool after two false starts in the final and came from behind in the second half of the race to win by 0.01s in 6.57, his best of the year.
“After all the problems of the last few weeks there was a lot hinging on this race,” he said, admitting that he might have pulled out of the European Championships had he run badly again, even though he was named in the UK team this week.
“I felt I had to show the selectors some respect and justify my place in the team,” he said. “I had to do the business today. Now I want to come back to this venue and get another result. It won’t be easy, especially with Craig running so well.”
Such has been the progress of Pickering these last few weeks that despite finishing second in 6.58, the 20-year-old was massively disappointed not to improve on the 6.56 he ran in the heats.
“I thought I would go much faster in the final,” he said.
Portugal’s Francis Obikwelu was never in the race, beaten into fourth by Simeon Williamson who ran a PB 6.60 to Obikwelu’s 6.64.
Saladino: With longer pit, World record possible
Panama’s Irving Saladino coped with what he described as a pit that is “too short” to break the South American record in the Long Jump, the best of the day’s field events. Saladino leapt 8.31m in the fifth round to beat Louis Tsatoumas of Greece and Godfrey Mokoena of South Africa.
“The track and the run-up were great, but the pit was too short and I flipped a bit on landing,” said Saladino. “If the pit is a bit longer, maybe I can break the World record next year!”
Mokoena broke the South African record to finish third with 8.13.
Lagat moves up to No. 4 all-time with US 3000m record
Bekele wasn’t the only world class distance runner in flowing form. In the 3000m Bernard Lagat not only broke the US record but ran the best time in the world this year and became the fourth fastest ever over the distance with his 7:32.43. Only World record holder Daniel Komen, Haile Gebrselassie and Bekele have covered the distance faster indoors.
Lagat sensibly sat off the killing pace (1k in 2:29.68; 2k in 5:023.27) and came from behind in the last 100m to beat Ethiopia’s Markos Geneti and Kenya’s Augustine Choge who both ran PBs.
Solid performances by Pavey, Meadows
Jo Pavey’s attempt at the World Two Mile best fell flat when the pace makers took her through one mile in a lung-bursting 4:35. But the Briton hung in over the second half of the race to beat her compatriot Lisa Dobsiskey and break Yvonne Murray’s British record with 9.32.00. Dobriskey was also inside the old mark with 7:33.78.
“I know it sounds strange but I’m a bit disappointed,” said Pavey. “I feel as if there is a lot more in me, but it was a great win.”
There was a great win for another Briton in the women’s 800m when Jenny Meadows held off the challenge of Slovenia’s Brigita Langerholc to break two minutes indoors for the first time – only the third Briton ever to do so. Meadows clocked 1:58.88, not only smashing her PB but leaping into the world’s top four for 2007.
There was another British middle distance victory in the so-called Devil’s Mile – a chaotic, but enthralling race in which the runner who’s last over the line at the end of laps two to seven is eliminated. Mo Farah adopted the sensible tactic of running from the front to avoid the repeated mad rushes for the line, and in the end he won by more than 30m in 4:00.47.
“It was a strange race to be involved in but a good one to win,” was Farah’s verdict afterwards.
Sanders duplicates her world lead at 400m
There was nothing strange about Nicola Sanders’ victory in the 400m. The 24-year-old equalled the world leading time she set last week with a commanding piece of running. Sanders dominated the race from the start and crossed the line some 20 metres clear of her closest rival in 50.60.
“I thought I would have someone pushing me today,” said Sanders who adopted the same time-trial tactics to record the same time last week. “When I saw I was on my own I thought I had gone off too fast, but it’s a great confidence boost for the Europeans to match my time.”
Gevaert debuts with 60m win
There was a confidence boost for Kim Gevaert too. Despite coming off a week of sickness, the Belgian star opened her season with victory in the 60m. Gevaert won with 7.22, 0.01 ahead of the in-form Laverne Jones from the US Virgin Islands.
The double Euopean sprint champion – who says she wants a quiet season after last year’s heroics – is seeking to retain her European indoor title to go with the two outdoor sprint golds she won in Gothenburg last year.
“I was feeling sick this week so I wasn’t sure how I would run,” said Gevaert. “I am pleased with my time but I’ll be hoping for PB back in Birmingham in a few weeks time.”
Carter, Jackson Dq'd
The X-Man became an ex-man in the men’s 400m. Xavier Carter crossed the line first, in 45.91, but was then DQ’d for running out of his lane handing the victory to Britain’s Robert Tobin.
Tobin stormed through the first lap in 21.77 and had a lead of three metres on the American with less than 100m to go. But Carter hauled him in over the last few strides to win. At least that’s how it looked until the officials disqualified both Carter and outdoor World 400m Hurdles champion Bershawn Jackson.
Tobin took a well-deserved win in 46.07 with Sweden’s Johan Wissman second in 46.22. Jackson, who had started quickest then struggled over the second lap, came home fourth before his efforts were wiped out.
There was no such luck for another Briton when Andy Turner was disqualified from the men’s 60m Hurdles for a false start. In his absense, Cuba’s Dayron Robles was pipped at the line by USA’s Ron Bramlett although both were given the same time, 7.52.
Hoffa defeats solid Shot Put field
In the other field events, Reese Hoffa won the battle of the big boys, taking the Shot Put with a best of 21.12m from his US compatriot Daniel Taylor. Denmark’s Joacham Olsen was third and Christian Cantwell fourth. Hoffa celebrated his victory with a lap of honour, entertaining the disappointingly small crowd with a few shot putter’s cart-wheels.
“I don’t know what was harder here, the competition or the lap at the end,” he joked.
Christian Olsson won the Triple Jump with ease, although he suffered a scare when he 'no jumped' his first two efforts. The Swede recovered to win with 17.34m while Britain’s Nathan Douglas stole second in the final round from USA's Aarik Wilson by 4cm with a last leap of 16.97m.
Yaroslav Rybakov won the High Jump with 2.33 from Britain’s Samson Oni.
British heptathlete Kelly Sotherton continued her successful warm-up for the European indoors by beating Jana Veldakova of Slovakia and Jackie Edwards from the Bahamas in the Long Jump. Sotherton produced an impressive series to win with a best of 6.48, while she had two more attempts of 6.40 or more in the four rounds.
“I could have done with another couple of rounds today, but that’s the way it is,” she said. “I have one more meeting, then it’s all about doing the best I can in my hometown in a couple of weeks time.”
Matthew Brown for the IAAF
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