Maria Mutola at the 1997 IAAF World Championships (© Getty Images)
Mozambican powerhouse Maria Lurdes Mutola has set a new women's world record indoors of 1:56.36 in the 800m at the Liévin (France) indoor meeting on Sunday.
The previous world record mark of 1:56.40 was set by Christine Wachtel (GDR), in Vienna, on 13 February 1988.
The pace in Liévin was very fast over the first 400 metres, with Holland's Stella Jongmans leading the field and passing the 200m mark in 26.8 and 400m in 55.82.
At this point, the advantage over Wachtel looked considerable, with the German timed on her record-breaking run at 58.01. But although Mutola was pushed on by Jongmans for a while, she was tiring and unable to keep up the same rhythm, going through the 600m mark in 1:26, 30.18 for the third 200m stretch. But the 25-year old Mozambican showed the full extent of her ability to overcome the pain caused by the build up of lactic acid in her muscles in the last lap of the race.
Pulling out all the stops in her race against the clock, Mutola ran the final 200m in 30.36 and became the new holder of the indoor record by a breath.
There is no question that this record is a fitting reward for an extremely talented and tenacious athlete, who has been a star of middle distance running since the early nineties and has two world indoor titles and one world championship outdoor title, Göteborg 95, in the 800m to her credit. Maria Mutola has also been world record holder in the 1000m indoors, a record she still owns, and outdoors.
The question now is whether Maria Mutola will succeed, in the coming months, in improving on the record she has been chasing for a long time: the outdoor 800m mark of 1:53.28 set by Czechoslovakia's Jarmila Kratochvilova on 26 July 1983.
Looking at yesterday's performance, this will be no easy task. But perhaps we should believe in this especially tenacious champion whosaid, immediately after coming off the track in Liévin: "The next target is to beat Kratochvilova."