Gabriela Szabo and Bernard Barmasai after the 1999 IAAF Grand Prix final (Getty Images) © Copyright
Report Munich, Germany

Szabo and Barmasai break the bank in Munich

Gabriela Szabo had said that she would not be worrying about the scoring tables, but it certainly looked as though she had done her homework, as she ran 8:43.52 to win the 3000m (1175 points) and beat Mutola on performance (1169 points), clinching the Overall Grand Prix and taking her winnings this season to over a million US dollars.

"And now it’s holiday time for me!" said the neo millionaire when she learned that she had won the overall prize.
"I don’t think it’s possible for me to repeat such a successful season. Everything went as I dreamed."

Maria Mutola had won the women’s 800m, despite looking as though she was tiring in the last metres. Her win placed her at the head of the women’s Overall Grand Prix and candidate for the $200,000 winner’s award going into the Final with equal points to Romania’s IAAF Golden League jackpot winner Gabriela Szabo.

A win by Szabo would mean that the final outcome would be settled using the Outdoor Scoring Tables, so the big question for Mutola was whether she would leave the Olympiastadion with $150,000 or $250,000. As it happened, it was the lesser of these two amounts which went to the Mozambican as her performance is worth 1169 points in the IAAF scoring tables to 1175 points to Szabo’s time.

Bernard Barmasai gave yet another superb demonstration in the 3000m steeplechase, leaving nothing to chance after his surprise defeat by Morocco’s Ali Ezzine in the final meeting of the IAAF Golden League in Berlin on Tuesday. The 26 year-old Kenyan moved into the lead around halfway through the race, after David Chelule of Kenya had taken the leaders through 1000m in 2:39.46. From then on in it was Barmasai all the way, running through 2000m in 5:24.36 and finally crossing the finish line in 8:06.92 and ensuring himself of a $250,000 dollar end of season pay-off (200,000 dollars for the Overall Grand Prix and $50,000 for his individual win here).

Behind Barmasai in the final 200 metres, the fight was on for the second place, with Ali Ezzine, the Moroccan who pipped Barmasai for first place in Berlin and ran the fastest time ever recorded by a non-Kenyan for the steeplechase, and Wilson Boit Kipketer (KEN). In the end, Boit Kipketer had the stronger kick and took second place with 8:08.28, against Ezzine’s 8:08.64.

"By pushing the pace today, I was confident that victory would be mine," said Barmasai immediately after the race. "After my difficulties in Zurich and Seville, it’s very good to end a season in this way.

"Obviously the overall prize money for this year’s Grand Prix is not yet decided, but whatever the end result it will be welcome money. Today confirms for sure that I’m the number one in the world and now I am thinking already of Sydney next year."

Showing all his strength and grace, Wilson Kipketer was as masterful as only he can be in the 800m. He would have had to run a world record time to have been able to overtake Bernard Barmasai in the Overall Grand Prix, but the Dane was assured of at least another $100,000 pay-day as he crossed the line here in the magnificent Munich Olympiastadion. What his final winnings would be would only be known later, as Kostas Gatsioudis would have to be beaten in the javelin throw for Kipketer to better the Greek’s overall score in the Final.

Whatever the final outcome, Kipketer was happy with his win: "I never expected to end this long period of ups and downs with such a happy ending: an easy victory here in Munich.
"The important thing for me now will be to use my holiday in the best possible way. No practice, no competition! Just socialising with friends."

Finally, Kostas Gatsioudis did not fail in his mission, a massive first throw of 89.84m ensured the Greek silver medallist in Seville of victory from the outset, and a pay cheque of $150,000. Gatsioudis’s throw beat that of the Czech Republic’s Jan Zelezny in second place by more than two metres. German’s Raymond Hecht was third.

In a dramatic end to the women’s triple jump, Britain’s Ashia Hansen cleared 14.96m with her final attempt to beat Greece’s Paraskevi Tsiamita. Tsiamita had herself moved into the lead with her final clearance of 14.77 ahead of third-placed Tatyana Lebedeva (RUS), whose final attempt of 14.66m had momentarily placed her at the head of the competition.

It was the end of a difficult season for Hansen: "I knew that I had to get my head together today," she said afterwards. "It’s been a difficult season altogether and I knew that there was a big jump in me somewhere, but when it would come was the big question. It finally came here in Munich. However, I was nervous until the last moment that I might still lose."

Jamaica’s Deon Hemmings left nothing to chance, as she went early into the lead in the women’s 400m hurdles and stayed there to the finish line. Coming off the final hurdle, Hemmings was half a stride ahead of Andrea Blacket from Barbados, but in the final sprint, Hemmings had the advantage and crossed the finish line nearly two metres ahead of Blacket in a competition record time of 53.41 seconds. A possible threat from Ionela Tirlea was excluded at the first hurdle, when the Romanian pulled up short with a muscle strain. Hemmings’ win gave her 108 points in the Overall Grand Prix.

A gutsy run by Switzerland’s Anita Weyermann was not enough to give her a win in the women’s 1500m. The 21 year-old shot away from the start and led all the way to 1000 metres, when she succumbed to the experience and tactics of 34 year-old Violeta Beclea-Szekely from Romania. Beclea took over the lead and went through 1200m in 3:32.34, staying four strides ahead of Weyermann all the way home and clocking 4:15.18 at the finish. Weyermann recorded a time of 4:15.92, with Kenya’s Jackline Maranga taking third place with 4:16.60.

A jump-off gave Hestrie Storbeck-Cloete from South Africa victory in the women’s high jump, after three athletes tied at 1.96 metres. With Storbeck, Irina Babakova (UKR) and Zuzana Kovacikova-Hlavonova (CZE) all marking clear rounds up to 1.96, the bar was placed at 1.98, a height failed by all three. In a "sudden-death" finish, the bar was dropped back down to 1.96 and Storbeck was the only one of the three to clear the height at her first attempt. World Champion Babakova and Kovacikova took joint second place.

After a fouled first throw, Germany’s Lars Riedel went on to hurl a massive 68.61m with his second attempt, bettering by nearly two metres the best effort of Lithuanian Virgilijius Alekna, who placed second with 66.65m from his fourth throw. Neo World Champion Anthony Washington (USA) came third with his final throw of 66.22.

Astrid Kumbernuss did not fare so well in the women’s shot put as she was beaten by her fellow German Nadine Kleinert. Kleinert won with her final throw of 19.16m, bettering by three centimetres the 19.13m achieved by Kumbernuss on both her first and second attempts.

In the men’s 3000m, Mohammed Mourhit was running strongly as he went round the final bend and into the home straight with a lead of 7-8 metres over Kenyans Benjamin Limo and Paul Bitok. But in a final sprint for the finish, the two Kenyans came from behind and shattered the Belgian’s hopes of taking home the $50,000 dollars first prize, leaving him in third place at the line. Limo was first home with 7:36.32, Bitok second in 7:36.60, with Mourhit timing 7:36.73.

After the race, Limo said that he had seen both Mourhit and his countryman Daniel Komen as the main threats: "For me they were the main dangers. With two laps to go I was unsure of being able to win, but things changed for me between 300 and 200 metres from the finish, when suddenly I was aware that I still had a chance."

Unusually, both the first two places in the women’s 200m and the next two places clocked identical times. Finally, the judges awarded first place to Sevatheda Fynes (BAH) ahead of Jamaica’s Merlene Frazer, with both athletes clocking 22.55, whereas Beverley McDonald (JAM) and World Champion Inger Miller (USA) were both awarded third place both having timed at 22.64.

Mark Crear (USA) the season’s leading performer, was a convincing winner in the men’s 110m hurdles, ahead of Great Britain’s Colin Jackson, crossing the line nearly a tenth of a second ahead of the World Record holder, clocking 13.08 to Jackson’s 13.17. John Smith protégé Larry Wade (USA) was third in 13.19.

Maksim Tarasov confirmed his place as the most promising successor to Sergey Bubka, as he won the Pole Vault with a clearance of 5.85m. Jeff Hartwig (USA) was second, with 5.80m. Seville silver medallist Dmitry Markov came third with the same height as Hartwig.

In the men’s long jump competition, Cuba’s Ivan Pedroso reigned supreme. With a final bound of 8.43m, he dashed the hopes of Jamaica’s James Beckford, who had taken over the lead with his fifth round jump of 8.29m. Beckford then went on to foul his last attempt, while Pedroso had the 30,000 spectators in the stadium on their feat as his final jump gave him the highest step of the podium and $50,000 dollars to boot.

Despite giving his all, 20 year-old Kenyan Noah Ngeny was unable to better Hicham El Guerrouj’s World Record in the 1500m. Ngeny had hoped to benefit from the absence for medical reasons of the Moroccan World Champion to attack the 1500m world record, but in the end it proved too much for Ngeny, who just one week ago had set a new World Record in the 1000m, by demolishing Sebastian Coe’s 18 year old mark. He crossed the line in 3:28.93, nearly three seconds off El Guerrouj’s record time of 3:26.00.

In the final event of the Grand Prix Final, World Champion Maurice Greene got his come-uppance from Claudinei Da Silva, 200m silver medallist in Seville. The Brazilian breasted the tape a mere-hundredth of a second ahead of Greene in a new South American Continental Record time of 19.89. Greene clocked 19.90 to match his winning time in Seville. Nigeria’s Francis Obikwelu matched his third place in Seville and was just a hundredth of a second off his World Championships final time of 20.12.

Sean Wallace-Jones for IAAF