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Paris 2003 Day 9

Day 9 of the Paris 2003 World Track Championships, saw the running of the Women’s Marathon earlier in the afternoon and was followed by three quality races, the Men’s 800 – Women’s 1500m and the Men’s 5000m final.

The winning of the Women’s Marathon by Catherine Ndereba of Kenya added to her status of being one of the World’s Premier competitors over the distance. The winning time of 2Hr 23min 55sec, was a new Championship Record.

Men’s 800m Final

The Men’s 800m final was one the most eagerly anticipated races of the Championships, and it was reserved for the final day of the Games.

In the build up during the season and through the heats and finals, all the major protagonists progressed. Some with a few scares along the way, as well as the elimination of Swiss star, Andre Bucher.

The names being bandied around as they lined up, as to who could be a possible winner, were ranging from the enormously talented Russian, Yuriy Borzakovskiy, the two South African form athletes Mbulaeni Mulaudz and Hezekiél Sepeng, as well as the World Record holder Wilson Kipketer. Yet no mention was made of Algerian hopeful, Djabir Saïd-Guerni who was returning from inactivity due to injury and was hoping to reboot his 800m career.

With a Championship final, the normal problems relate to who would take the lead, and it was with much interest that we observed the World Record holder [1:41.11], Kipketer, provide the pace through the 1st 400m.

It was not an overtly swift first 400m, 52.46, however it was a tempo the smooth striding Danish athlete was hoping would set him up for a 1st place finish. He was doing everything correctly, maintaining the pace round the bend, as he came into the backstraight, an increase in tempo. The athletes were being stretched out, each of them gathering their final reserves to attack the leader.

Then without warning Borzakovskiy bolted past and going into the bend just after the 200m to go mark, he cut in front of Kipketer, at this moment the loss of momentum in my opinion ended Kipketer’s hopes of winning.

The young Russian strode into the final 100m full of confidence and sufficient reserves still in his tank. He was keeping all at bay, however he had not accounted for the man on Algeria who so obssessed to cap his return to competition with something special.

As they drove to the line Saïd-Guerni through himself at the line, Borzakovskiy’s final dip brought him crashing to the ground, after the finish line and a silver medal. Saïd-Guerni had grabbed victory by 300th’s of a second. South African left his final burst too late and had to be satisfied with the Bronze medal and the hope of a better showing at next year’s Athens Olympics.

Women’s 1500m Final

The Women’s 1500m final was expected to be won at a canter to the World’s fastest and unbeaten athlete from Turkey, Süreyya Ayhan. With the Turkish nation hoping to witness their first ever WC Gold, Ayhan was unable to deliver.

After leading the race from the gun, through a fast 1st 400m of 60:50, Ayhan chose to slow the pace, much as she did in the semi-finals. A tactic which was not only niave, but what would also give the rest of the field the opportunity to gain confidence in their chances of defeating the powerful athlete.

With 2:06.76 on the clock, a 66 second lap, the field were readily assembling behind her. The Russians were willing to make a scrap of it, and when the next lap was another slow 65plus, there was only 300m left to run. And, there was a whole host of athletes in with a shouting chance.

Ayhan attempted to accelerate from 300m out, however with the determination of her other competitors underestimated she was unable to offer scant resistance when Russian, Tatyana Tomashova powered past her to win in 3:58.52.

Ayhan came home in a visibly disappointed 2nd place with Britain’s Hayley Tullett grasping Bronze in a PB time of 3:59.95.


Men’s 5000m Final

The Men’s 5000m final promised to deliver something spectacular, with the coming together of the Middle Distance King of 1500m, Hicham El Guerrouj of Morocco, up against the newest pride of Ethiopia, Kenenisa Bekele. These two were the favourites, despite both having won a title earleier in the Champs, El Guerrouj the 1500m and Bekele the 10000m . Both had in the process put a strong case forward that by capturing the 5000m title they would be entitled to a page in the book of Athletic’s Great Achiev

As per usual, someone forgot to tell the Kenyans the script. With Abraham Chibii in the field, who had delivered a host of surprising victories in the earlier Golden League meetings in Paris and Roma , many pundits would not have been surprised. However, it was not Chibii, but Eliud Kipchoge, who had set a New World Junior Record of 12:52.61 in Oslo earlier in the year, who would provide the surprise.

From the gun Bekele made his intentions clear, within 30m he was at the front of the pack of starters and within 100m El Guerrouj was placed to the right of the Ethiopian’s shoulder. The 1st 400m, was covered in 60.53 , this was going to be no easy ride, and the other competitors must have been hoping that the pace would settle. Through 800m in 2:01.09 , 1000m in 2:31.94 . 400m later the pace dropped to 62.35 and going through 2K the clock read 5:07.27 [ 2:36.33] Still the Ethiopian led the race, slowly allowing the tempo to drop to a 64.12 lap, going through 3K in 7:45.44 the speed for the kilometer had dropped to a 2:39 K. All the early blaze and glory had lost its impact, all the main protagonists were gathering. [who, if anyone, had advised him of such a tactic]

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