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Report 2 - Day 1

March 7 - 18:30

Nick Davies reports from Paris

Wilson KipketerWilson Kipketer was the sensation of Bercy when he broke the world indoor record for 800m in a qualifying heat. The Dane, who was unable to compete in the Olympics last year, stunned the crowd in with a virtuoso display of controlled aggression to stop the clock at 1:43.97, over five seconds ahead of the next finisher. Kipketer went through 200m in 24.96 (unofficial times), his second 200m took 25.81 and his first quarter mile 50.77. By that stage he was 20 metres in the lead. Kipketer’s third 200m took 26.56 and his last 26.54. With this perfect example of equal distribution of effort - so crucial in 800m running - Kipketer became the first man to go under the 1:44 barrier. He also became the first man to benefit from the World Record Bonus Programme launched by the IAAF with the support of its official sponsors Mita and TDK (but only by Mita at these Championships). According to the rules, Kipketer will win an award of $50,000 for his exploit. However, because the rules also state that an athlete may only win one award per event, there is no chance that Kipketer will win $50,000 again in the semi-final and once again in the final!

Perhaps encouraged by the roars of some extrovert supporters seated directly opposite the finish line, Haralamboes Papadias and Angelos Pavlakatis showed the class of the current crop of Greek sprinters by clocking 6.55 and 6.58 respectively in the first round of the men’s 60m. Papadias, in particular, showed excellent form with a lightning reaction and smooth acceleration. Fastest of all qualifiers, he showed that the 6.51 he ran in Piraeus on February 14 was no fluke and that his chances of a medal are realistic. US Indoor Champion Randall Evans, who ran a list topping 6.49 on the superfast surface in Atlanta, was less impressive though. A newcomer to the elite scene Evans, perhaps suffering from his first experience of jet-lag, looked ponderous as he struggled to a third place finish in his heat. Indeed, his 6.66 meant he only just squeezed into the semi-final stage as the fastest loser (only heat winners qualified by right). No such trouble for the big Canadian Bruny Surin, who stayed on course for a historic third 60m title with a relaxed 6.56. Also impressive were Britain’s Jason Gardner, who upset Evans to clock 6.56, just 1 hundredths outside his personal best, Jamaica’s 6.49 man Michael Green, who did just enough to win his heat and his countryman Ray Stewart.

There was drama in the first semi-final of the 60m as Nigeria’s Deji Aliu made two false starts - the second actually a major twitch which set off the rest of the field. Disqualified, he refused to leave the field. Once the race got underway, after another false start by Papadias, it was Stewart who reacted best to the gun but Papadias who accelerated most smoothly through the 50 metre point. In a close finish Papadias got the verdict in 6.53 with Stewart earning the second automatic spot with 6.54, the same time as third placer Robert Esmie of Canada. In the second semi US hope Evans crashed out with a dismal 6.63 in a race won narrowly by Davidson Ezinwa in 6.57 from Sweden’s Patrik Lovgren, who set a new Swedish record of 6.58. The fastest semi-final was the last where Green exploded from the blocks to take a clear lead from Surin. The Canadian finished strongly, however, and both men crossed the line together. The time flashed up as 6.50 and examination of the photo-finish gave Surin the verdict. Prediction for the final: Surin (if he gets a great start) from Green and Papadias.

Gail DeversHaving done just enough to qualify for the semi-finals World Indoor 60m record holder Irina Privalova and Olympic 100m champion Gail Devers, found that they were lining up next to each for the first semi final of the women’s 60m. Thanks to a brilliant start (her recorded reaction time was just 1.09) Privalova lead Devers all the way to show that the problems of Atlanta, where the Russian failed to qualify for the Olympic 100m final, are now in the past. With only two qualifiers for the final Devers had the added indignity of running exactly the same time as Greek sprinter Ekaterini Thanou - 7.15. Following an examination of the photo-finish (something of a tradition for the American star …) it emerged that Devers finished first by 7 thousandths. Frederique Bangue, the young French woman who, unlike most sprinters, who has an upright style almost from the gun won the second semi with Chandra Stirrup a clear victor in the third. Verdict for the final: Privalova from Stirrup and Devers.

Following the tragic death of her father in a car crash two weeks ago it would have been understandable had Maria Mutola, top ranked at 800m this season, scratched from Paris. But Mutola decided to honour her father’s memory by trying to win her third consecutive World Indoor title. With Olympic champion Svetlana Masterkova conserving her energy for the summer season, Mutola’s toughest rivals were Letitia Vriesde, silver medallist at the 1995 World Championships in Gothenburg, and Toni Hodgkinson, the New Zealander who improved her personal best dramatically to 1:58.25 in the 1996 Olympics. In the first round Hodgkinson showed she continues to improve by recording the fastest qualifying time, 2:01.64, a new Oceania indoor record.

There was a surprise in the men’s long jump as Russia’s young long jump discovery Kirill Sosunov set a personal best of 8.30m, the best qualifying mark and a new Stadium record. Outdoor World Champion Ivan Pedroso cleared 8.12 and Joe Greene, bronze medallist at the 1996 Olympics, 8.17 which was his season’s best.

 

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Reports from the championships.

Wilson Kipketer conference.

 
Paris-Bercy World Indoor Championships 1997
 
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All photographs 1997 Allsport.