From David Monti
© 2007 Race Results Weekly, all rights reserved RaceResultsWeekly.com
By Bob Ramsak
OSLO – Running in still and near perfect conditions, Meseret Defar smashed the world record in the 5000 meters to highlight the ExxonMobil Bislett Games in Oslo.
“No, I had no doubts,” the reigning Olympic champion said after knocking nearly eight seconds from her own world mark with a phenomenal 14:16.63 run.
“I didn’t think I would break the record by such a big margin, but I was aiming under 14:20. So I think I did a good job.”
Her record-breaking margin was the largest in the event in more than two decades, dating back to the Zola Budd-Ingrid Kristiansen rivalry when the record was slashed by more than 10 seconds on a pair of occasions.
“While I was running tonight I knew that I was going for the world record. I was ready for this. And when I was running I knew that I would get it.”
Patiently shadowing pacesetter Olga Komyagina, Defar took over when the Russian finished her duties with seven laps to go, with only Kenyan Vivian Cheruiyot keeping pace. At the 3000 mark, both were under the 8:42.8 pace during Defar’s record run in New York just over a year ago. By the time Defar turned in a sub-70 second split in the 10th lap, Cheruiyot had lost touch. A 68.6 and 66.6 lap followed before she closed with a 64.70 over the final circuit.
“I think today was a very, very good day for me,” Defar, beaming, understated.
Just 23, Defar believes that she hasn’t yet reached her limit.
“Last year I ran 14:24 and this year I ran 14:16,” the two-time world indoor 3000m champion said. “So I think if I do even better training, I can go beyond that.”
Finishing second, Cheruiyot too dipped under the previous record, reaching the line in 14:22.51, a national record for Kenya.
“I’m not disappointed at all,” said the tiny 23-year-old Cheruiyot, a finalist in the event at the 2000 Olympic Games when she was just 17. “This is absolutely fantastic. And,” she added, “I can go faster.”
Kicking through on the inside down the final straight, Moroccan Adil Kaouch pulled off a minor upset with his 3:51.14 victory in the Dream Mile. The 28-year-old, perhaps best known as the pacer for Hicham El Guerrouj in the 1999 and 2001 World Championships finals, surprised Kenyan Augustine Choge (3:51.62) who seemed poised for victory off the final bend.
“It was my first race of the year,” said Kaouch, the silver medallist at the 2005 World Championships, “so I didn’t know what to expect.”
Briton Andy Baddeley, who made his move at the bell, overtook defending champion Daniel Kipchirchir Komen to take third in 3:51.95. Australian Craig Mottram, the winner of last weekend’s two mile race at the Prefontaine Classic, was never in the chase, and finished a distant ninth (3:5457) in the field of 13 finishers.
Eunice Chepkorir opened the distance portion of the evening’s main program with a dominating performance in the 3000m steeplechase, winning by more than seven seconds in 9:19.44 to move up to the event’s No. 5 spot. The 25-year-old improved her personal best by more six seconds en route to her national record.
“This is my first international season,” she said. “I think I have room for improvements.”
Australia’s Commonwealth bronze medallist Donna McFarlane finished strong to take second in 9:26.63, two seconds ahead of Korene Hinds’ 9:28.86, a personal best.
Russian Yuliya Fomenko, formerly Chizhenko, appeared well on her way to victory in the 1500 until Maryam Yusuf Jamal made up a five meter gap over the final 35 meters to take the 4:01.44 victory. At the 2005 World Championships, Fomenko obstructed Jamal in the 1500m final, and was later disqualified. This time she simply didn’t feel the Bahraini ace making her move.
Propelled by a strong homestretch drive, Kuwaiti Mohammad Al-Azemi took the men’s 800 in 1:44.56, while Mohammed Al-Salhi of Saudi Arabia barely held off the closing charge of Ugandan teenager Abraham Chepkirwok, 1:44.89 to 1:44.95. It was the first sub-1-45 for the 18-year-old Ugandan, the bronze medallist at last year’s World Junior Championships.
In the men’s 1500, an early program event, Olympic 3000m steeplechase sliver medallist Brimin Kipruto put in a good speed workout to win in 3:36.27 ahead of Spaniard Alvaro Fernandez (3:36.40). The men’s 1500 is the only middle & long distance event this year designated as a Golden League event, but in Oslo, it’s the Dream Mile that carried the $1 million Jackpot chase status.
With thin fields, particularly in the track events, Defar’s heroics were by far the highlight of an otherwise mediocre Golden League series kick-off. Some victories in the Golden League events however, were noteworthy. Yelena Isinbayeva won the women’s pole vault with a 4.85 clearance in her season’s debut, Olympic champion Yelena Slesarenko won a hotly contested high jump with a 2.02 leap, and Finn Tero Pitkamaki beat Norway’s Olympic champion Andrea Thorkildsen in the javelin throw. As expected, world record holder Asafa Powell won the 100m in 9.94 and Sanya Richards dominated the women’s 400 with her 50.26 win.
The six meet series continues on Friday, July 6 at the Meeting Gaz de France in Paris.
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