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Posted: July 18, 2009  :

(RRW) Athletics: Bekele Wins In Paris; Stays Alive In GL Jackpot

From David Monti

© 2009 Race Results Weekly, all rights reserved

By Bob Ramsak

PARIS-ST. DENIS (17-Jul) -- What was to be a tactical test for Kenenisa Bekele over a shorter distance largely turned into yet another time trial for the triple Olympic champion at the Meeting Areva on a wet track in front of a crowd of 46,500 at the Stade de France here tonight.

By the time he entered the fourth lap of the 3000m, his eagerly-anticipated face-off with double world champion Bernard Lagat turned into a lopsided victory for Bekele to stay very much alive in the chase for a chunk of the $1 million ÅF Golden League Jackpot.

“The race was hard because of the wind and rain,” Bekele said, but that hardly showed when he threw down a 58 second final lap en route to his 7:28.64 win, more than four-and-a-half seconds ahead of Lagat. Bekele had a four-meter lead with 1600m to go, and extended it to nearly 20 two laps later.

“I still have some work to do on my endurance,” explained Lagat, who was nonetheless pleased with his 7:33.15 career best at age 34. “What I mainly need now are races before Berlin,” he said, adding that a pair of final tune-ups --a mile in London next weekend and a 1000m race in Stockholm on July 31-- will help him decide whether he’ll defend both of his world titles at the World championships next month.

Further back, Mourad Amdouni of France was third in 7:37.50, the fastest by a European this season, and American Chris Solinsky ran near his personal best with a 7:37.72 clocking in fourth.

The rain which began to fall during the men’s 3000 picked up significantly by the time the starter’s gun sounded the start of the steeplechase. It quickly became evident that Frenchman Mahiedine Mekhissi-Benabbad’s hopes to join the event’s sub-8 club would have to wait for another day.

The Frenchman did, nonetheless, collect a significant victory over Kenyan Ezekiel Kemboi, 8:13.23 to 8:15.27, with Finland’s European champion Jukka Keskisalo finishing third in a personal best 8:15.59.

American Anna Willard took home the highest profile win of her career with a come from behind victory in the 800m. Running in the middle of the track, Willard, the former U.S. record holder in the 3000m steeplechase, chased down the field over the final 100 meters to win in 1:58.80, her second sub-two minute performance of the season in as many attempts at her least-run distance. She edged Italy’s Mediterranean Games champion Elisa Cusma (1:58.99) and Russian Oksana Zbrozhek (1:59.13). The first seven women all dipped under two minutes with season’s best times, while Shannon Rowbury, the USA 1500m champion, also improved her personal best to 2:00.94 in eighth.

Unlike the women’s race, the men’s two lapper was bereft of any drama with Olympic silver medalist Ahmed Ismail winning comfortably in 1:45.85 off of a slow first half (51.61), well ahead of Algerian Nadjim Mansour (1:46.31) and Berlin-bound American Khadevis Robinson (1:46.47).

The conditions weighed heavily throughout the program, but didn’t dampen the Jackpot aspirations of the other three remaining contenders –American Sanya Richards who won the 400m, Jamaican Kerron Stewart who took the 100m, and Russian Yelena Isinbayeva who won the pole vault in just one jump.

Meet poster boy Usain Bolt of Jamaica won the 100 with a season’s best and meet record 9.79, despite a poor start and the wet track. Second place Daniel Bailey of the Netherlands Antilles set a national record of 9.91,

After a six-week break, the ÅF Golden League series resumes with the Weltklasse in Zurich on August 28 after the IAAF World Championships in Athletics concludes in Berlin.

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