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Posted: September 5, 2009  :

(RRW) Athletics: Bekele Cuts It Close, But Wins Share In G/L Jackpot

From David Monti
© 2009 Race Results Weekly, all rights reserved

By Bob Ramsak

BRUSSELS (04-Sep) -- Double world and Olympic champion Kenenisa Bekele added the only major prize missing from his already impressive collection of accolades when he secured a share of the $1 million ÅF Golden League Jackpot as the six-meet series concluded here tonight with the Memorial Van Damme.

"This one was very tough," said Bekele after scrambling to a 12:55.31 victory in the 5000m to share the Jackpot pie with American 400m record holder, Sanya Richards, and Russian pole vault world record holder, Yelena Isinbayeva. Each will take home a $333,333 share of athletics' top prize. This was the third jackpot victory for Richards after sharing the prize in 2006 and 2007, and the second for Isinbayeva after she split the pot with Richards two years ago.

As he did in the World Championships in Berlin, Bekele ran from the front from the outset --in this case, as first behind the pacesetters-- and by the three kilometer point was already on his own. Curiously, he slowed the pace slightly a few laps later, allowing the chase pack to catch up, which resulted in a fairly large crowd still in contention when the pack approached the bell. While Bekele never managed to completely shake his pursuers, his 55-second closing lap could not be matched. His compatriot Imane Merga, who briefly dabbled with the lead at about midway, was second in 12:55.66 with Kenyan Vincent Chepkok also dipping under 12:56 for third. For the second weekend in a row, an American runner joined the sub-13 ranks; Matt Tegenkamp clocked an impressive 12:58.56 for seventh place.

As expected, a Kenyan quartet broke the world record in the 4 x 1500m relay, clocking 14:36.23, to take down the oldest global record on the books. William Biwott Tanui, Gideon Gathimba, Geoffrey Rono and Augustine Choge had to average 3:39.00 per leg to eclipse the 14:38.8 set by a West German team in Cologne way back on August 17, 1977. Biwott Tanue, who set the world junior record in the mile at this year's Dream Mile in Oslo, and Choge, this year's 1500m world leader, managed to come through with their respective 3:38.5 and 3:36.9 lead off and anchor legs. In between, Gathimba (3:39.5) and Rono (3:41.4) did the rest to collectively hold off a mixed-nationality team who clocked 14:44.31, with an Australian quartet taking third in 14:46.92, a national record.

While the race was entertaining, it was confusing as well. With nearly as many different uniform tops as there were runners, following the action was extremely difficult, particularly during the first crowded exchange. When the 4 x 800m relay was staged here three years ago, team kits were worn. Not this time around.

After starting her season as the No. 2 steeplechaser in the USA, Anna Willard will be ending it as one of the top 800m runners in the world. With a steady sustained kick over the final straight, the 25-year-old American ran wide and moved by four runners to reach the line in 1:59.14, well ahead of Briton Jenna Simpson (1:59.40) and Russian Mariya Savinova (1:59.49). It was her second Golden League series victory over the distance; she was also the surprise winner in Paris.

The men's race played out in similar fashion, with Kenyan Trials champion David Rudisha taking the lead midway through the final turn before motoring onwards to a 1:45.80 win, his second in as many weekends. Second, for the fourth final in a row, was 2007 world champion Alfred Kirwa Yego in 1:46.36 with Canada's Gary Reed (1:46:82) third.

Running out of steam over the final lap, Geleta Burka came up well short in her world record assault in the rarely-run 2000m, but she still a managed a 5:30.19 African record and a dominating victory. Vivian Cheruiyot, the 5000m world champion and whose continental record the Ethiopian had broken, was well back in second in 5:35.46.

Elsewhere, Paul Kipsiele Koech took a straightforward and commanding victory in the steeplechase in 8:04.05, ahead of world championships silver medalist Richard Mateelong.

Tonight's meet drew the curtain on the IAAF Golden League's 12 year run as the world's premiere single day meeting circuit. The series will be replaced next year with the IAAF Diamond League, a 14 meet series which kicks off in Doha, Qatar, on May 14.

All three jackpot winners will be back in action at the traditional season-capping IAAF World Athletics Final in Thessaloniki, Greece, next weekend.

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