Athletics: Chirchir bursts on to world stage

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By Steven Downes in Annecy

STEVE OVETT, the 1980 Olympic 800 metres champion who once opined that the decathlon was nine "Mickey Mouse" events followed by one proper race, last night sat back and admired the talents of yet another prodigious Kenyan distance runner. William Chirchir, who last year won the Kenya Schools' decathlon, duly took the 800m title at the World Junior Championships here in 1min 47.23sec, prompting Ovett to joke: "I always thought the decathlon would produce a decent distance runner one day."

Chirchir, 19, took gold from his compatriot, Wilfred Bungei, matching the Kenyan one-two in the previous day's 10,000m final.

Behind them in sixth place was Britain's Chris Moss. But Moss - like the Ugandan and two other Europeans against whom he battled down the home straight - was only ever racing for bronze. Such competition dragged Moss through to a game personal best of 1:48.77.

At least Olga Mikayeva of Russia showed that Kenyan distance runners are not entirely unbeatable, outsprinting her African rivals to take the women's 800m title in a time of 2:05.34.

In the next men's final, the 400m, Moss's Blackheath clubmate, Alloy Wilson, also surpassed his lifetime best, clocking 46.64. Wilson came into the championships having never before broken 47sec, but best times in the heat and semi-finals carried him into the final, where he finished seventh.

While Wilson arrived in good time for his events, the 400m gold medallist, Nduka Awazie, of Nigeria, nearly missed the very first round of his event on the first morning of the championships.

Because of a mix-up with the organisation, Awazie only landed at Geneva airport - 60km from Annecy - one hour before he was scheduled to run in his first-round heat. Waved though Swiss customs, a fast car drove along the Alpine roads with the 17-year-old changing into his running gear in the back seat.

He arrived with quarter of an hour to spare, and in the final, left his run for gold similarly late, dipping at the line to deny Australia's Casey Vincent by the slenderest margin of 0.01sec. But then, without such episodes, the charm and innocence of these junior championships would have been diminished .

Britain's 200m sprint medal hopes, Christian Malcolm and Sarah Wilhelmy, both negotiated their two qualifying rounds yesterday with the minimum of fuss and bother. Malcolm in particular, already the 100m champion here, looked in double-quick form, running a personal best 20.73 in the first round.

A medal, perhaps even the gold, is within the span of Carl Myerscough in the shot putt final this afternoon. The leading qualifier yesterday morning, his efforts were limited to a single 18.05m putt, more than a metre further than the distance required to guarantee a final place.

Not since the days of Geoff Capes in the 1970s has Britain produced a shot putter of such imposing ability or, indeed, size: he is 6ft 10in tall, weighs 23st, competes in size 16 trainers and has been plaguing even the most sanguine of the French chefs at the team hotel with his demands for six meals every day.

Born on Trafalgar Day 19 years ago, Myerscough is able to rocket the 16lb cannonball through the opposition as surely as Nelson ever did. Today, England expects.

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