Athletics: Drechsler on top

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The Independent Online
MANHATTAN media took time off from the latest ratings war - Princess Di v OJ - and tuned into a more traditional event, the 88th annual Millrose Games. And they were rewarded with another head-to-head battle. Jackie Joyner-Kersee and Heike Drechsler have dominated women's long-jumping for a decade. Only in 1989, when neither competed, was one or the other absent from the top spot.

Drechsler added another dimension to their contest last season when she encroached on JJK's heptathlon territory. The German had her first competition in 11 years, and ended up world No 1.

She maintained the ascendancy late on Friday night at Madison Square Garden. JJK had hedged her bets by entering the 60m hurdles, which she won with a last-gasp dip. But Drechsler stayed ahead all the way in the jump. The German opened with 6.92 metres and finished with 6.96m, both being good enough to beat JJK's 6.84m in round five.

Another head-to-head fell flat on its face when Dennis Mitchell and Jon Drummond finished last two in the men's 60m flat, won by Henry Neal in 6.59sec.

That result should afford Linford Christie some amusement. Mitchell and Drummond were world-ranked No 1 and No 3 in the sprints last summer by Track and Field News, the American magazine which styles itself the "Bible of the Sport". Christie was not the only non-believer. Even American fans have derided those rankings, pointing out that Christie won all his big events last year, including beating Mitchell 5-4.

The former Soviet colleagues Sergei Bubka and Maxim Tarasov exported the East European version of the local derby, Russia v Ukraine. Despite his 35 world records, Bubka lost the 1992 Olympic title, Tarasov being the principal beneficiary when he won gold. But it was another Russian, Egor Trandenkov, who took similar liberties in front of a capacity crowd, winning a cat and mouse game with Bubka by 10 centimetres with a vault of 5.80m.

Angela Chalmers relegated the Algerian Hassiba Boulmerka to the status of also-ran in the mile, winning in 4min 31.66sec. Graham Hood made it a Canadian double when he squeaked past Marcus O'Sullivan in the last 20 metres of the men's mile. O'Sullivan, though, can still look towards a potential fourth world indoor title next month in Barcelona. Hood is still at university, and the NCAA Championships take place the same weekend.

It is hoped that this year's Millrose marks a turning point for the sport in the US. Twenty years ago, there were five indoor meets in the Garden. Now there is Millrose. But Friday night was the first of five meetings in a nationwide indoor grand prix, for which the US Track and Field Association has bought air time on NBC.

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