Athletics: Gebrselassie smashes an 11-year record

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The Independent Online
AT THE home of the Gladiators, the television ones that is, Haile Gebrselassie emerged victorious from his battle against the clock last night. It proved to be a no-contest. By the time the dust settled on the National Indoor Arena track, the tiny Ethiopian with the giant distance running talent stood triumphant by a margin of 1.31 seconds.

The 2,000m indoor world record set by Eamonn Coghlan in Inglewood, California, had survived intact for 11 years. But in 4min 52.86sec of high-class high- tempo running Gebrselassie finally transferred it from the record ledger to the history books.

In doing so, he claimed the last men's middle distance world record held by a non-African-born runner. It was the 12th world record to fall to the man who started his competitive running life in 99th place in the Abebe Bikila Memorial Marathon in Addis Ababa - at the age of 15.

The prevailing home-from-home atmosphere could only have helped him in his mission. From early afternoon, England's Ethiopian community, many of them political refugees, transformed the centre of Birmingham into a small corner of East Africa, draping their yellow, green and red national flags outside the Malt House pub. "Go Emperor Go," read the message on their T-shirts and their regal countryman did not disappoint as chants of "Haile, Haile" rang round the arena, accompanied by his favourite tune played over the tannoy, "Skat Man".

It was just as well organisers of the Bupa Indoor grand prix had insured against the eventuality of a world record, costing them as it did a bonus payment of pounds 15,000. Of greater worth to Gebrselassie, however, will be the fact that he now holds more than one global best time again.

The other is the indoor 5,000m record and Daniel Komen, Gebrselassie's East African nemesis, intends to revise that in Stockholm on Thursday before jetting to Australia to chase the clock in the outdoor season down under.

To the delight of the natives in the crowd, two of the British athletes in action last night were in record-breaking form. The triple jump run- way became the focus of attention as first Ashia Hansen and then Jonathan Edwards landed in the sand pit at British and Commonwealth record distances.

Hansen improved her record to 14.85m, graduating to fourth place on the world all-time rankings. She also enjoyed the satisfaction of beating the world champion, Sarka Kasparkova, the Czech athlete finishing second with 14.54m.

Edwards claimed the scalp of the men's world champion, Cuban Yoelvis Quesada. In doing so, with a second round jump of 17.64m, he eclipsed Keith Connor's 17-year-old Great British indoor record by a third of a metre.