Athletics: Hissou shatters 10,000m world record

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The Independent Online
A world record which many believed would last for years to come was shattered here last night when Salah Hissou covered 10,000 metres in just 26min 38.08sec at the Ivo van Damme Memorial meeting.

The performance left the crowd almost as breathless as the young Moroccan's rivals, and completed a night of supreme distance running performances, following Svetlana Masterkova's 1,000m world record.

Hissou had been disappointed with his bronze medal in a thrilling Olympic final in Atlanta, where Haile Gebrselassie, of Ethiopia, seemed to confirm his status as the world's top distance runner. With the Olympic champion back home in Addis Ababa after ending his season following a defeat in Zurich 10 days ago, Hissou came to Brussels looking to add record-breaking injury to the insult of defeat. But with Gebrselassie's world record, 26min 43.53sec set in June last year being nearly half a minute faster that Hissou's best, few gave the Moroccan much chance.

Some flawed pacemaking got the 24-year-old to the halfway mark four seconds outside record schedule but with eight laps to run, Hissou took off on his own at a pace rarely seen in an event of this distance.

In taking more than five seconds off the record, Hissou also dragged the Kenyans, Paul Tergat and Paul Koech under the 27-minute barrier.

Being a non-drinking Muslim, Hissou probably would not have appreciated a generous gesture of one of the meeting's sponsors - a free bottle of beer for each of the capacity crowd - but Masterkova had already ensured their high spirits.

Masterkova, a 28-year-old Russian who is based in Spain, only came to prominence during the Atlanta Games, when she won the 800 and 1500m. At Zurich just over a week ago, she knocked three seconds from the mile world record. Last night, she became the first woman since Britain's Gladys Lunn in 1936 to hold both the mile and 1,000m world record.

Her margin of improvement last night was 0.36 seconds and was achieved in a genuine contest, since she was stalked throughout by the record holder, Maria Mutola.

Mozambique's former 800m world champion had set the world's best on this same Brussels track 12 months ago, and as Masterkova set off behind two high class pacemakers, the African was never more than a stride adrift.

Masterkova passed the 400m mark on schedule, just inside 60 seconds, and went through 800 metres only marginally outside two minutes. Mutola then seemed poised to mount her challenge to keep her record, but the Russian's acceleration over the final 200 metres could not be matched. "I felt Mutola closing in and that drove me to the extra effort," Masterkova said.

Another double Olympic gold medallist, Michael Johnson, made his first appearance on the Grand Prix circuit since his Games triumph, his demand for $100,000 (pounds 66,000) in appearance fees having been met, thus establishing a different record of sorts.

When he won the 400m, the disappointment in the crowd was palpable, though, as Johnson ran "only" 44.29 sec. Britain's Jamie Baulch finished fifth and Mark Richardson eighth in an event which Roger Black, the Olympic silver medallist, declined to race in after being excluded from the initial line-up.

It was the other Olympic champion named Johnson - the hurdler Allen - who came closer to a world record in the 110m hurdles, his 12.92 sec missing Colin Jackson's mark by one hundredth of a second. Jackson showed the beginnings of a return to form with a second place in 13.24.

The sole British victory of the night went to Jonathan Edwards in the triple jump with 17.50ms, keeping him in contention for the pounds 160,000 share of gold bullion on offer to the victors in a series of meetings based in Oslo, Zurich, Brussels and in Berlin next week.

Marie-Jose Perec, France's double Olympic gold medallist, lost her first 400m in 13 months as Cathy Freeman outlasted her in the home straight, while behind Kenya's Daniel Komen in the 3,000m, Noureddine Morceli lost his first race at any distance in two years, fading to sixth.

In the 100m, Canada's Donovan Bailey was only second as Dennis Mitchell produced the better mid-race surge to finish in 10.03sec to take the honours, while behind him were another two former Olympics champions, in Carl Lewis and fifth-placed Linford Christie.