Athletics: Komen and Tergat smash world records

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The Independent Online
In the space of one pulverising hour here last night, Haile Gebrselassie, of Ethiopia, sore a season's work turn to dust as he lost his world records for 5,000 and 10,000 metres to Daniel Komen and Paul Tergat. The final scoreline from the 21st Ivo Van Damme memorial meeting read: Kenya 2, Ethiopia 0.

Komen scored first. Urged on by a hugely enthusiastic crowd of 40,000, a partisan commentator and 20 spotlit drummers in tribal dress, he became the first man to break 12min 40sec for the 5,000, lowering the world record to 12:39.74.

Ten days earlier in Zurich, the 21-year-old Kenyan had had to give best to Gebreslassie as the Ethiopian lowered his own world 5,000m record to 12 min 41.86 sec. Now that stupendous mark had been excelled,

Next Tergat, beaten Gebrselassie in the world championships, earned his revenge in a race that had been set up for Salah Hissou, of Morocco, to regain the record he had set in this meeting last year.

It worked out differently as the 28-year-old Air Force corporal, who won the world cross-country title for the third consecutive time this year, crossed the line in 26min 27.85sec to efface the mark of 26:31.32 Gebreslasie had set two months earlier in Oslo.

To complete Gebrselassie's unhappy night he failed in his attempt to wrest the 3,000m record from Komen. He will seek to regain his 5,000m record in Berlin on Tuesday.

These are heady times for middle distance running - the rivalry of these African competitors recalls the days when Sebastian Coe and Steve Ovett chased each other's records round Europe as if they were playing poker. I'll see you, and I'll raise you.

Earlier in the evening, Gebrselassie made a reciprocal attempt to deprive Komen of his world 3,000m record, but found the task too much for him.

Komen's defeat in Zurich came only three days after he had won the world 5,000m title in Athens. This time he was better prepared, coming to the track six days after running a 1500m times of 3 min 29.46 sec in Monte Carlo - faster than Coe, Ovett or Steve Cram ever managed.

By the time Komen - who earlier this season became the first man to break eight minutes for two miles - reached the final stages of his race, the commentator was approaching critical mass. "Daniel," he bellowed, "you need 2:02, you need 2:02 for the last 800. Come on."

The crowd stood and roared in response; the drummers redoubled their efforts; and Komen was coming home.

"I just knew I was going to break that world record today," Komen said. "It was in the air all night. Even before going into the last kilometre, I had the feeling that nothing could go wrong. Ten minutes before the race it started to rain a little bit, which may be was a good sign from above."

He added that he could see only one athlete capable of breaking the record he has just set. No prizes for guessing.

It was a perfect answer to Gebreslassie, who had created bad feeling among the Kenyans for his refusal to take up Komen's offer to lead for part of the way in Zurich.

"Gerbrselassie did absolutely nothing to help in Zurich," said Komen's manager, Kim McDonald. "It's just a pity for the sport. If he had gone to the front for just one lap it would have made a difference. But he had obviously made his decision and you can't hold it against him."

Gebrselassie, who had been seeking to surpass the mark of 7min 20.66sec set by Komen last year, failed by nearly six seconds, recording 7:26.02. The 24-year-old Ethiopian, chased until the final three laps by Britain's Anthony Whiteman, scampered round the track to customary applause, and the commentary - halfway between information and exhortation - did it's bit for him too.

"800 to go . . . you need 1:55, you need 1:55. Come on Haile!"

Haile had broken world records at 10,000 and 5,000m this season, as well as retainng his world title at the longer distance. Last night proved a challenge too far.

"The 3,000 metres is not far enough for Haile," said his manager, Jos Hermens. "You can call it his `low limit distance'. It's one of the strongest records. When Komen sat it last year in Rieti there was more oxygen in the air."

Hermens had a point. It was humid last night. But the problem with setting world records is the exepectation you create for every subsequent performance.

Like Gebrselassie, Wilson Kipketer has been and gone and done it now.

His performance in Zurich last Wednesday, when he finally took Coe's 16-year-old world 800m mark down to 1min 41.24sec has set the new standard. The naturalised Dane produced another swift and graceful run here to finish in 1:42.21. It was a time only he, Coe and Joaquim Cruz, of Brazil, have ever beaten. The crowd reaction was one of mild dismay.

Paula Radcliffe experienced a familiar sensation in the 5,000m as she made the pace over the final stages before seeing Gabriela Szabo come past here 200m from the finish to win. Radcliffe had finished fourth in the world championships earlier this month after the Romanian overtook her in similar circumstances to earn gold, had a consolation.

Her time 14min 45.51sec lowered her own British record of 14:46.76 and also created a Commonwealth record, surpassing the 14:46.41 set by Rose Cheruiyot, of Kenya.

The 100m races here produced two outstanding performances, with Frankie Fredericks defeating the world champion, Maurice Greene in a time of 9.90sec, and Marion Jones, of the United States, defeating Merlene Ottey in 10.77sec, the fastest in the world this year.

21ST IVO VAN DAMME MEMORIAL IAAF GRAND PRIX (Brussels): MEN: 100m: 1 F Fredericks (Nam) 9.90sec; 2 M Greene (US) 9.92; 3 T Montgomery (US) 9.94. 200m: 1 J Drummond (US) 20.03; 2 A Boldon (Trin) 20.04; 3 T Douglas (Ber) 20.30. 800m: 1 W Kipketer (Den) 1:42.20; 2 P Konchellah (Ken) 1:43.50; 3 A Hatungimana (Bur) 1:43.71. 1,500m: 1 H El Guerrouj (Mor) 3:28.92; 2 V Nyangabo (Bur) 3:29.18; 3 L Rotich (Ken) 3:30.77; 8 J Mayock (GB) 3:31.86.5,000m: 1 D Komen (Ken) 12:39.74 (world record); 2 T Nyariki (Ken) 13:08.78; 3 S Sghir (Mor) 13:11.75; 6 I Gillespie (GB) 13:28.89; 11 A Passey (GB) 13:51.37. 10,000m: 1 P Tergat (Ken) 26:27.85 (world record); 2 P Koech (Ken) 26:36.26; 3 S Hissou (Mor) 27:09.07. Long jump: 1 I Pedroso (Cub) 8.36m; 2 J Backford (Jam) 8.30; 3 R McGhee (US) 8.23. Pole vault: 1 S Bubka (Ukr) 5.95m; 2 M Tarasov (Rus) 5.90; 3 T Lobinger (Ger) 5.80. Javelin: 1 S Backley (GB) 85.30m; 2 B Henry (Ger) 85.18; 3 A Parviainen (Fin) 84.50.

WOMEN: 100m: 1 M Jones (US) 10.76; 2 M Ottey (Jam) 10.83; 3 G Devers (US) 10.96. 800m: 1 M Mutola (Moz) 1min 56.45sec; 2 A F Quirot (Cub) 1:56.61; 3 J Miles-Clark (US) 1:56.78. 5,000m: 1 G Szabo (Rom) 14:44.21; 2 P Radcliffe (GB) 14:45.51; 3 S Barsosio (Ken) 14:46.71. 400m hurdles: 1 K Batten (US) 53.61; 2 D Hemmings (Jam) 53.74; 3 T Tereschuk (Ukr) 53.88; 7 S Smith (Irl) 55.60. High jump: 1 M Iagar (Rom) 2.00m; 2 A Acuff (US) 2.00; 3 I Babakova (Ukr) 1.98. Triple jump: 1 S Kasparkova (Cz Rep) 14.82m; 2 R Matteescu (Rom) 14.47; 3 A Hansen (GB) 14.25. Javelin: 1 T Shikolenko (Rus) 67.34m; 2 S Bisset (Cub) 65.42; 3 T Damaske (Ger) 65.36.

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