Last night' Norwich Union Grand Prix here generated all the right kind of interest in athletics after a week dominated by Dwain Chambers' disciplinary hearing as a sell-out crowd of 8,000 witnessed a world record, two British records, two dramatic falls from grace and a rare defeat for the Olympic 100 metres champion, Marion Jones.
The world record came from the 21-year-old Ethiopian who has displaced his compatriot and hero, Haile Gebrselassie, from the peak of middle distance running, Kenenisa Bekele. The young man, who has already won two world cross-country golds and the world 10,000m title, bettered the 5,000m time of 12min 50.38sec which Gebrselassie had set on this track five years earlier, finishing in 12:49.60.
But arguably the greatest impact in a dizzyingly busy evening was that of the world and Olympic 800m champion, Maria Mutola, hitting the track in the back straight after appearing to clip the heel of her friend, training partner and rival Kelly Holmes 200 metres from the end of the 1000m. The 33-year-old Briton, who took the 800m silver behind the Mozambique athlete in the last World Championships, had moved boldly into the lead at the bell and ran on to record her first significant win over Mutola in 2min 32.96sec, a European record which also bettered Jo Fenn's national record by six seconds. Fenn finished third in a personal best of 2.34.73.
If Mutola's tumble, which left her with a bruised hip and a first defeat in 23 races, provided the most surprising moment of the evening, the most bewildering occurred earlier when Britain's favourite for the world 60m title, Jason Gardener, who had equalled his own European record of 6.46sec five days earlier, failed to leave his blocks at the start of his heat and then failed to catch up sufficiently to gain a place in the final.
Gardener took a blank-faced leave immediately afterwards, making no comment. But his concentration may have been affected by two false starts which preceded the field getting away and which saw the Olympic 200m finalist, Coby Miller, of the United States, disqualified.
The 60m final provided a similar shock for home spectators as the Olympic 200m silver medallist, Darren Campbell, making a rare indoor appearance, also earned disqualification for the second false start.
The way seemed clear for Mark Lewis-Francis, who will not contest the world indoors but who wanted to test himself here in what will be his only major indoor appearance of the season, to make a big point. But the local athlete could only finish fifth in 6.65 behind the American winner, Brian Lewis, who recorded 6.58. Crucially, however, after the disappointments of recent summers, Lewis-Francis appeared to have recovered his swagger after winning his semi-final in 6.53, the fastest time of the night.
Jo Pavey became the first British athlete to earn a national record by finishing third in the 3,000m in 8min 34.55sec, eclipsing Liz McColgan's 15-year-old mark of 8:34.80.
Marion Jones, making only her second appearance after a 17-month absence during which she had a son named after her partner, Tim Montgomery, saw her unbeaten record of 22 sprint wins ended by Belgium's European indoor champion, Kim Gevaert, who equalled her national record of 7.13.
But Jones, in only her second indoor race following her victory in the Millrose Games two weeks ago, was far from unhappy with taking second place in 7.16 ahead of the woman who inflicted her last defeat in a sprint, at the World Championships' 100m in 2001, Zhanna Block. The Ukrainian could only finish fifth in 7.31. The 28-year-old triple Olympic champion followed up by winning the long jump in 6.75m.
Holmes's performance was ideally timed to assist her challenge for the world indoor 1500m title in Budapest next month, although it was tinged with regret. "It was such a shame that Maria fell over because it could have made an even better race and finish," the 33-year-old Olympic silver medallist said. "I think it is the first time I have been in front of her in a race. It's a shame."
Ashia Hansen, making her first competitive appearance since winning the world indoor triple jump title in this stadium almost a year ago, came through for a morale-boosting victory with an effort of 14.47m. But Hansen, fully recovered from the ankle operation she had last spring, left it until the last possible moment after fouling the first three of her four efforts. "I came here not very well prepared," Hansen said. "I was very scared. But I've left here thinking I can jump a lot further."
Just over an hour after Bekele's victory, in what is likely to be his final appearance here before he moves up to the marathon, the 30-year-old Gebrselassie failed to beat the world two miles record of 8min 04.69sec he set here last year, finishing in 8:08.65 with a big grin on his face as he saw another young Ethiopian rival, 19-year-old Markos Geneti, come through to win in 8:08.39. Definitely time to move up the distances.Reuse content