Athletics: Bekele takes world title triple crown with victory in 'fun run'

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The Independent Online

Kenenisa Bekele won a showdown in the 3,000 metres at the World Indoor Championships on Sunday to become the first runner to hold world titles outdoors, indoors and in cross-country.

Bekele, the outdoor and Olympic 10,000 champion, used a devastating kick over the last two laps to win the gold medal in his first indoor championship.

Maria Mutola of Mozambique won a record seventh indoor world title in the 800 when she pulled away in the last lap with a powerful kick.

Russia topped the medals table with eight golds and 18 total, while the United States had seven golds and 13 overall.

Olesya Krasnomovets finished as the only double gold medalist by winning the 400 individual and leading Russia to victory in the 4x400 relay.

The 3,000 race was one of the most anticipated events of the three-day meet, pitting Bekele against world steeplechase champion Saif Saaeed Shaheen of Qatar and Eliud Kipchoge of Kenya, a former 5,000 outdoor world champion.

Bekele's famous finish left his challengers no chance, however, and he won in 7 minutes, 39.32 seconds to beat Shaheen by 1.96 seconds. Kipchoge clocked 7:42.58 for bronze.

Bekele and his younger brother, Tariku, who finished sixth, ran a lap of honor wrapped in one Ethiopian flag.

"After winning titles outdoors and in cross-country, indoors is like a fun run for me," said Bekele, the 5,000 and 10,000 world record holder. "I knew all my opponents and the way they run because we've already competed against each other."

Shaheen said he made a mistake by not staying close enough to Bekele.

"That was not very intelligent from me. I knew exactly when Kenenisa would start his kick and I planned to be close to him. But I was not and that was the mistake," he said.

Mutola was challenged going into the final lap by Olga Kotlyarova, but she held off the taller Russian and then switched into a higher gear to win in 1:58.90 - the fastest time in the world this year.

Kenia Sinclair set a Jamaican record to win silver at 1:59.54 and Hasna Benhassi of Morocco took bronze at 2:00.34. Kotlyarova faded to fifth.

The 33-year-old Mutola won her first gold over the distance in 1993 and was beaten only once at the world indoors - in 1999. Mutola now has 10 world titles in the 800, including three outdoors.

"Seventh title is something special," Mutola said. "But it was tough. Definitely not as I wanted. It would have been risky to come from behind so I went into the lead in the perfect moment.

"It was a lot harder than I expected but I believed I could win."

Walter Davis of the United States produced a leap of 17.73 metres to win the triple jump, only 10 centimetres off the world record. The judges first gave the distance of Davis' leap as 17.30, but revised it after an incredulous Davis complained.

Andre Niklaus of Germany used a huge pole vault and a strong 1,000-meter race to upset favorites Bryan Clay and Roman Sebrle for the gold medal in the heptathlon.

Niklaus was only sixth going into the two final events of the two-day competition, but he cleared 5.30 metres in the pole vault and won the 1,000 in 2:47.80 to grab the gold medal five points ahead of Clay, the decathlon world champion.

The come-from-behind victory was the first international title for the 24-year-old athlete.

Clay led through the first six events, but his margin had dropped to 28 points when he managed only 4.60 in the pole vault. By finishing more than three seconds behind the German in the 1,000, Clay had to settle for the silver medal.

"I can't complain too much," Clay said. "I had a few good events, really good events, just off my personal best, and I had a few really bad events.

"I am just happy to still be in the medals to be going home with another silver medal," Clay said.

Niklaus finished with a personal best 6,192 points, while the American had 6,187.

"It was a great competition," Niklaus said. "The final ranking was really settled in the 1,000 and my only plan was to run in front."

"I started the competition with the hope of setting a personal best, around 6,100, and nothing more," the German added.

Sebrle, the Olympic champion and decathlon world record holder, took the bronze at 6,161.

Tatyana Kotova of Russia won her third world indoor title in the long jump, beating outdoor world champion Tianna Madison of the United States for the gold with a leap of 7 metres.

Other winners were: Francique Alleyne of Grenada in the men's 400; Brad Walker of the United States in the pole vault; Natalia Khoronenko of Belarus in the women's shot put; Yuliya Chizhenko of Russia in the women's 1,500; Kenya's Wilfred Bungei in the men's 800; Yelena Slesarenko of Russia in the high jump; and the U.S. team in the men's 4x400.