Athletics: Mutola scoops jackpot as Chambers suffers again

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The Independent Online

Maria Mutola produced a richly rewarding 800 metres victory here last night to become sole recipient of the $1m jackpot on offer to athletes completing all six IAAF Golden League meetings unbeaten.

The Olympic and world champion sprinted home over the final 100 metres to cross the line in the impressive but entirely unimportant time of 1min 57.78sec. On this occasion the result was all, and the woman from Mozambique steered clear of any costly mistakes on one of the most testing occasions of her career, becoming the first athlete to scoop the entire jackpot since it was put up in 1998.

As the PA played 'Maria', from West Side Story, the girl born on the wrong side of the tracks in Maputo was acknowledging the applause of a close-to-capacity crowd of around 45,000. Only briefly did her final flourish appear in doubt, as Letitia Vriesde, of Surinam, took a 15 metres lead into the back straight only to break down and step on to the infield.

Mutola made her move after reaching the finishing straight amid a pack of runners. As she moved outside to take the lead she glanced back momentarily - perhaps at Kelly Holmes, who was herself making a run for home out in lane three and finished with a season's best time of 1:58.69 in fourth place.

Thus it was that Mutola found herself showpieced and spotlighted on a podium at the end of the night, showered in silver sparkles, clutching an outsized cheque and bearing a smile that presumably said: "Thanks a million." "I ran a smart race," she said. "It's very hard to express what has happened to me this season."

The result was good news for the Maria Mutola Foundation back home in Mozambique, through which the Olympic champion helps to educate and develop young athletes.

Sueryya Ayhan, of Turkey, who switched from the shorter distance to her specialist event of 1500m, indicated how strongly she might have challenged Mutola as she won in 3min 55.33sec, beating her own world's best time of the season.

Haile Gebrslassie, seeking to better his own 10,000m record of 26min 22.75sec after the disappointment of losing his world title in Paris, produced a performance worthy of a champion in recording the third fastest time ever - 26min 29.22sec - after starting a long sprint from home one and a half laps out and maintaining a five-metres lead over his eager Kenyan challenger Nicolas Kemboi. The reward for Kemboi was a time of 26:30.03, bettered by only two runners in history - fellow Kenyan Paul Tergat, and the little man who at the age of 30 still figures hugely in world athletics.

Dwain Chambers is still clearly suffering from his demoralising experience at the World Championships, where he suffered a shattering defeat over 100m and then failed to secure gold in the sprint relay. He produced a downhearted performance as he started sluggishly and finished seventh in 10.22sec in a race won by Jamaica's Asafa Powell in 10.02sec.

Chambers could not even claim to be the first Briton home, as Mark Lewis-Francis, who failed to make the World Championship final, took sixth place in 10.20sec. It was a thoroughly underwhelming night for both sprinters. "I'm tired, very tired," Chambers said. "But the season is not finished yet. I'll hope to show a better performance soon." He added, with a laugh: "Otherwise I'm in trouble."

The women's 100m was won in 10.87sec by Kelli White. The American was still introduced as world champion, but stands to lose the gold medals she secured at the 100m and 200m in the World Championships when her doping case following a positive test for a banned stimulant is considered by the international authorities.