Athletics: Sturrup and Mutola chase $1m jackpot

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The Independent Online

For two athletes - Chandra Sturrup, of the Bahamas, and Maria Mutola, of Mozambique - tonight's IAAF Golden League meeting in Rome offers the opportunity of riches. With two of the six Golden League meetings gone, they are the only unbeaten athletes, and thus the only contenders to share the $1m jackpot for those who put six straight wins together.

That statistic will mean the 100 metres, where Sturrup faces the top American sprinter Kelli White, and the 800m, where Mutola faces the Slovenian Jolanda Ceplak whom she defeated by just 0.26sec in the last Golden League at Paris, catch the eye.

But the more enduring interest in the Golden Gala meeting is likely to reside in the men's 100m, where Britain's Dwain Chambers will attempt to recover from his own deeply disappointing performance in Paris against a field that includes the American champion, Bernard Williams, and the former world record holder Maurice Greene.

And aficionados will keep a careful watch, too, on a 5,000m race in which Ethiopia's world record holder, Haile Gebrselassie, needs to prove that, at 28, he is not letting his younger rivals gain the upper hand.

Gebrselassie will face two men who have earned track victories over him this season - his fellow countryman Kenenisa Bekele, the twice world cross country champion, who beat him in Hengelo, and Kenya's Abraham Chebii, who outsprinted him in Paris a week ago.

Chambers' season appeared to be picking up two weeks ago when he defeated the world record holder, Tim Montgomery, in Glasgow, but five days later he finished seventh and last in the Stade de France, three places behind his fellow Brit Mark Lewis-Francis, who has given tonight's meeting a miss in order to prepare for Sunday's Norwich Union Challenge in Gateshead.

According to a spokesman for his management company, Chambers competed in Paris with a slight cold and his performance suffered. "His glands were up and there was nothing in his legs, they were dead," the spokesman said. "But he's not fazed by what happened. He's had a week's excellent training in Rome of six hours a day and he's raring to go."

Although Lewis-Francis is absent, Chambers will have British company in the form of the double European indoor champion, Jason Gardener.

Meanwhile, Chris Rawlinson will be seeking to maintain contact once again with the acknowledged world No 1 in the 400m hurdles, Felix Sanchez. In Paris, Sanchez earned a 20th successive victory, but Rawlinson was heartened after taking second place behind the defending world champion gold medallist and favourite. "I have to be realistic, Sanchez is in a class of his own," said last year's Commonwealth champion. "But, believe me, I think I can get a medal."

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