Sebastian Coe may have lost his Parliamentary seat, but his longest- standing world record still survives - just. Coe's 800 metres time of 1min 41.73sec, set on 10 June, 1981, is under threat from the world indoor record holder, Wilson Kipketer.
But last night in Stockholm the man whom everyone - including Coe - expects to take the event into new territory narrowly misjudged his efforts and had to settle for a share in the record.
The Kenyan-born Dane, running in near-ideal conditions, stopped the clock at 1:41.74, a stupendous performance which nevertheless drew only polite applause until it was rounded down by one hundredth of a second after the photo-finish had been inspected.
He had left himself with too much to do in the final stages of the race after passing the 600 metres mark in 1min 16.4sec, 1.4sec slower than Coe had done 16 years earlier.
Coe, who also holds the second oldest major record in the International Amateur Athletic Federation annals - 2min 12.18sec for 1,000m, set on July 11, 1981 - said it was only a matter of time before Kipketer broke through. "It was a phenomenal performance," Coe said. "And he will go on this season and break it. He may decide to wait until the World Championships where he could have the opportunity of putting three records back to back.''
Kipketer has already gone through a form of dress rehearsal for such a performance, having broken the world indoor 800m record in both the heats and final at this year's World Indoor Championships.
Kelly Holmes' prospects of winning at this summer's World Championships in Athens brightened still further last night as she outsprinted Cuba's world champion, Ana Quirot, to win the 800 metres in the Stockholm Grand Prix.
Holmes, who contemplated retirement after injury ruined her chances of a medal at last summer's Olympics, finished in 1min 57.15sec, narrowly outside her British record of 1:56.21, but enough to put her at the top of the world rankings.
Ato Boldon produced a sprint double which bodes ill for his rivals in Athens, winning the 100m in 9.95 - despite throwing his arms up into the air two metres from the line - and the 200m in 19.82, the fastest time in the world this year. In both races he finished ahead of his training partner Maurice Greene, the winner of the US trials 100m.
The double Olympic champion Michael Johnson is unlikely to receive a wild card to compete in the World Championships after all. The International Amateur Athletic Federation president, Primo Nebiolo, had proposed giving the American a wild card when he failed to qualify for the United States team after injury forced him to miss the US trials last month.
USA Track and Field, who have refused to change their strict qualification rules, immediately welcomed the idea of a special invitation. But there is growing opposition within the IAAF, the sport's governing body, to the creation of a wild-card system.
"There is a powerful lobby opposed to the wild-card scheme and it looks almost certain that no agreement will be reached before the World Championships," an IAAF source said yesterday. "Time is running out and if a wild-card ruling comes into effect, it will almost certainly be for 1999, not 1997."
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