Kipketer's glory as Brits falter: Athletics

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The Independent Online
A extraordinary final day of the world indoor championships here produced three world records - including another at 800 metres for the awesome Wilson Kipketer - and a pay-out of 15 win bonuses worth $50,000 (pounds 31,000) apiece.

Not one went to a British athlete, however, as Jamie Baulch and the man who has helped to coach him for the last two years, Colin Jackson, both had to settle for silver.

Baulch, whose unbeaten run this season had established him as the 400m favourite, set about his running with customary verve, but he was passed 15 metres from the line by Sunday Bada of Nigeria, who recorded 45.51.

"It was a good run, but it just wasn't good enough," the 23-year-old Welshman said. "I couldn't have run any better today. You can't hear the other runners on this track, so I didn't realise he was with me. Then it was just, `Oh no.'

"I'm a bit disappointed now, but it can only get better from here. I'm a lot stronger than I was last year. I am going to go back into training now with a lot more confidence and train like a dog.''

Baulch, who set the pace as soon as the field broke from the lanes, was eventually outdone by an athlete who had learned the dangers of such tactics the hard way - Bada said he had lost the previous two world indoor races after setting the pace.

Jackson also expressed disappointment after finishing second to 21-year- old Anier Garcia of Cuba in the 60m hurdles, 7.49sec to 7.48. "I've had enough of silver," he said, referring to his two previous second places in this event.

He was clearly upset at being given a false start before the field got away; a British attempt to appeal against the ruling was turned down. "After that you have to hold back," Jackson said, "you can't focus on what you have to do, which is to get over the first hurdle.''

The official reaction time given for Jackson was 0.092sec - just 0.008sec away from a perfect start. But what happened at the other end, when he appeared to dip too early, appeared to have a greater bearing on a result which brought Britain's final tally here to three silver medals, including Ashia Hansen's in the triple jump on Saturday.

Neither Steve Smith nor Dalton Grant were able to contribute anything from the high jump. Smith, who failed twice at 2.32m, raised the bar to 2.35 for a do-or-die effort, but it proved beyond him.

On a day when the Russian women's 400m relay team lowered the world record to 3min 26.84sec, and Stacy Dragila of the United States equalled the world pole vault record of 4.40m in her surprise victory over the Australian favourite, Emma George, it was Kipketer's performance in lowering his own record to 1min 42.68sec which stood out.

It prompted an obvious question - having secured his world record bonus of $50,000 on the opening day, why better it when no further payment was on offer? After all, he had talked on Friday of solving one problem at a time - first the world record, then the title.

"It is my job," Kipketer said. "I want to get better all the time. As long as I'm running I have to do my best to push myself to my limit.''

Having taken 2.16sec of Paul Ereng's excellent world record in the space of three days, the naturalised Dane can surely choose his moment to surpass Sebastian Coe's 16-year-old outdoor world record of 1min 41.73sec.

The women's 1500m was billed as the race when a veteran former champion showed the rest of the world how to run - and so it turned out. But it was Yekaterina Podkopayeva - aged 44 - rather than Mary Slaney - aged 38 - who provided the demonstration.

The American, who says she is now free of illness or injury for the first time since 1985, had come to Paris seeking her 17th world indoor best in an international career which started in 1973.

Although her pace slipped off world record schedule, the title seemed within her grasp when she reached the final straight with a two metres lead. But, as Slaney's face registered first surprise, then distress, Podkopayeva moved up to beat her with a dip on the line, finishing in 4min 05.19sec, 0.03sec ahead.

Podkopayeva, who has boys of 15 and 10, described the victory as the biggest of her career. "Tomorrow, maybe I will see it in a different colour," she added, "but today everything is rosy. Imagine. I am 44 years old, and I am proud of it.''

The Russian's win also settled an old score from the 1983 world championship, where Slaney had won and Podkopayeva had finished third.

Jo Wise, who has missed three years with knee injuries since competing for Britain in the 1993 world championships, equalled the 13-year-old British indoor record of 6.70m set by Sue Hearnshaw to take fourth place, one centimetre away from a medal - and a cheque for $10,000.

Maria Mutola, who led the women's 800m from start to finish, competed with a black ribbon on her chest to remind her of her father, who was killed by a car while walking near the family home in Mozambique two weeks ago.

After holding off the fleeting challenge of Natalya Dukhnova of Belarus on the final bend, the Olympic bronze medallist crossed the line in 1min 58.96sec and then sank to the track, staring tearfully into space and repeating the word "Papa... papa.''

"One of the hardest things in the world is not to have your father," Mutola said earlier this week. "All my family wanted me to come here. My mother said, `if you stay it's going to be worse.' If I win I will dedicate it to my father.''

She did; and she did.