Kiptanui crowns it for Kenya

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The Independent Online
EAST AFRICA'S overwhelming hold on distance running was sealed here at the season's culminating European event, the IAAF/Mobil Grand Prix final, when Moses Kiptanui, the Kenyan world steeplechase champion, won his event to become the overall champion and pounds 86,000 richer.

The domination of Kiptanui's particular event by Kenyans was emphasised by the fact that of the 12 finalists, 10 came from their country and the other two were Moroccan. Kiptanui led them all almost from the start and knew that, provided he remained on his feet, he would almost certainly become the top prize winner. By the last lap he had a 60m lead and cruised across the line in 8min 2.45sec.

Maria Mutola, of Mozambique, who was disqualified at the World Championships in Gothenburg for running out of her lane, reaped similar financial compensation by becoming overall women's winner. Her world 1,000m record in Brussels had given her a six-point advantage which meant that no one else could catch her unless they set a world record.

Among others, that task fell to Sonia O'Sullivan, the Irish 5,000m world champion who arrived tired after a long, successful season yet still managed another of her front-running performances to win the 3,000m in 8:39.94 with Paula Radcliffe an exhausted, but promising, fourth.

After her third place in the World Championship 800m, Kelly Holmes not only improved on that position here by taking a fighting second place to the unapproachable Mutola, but improved the British record to 1:56.21. Mutola had allowed Patricia Djate, of France, to a long early lead before she devoured the gap on the second lap to finish in 1:55.72.

Holmes had pursued them both grittily and on the final bend overtook Djate and was near enough to Mutola to feel encouraged that next summer she may get closer. In the meantime she comes home with pounds 13,000 added to her bank account.

The organisers of the meeting had attempted to raise interest by providing some invitation events, in one of which Linford Christie failed to justify the large amount he was paid both for appearing and wearing a Puma logo- covered outfit. Although the fastest away in the 100m, Christie was beaten into fifth in a blanket finish. Damien Marsh of Australia, a late entry, won in 10.13sec with world champion Donovan Bailey second.

A world record for Haile Gebrselassie, of Ethiopia, in the 3,000m would not have been altogether surprising in this season in which she had already broken two others. But his chances of doing that, and so taking the overall prize, diminished in a comparatively slow race that ended quickly in a 54-second final lap over which he was attacked by the up-and-coming Venuste Niyongabo. Nevertheless Gebrselassie won by 0.01sec in 7:35.90.

In the continuing absence of Sally Gunnell and Marie-Jose Perec, of France, withdrawing, America's Kim Batten was virtually unopposed in the 400m hurdles, emphasising that Gunnell will have a lot of work to do this winter if she is to recover fitness and form in time for next summer's Olympic Games. Batten rubbed it in by saying: "Roll on Atlanta - I'm going as favourite."

Michael Johnson may finish this season without a world record and may not have won over the sceptical Americans at home, but to his success at the World Championships he added confirmation of his remarkable year by cruising to victory yesterday over 200m, his ninth major success this season. His time of 19.93sec when not under pressure added to his argument that at the Olympic Games the programme should be altered to allow his home crowd to appreciate his unique talent over 200m and 400m. Johnson's imperious win also drew attention to the sad summer suffered by Britain's John Regis, who finished seventh and last here.

The hopes of the meeting's organisers that Noureddine Morceli could improve his world record in a specially arranged 1,500m event were unrealistic at this stage of the season, but the Algerian, as always, gave value for money and finished only a second outside his record.