Noureddine Morceli last night showed why he is on the fast track to becoming the greatest middle-distance runner in history when he broke the world 1500 metres record at the Grand Prix meeting in Nice with 3min 27.37sec. It was the perfect way to celebrate the 10th anniversary of Steve Cram becoming the first man to break 3:30 for the distance on this very track.
The Algerian's second world record inside a week - he had set a new 2,000m mark in Paris the previous Monday - overshadowed fresh doubts cast over whether Colin Jackson will be fit enough to defend his world 110m hurdles title after he was beaten for the fourth time in six races.
Morceli was so far inside the figures of 3:28.66 that he had set in Rieti four years ago, that he was even able to ease down as he approached the line so he did not put the record too far out of reach for future attempts. But he has now run the kind of time that his hero, Said Aouita of Morocco, was talking about 10 years ago. It was appropriate that Cram, who was presented to the crowd before the race, was here to commentate on it for television.
The race shaped up with two pacemakers, including Morceli's brother Ali, pulling the field along at a fearsome rate and Morceli sensibly waiting until 500 metres out before he made his break. The bell was reached in 2:33, compared to Cram's 2:36, and Morceli was 40 metres ahead of Kenya's William Kemei as he entered the home straight. Matthew Yates, Britain's leading miler, was one athlete obviously stunned by what he was seeing - he dropped out at the start of the last lap and slumped to his knees.
Morceli then did a lap of honour surrounded by exultant flag-waving supporters. It was the sixth world record Morceli has broken - he also holds the mile and 3,000m records - and afterwards he reiterated that it is his ambition to hold every record between 800m and 10,000m. At the moment, he looks unbeatable and few would bet against him.
But these are worrying times for Jackson. He was beaten comfortably by Germany's Florian Schwarthoff, 13.29sec to 13.35. The world record holder, who has been suffering from tonsillitis and will not commit himself to the World Championships in Gothenburg until he receives the result of blood tests later this week, appears to have lost that zip he possessed last year, when he went unbeaten. He looked unusually pensive before the start, almost as if he knew what to expect.
However, Jackson will take heart from the return to form of John Regis. Regis was running so badly recently he was compared to a Lada operating on three cylinders. But he looked more like a Ferrari the way he roared out of the bend in the 200m last night to beat the world champion Frankie Fredericks and win in 20.26sec, his fastest this year. Form is temporary, class is permanent.
n Jonathan Edwards, who cut short his last triple jump competition at Crystal Palace with a sore ankle, has decided against running the 100m at the KP National Championships in Birmingham this weekend. Roger Black has withdrawn from the 200m to rest a troublesome knee.
Results from Nice,
Sporting Digest, page 25
HOW THE 1500m WORLD RECORD HAS EVOLVED
3:40.2 Olavi Salsola (Fin) 11.7.57
3:38.1 Stanislav Jungwirth (Cz) 12.7.57
3:36.0 Herb Elliott (Aus) 28.8.58
3:35.6 Elliott 6.9.60
3:33.1 Jim Ryun (US) 8.7.67
3:32.2 Filbert Bayi (Tan) 2.2.74
3:32.1 Sebastian Coe (GB) 15.8.79
3:31.36 Steve Ovett (GB) 27.8.80
3:31.24 Sydney Maree (US) 28.8.83
3:30.77 Ovett 4.9.83
3:29.67 Steve Cram (GB) 16.7.85
3:29.46 Said Aouita (Mor) 23.8.85
3:28.86 Noureddine Morceli (Alg) 6.9.92
3:27.37 Morceli 12.7.95Reuse content