Athletics: Awesome Bekele storms to gold as Haile runs out of puff

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Haile Gebrselassie long ago warned the world of what to expect from his young Ethiopian compatriot Kenenisa Bekele - a runner who would surpass him.

Last night the exchange of status was effectively completed as, at the age of 22, Bekele inherited the title of Olympic 10,000m champion from his mentor, producing a stupifying last lap to win in 27min 05.11sec.

Gebrselassie, who saw his world 5,000 and 10,000 metres world records broken by Bekele within the space of nine days earlier this season, dropped away in the closing stages. His reported achilles tendon injury appeared to be the trouble, his face a grimace of determination he struggled to keep in touch as the race entered the final phase.

Kelly Sotherton experienced a roller-coaster of an opening day in her first major championship heptathlon as she lay in silver medal position overnight behind Carolina Kluft.

The Briton stands 240 points behind the Swedish world champion and 98 points ahead of Karin Ruckstuhl of the Netherlands, while her training partner Denise Lewis, the defending champion, is ninth, 421 points adrift of Kluft.

Sotherton's chances of earning a medal that would round off what has been a season of constant upward mobility are likely to rest on her performance in the second of today's events, the javelin, where she sometimes struggles to perform to her best.

After a relatively disappointing 100m hurdles time of 13.44sec in the opening event, the 27-year-old former bank worker twice broke her high jump personal best, yelping with delight as she cleared first 1.82 and then 1.85. That shifted her from seventh to second place, and although she dropped to fifth after a shot putt of 13.29m, she was able to regain her standing with a 200m time of 23.57sec.

She said: "I'm about 140 points ahead of my personal best. I've had a good day really. I'm happy with the shot because I normally drop lower after that. I was disappointed with the 200 metres because I've been running faster than that. But we only had 20 minutes turnaround time after the shot and I didn't have time to get myself fully prepared."

She should consolidate her position with today's opening event, the long jump, given that it used to be her specialist discipline before she gave up her job and took up full-time training with Lewis this season.

For Lewis, however, the situation is different. The javelin is an event she has historically used to tip herself into winning positions, both at the Commonwealth Games and at the last Olympics. The long jump, however, will put stress upon the foot which has caused her problems ever since she took the gold in Sydney, and which obliged her to make an eleventh hour recovery to make these Games after flaring up again at the trials - in the long jump.

Meanwhile another athlete who cut things fine in making these Games, Malachi Davis, found that his Olympic experience was similarly swift. The Sacramento resident aroused controversy by taking a 400 metres place within a couple of weeks of gaining a British passport. But last night he made an equally smart exit, finishing fifth in his heat in 46.28sec and failing to stop at the point marked.

Kelly Holmes, having decided to double up at both 800 and 1500 metres, passed the first of her tests without undue strain, winning her 800m heat in 2min 00.83sec and very sensibly slowing before the line.

Darren Campbell's Olympic hopes have been undermined on the eve of today's 100 metres heats by a hamstring problem.

Campbell, who took silver behind Greece's Konstantinos Kederis in the Sydney Olympic 200 metres final, woke up here yesterday morning with what he thought was cramp, but after undergoing a scan it emerged that he had a slight muscle tear.

"I'm told it should be OK," said the 30-year-old Manchester-born athlete. "I'll know more in the coming hours. But I will be saying a few prayers tonight."

Campbell's bad news comes just 24 hours after it emerged that 200 metres specialist Christian Malcolm was kept in hospital for five days last week at the British training base in Cyprus after suffering kidney failure.

Malcolm, like Campbell, is still intending to compete here, but neither athlete will now be proceeding in an ideal state of mind. The situation is particularly galling for Campbell given the recent doping scandal which saw Kederis, whose victory four years ago came as a complete surprise given his previous achievements, withdraw from the Games.

That removed at least one of the Briton's rivals in an event where he maintains he has realistic ambitions of a medal to go alongside the one he won in 2000.

Campbell's colleague in the short sprint, Jason Gardener, has also failed to stay in one piece this season. After winning the world indoor 60m title in Budapest five months ago, the Bath athlete required a double hernia operation which has severely hampered his preparations for Athens.

The picture is beginning to look bleak for British sprinting, which only two years ago seemed about to deliver a succession of championship medals.

Phillips Idowu, one of the relatively select group of British medal 'possibles' identified recently by UK Athletics performance director Max Jones, safely negotiated the qualifying round of the triple jump here with his first effort.

The 25-year-old Londoner registered 17.33 metres to finish second in his group behind Sweden's world champion Christian Olsson, who required one jump to reach 17.68, and fourth overall behind Cuba's Yoandri Betanzos, who did a personal best of 17.53m, and Marian Oprea of Romania, who reached 17.44.

"That was a great start to the campaign," Idowu said. "I felt very confident and relaxed. Hopefully I'll feel that way in Sunday's final. I want to do myself justice. I have a clear picture in my mind of what I can do and I want to produce that. Hopefully I can emulate what Jonathan Edwards did four years ago."

Britain's Nathan Douglas, who set a personal best of 16.95 metres in the Olympic trials to earn an unexpected call to compete in Athens, missed reaching the final by just four centimetres.

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