O'Sullivan rushes to gold

World Athletics Championships: Hurdler Jarrett takes the consolation prize
Click to follow
The Independent Online
SONIA O'SULLIVAN, the 25-year-old Irish distance runner who lost out to the Chinese two years ago, returned to the World Championships here last night to win the 5,000 metres with a performance of style, calmness and finally unbeatable pace.

Her all-round ability was altogether too much for the 10,000m winner Fernanda Ribeiro, who broke the 5,000m world record earlier this summer, and certainly too much for Britain's brave Paula Radcliffe, who finished fifth. O'Sullivan's decision not to take on two races was a lesson to Ribeiro, who was clearly too tired to respond when O'Sullivan kicked away on the last lap for a time of 14 minutes 46.47 seconds and compensation for winning only the silver medal in 1993. Ever since she won the European championship 3,000m last year, O'Sullivan, who is based mainly at Teddington, had been working for this title. Tactically she ran perfectly. She and Ribeiro allowed Gabriella Szabo, of Romania, to take an early lengthy lead. Radcliffe eventually responded after 2,000m. O'Sullivan stumbled just once and Irish hearts missed a beat, but once Radcliffe had exhausted herself, it was left to O'Sullivan, Ribeiro and Zohra Quaziz, of Morocco, to fight out the last two laps.

With 250m to go, O'Sullivan took off smoothly and Ribeiro could not respond. O'Sullivan, the first Irish woman to be a world champion, said: "The reason why I stumbled was that a long jumper stepped out on the track. I was always prepared for a fast race. It was clear after only three laps that the kick would be decisive. I knew I could do a last lap in around a minute and did. I never looked back."

Radcliffe and Szabo had competed against each other as juniors and fell into each other's arms in consolation. Radcliffe said: "I'm pleased but I wanted more. The only way I thought I could beat O'Sullivan was to push hard in the middle stages. But when they went past I couldn't get with them. We're all learning the 5k - the hard way."

Tony Jarrett, even with Colin Jackson not there to upstage him, yesterday failed to win his first major gold medal. His 110m hurdles final effort was courageous but fractionally, and frustratingly, not quite good enough.

After two false starts, Jarrett maintained his composure well and edged ahead of the 27-year-old double Olympic champion Roger Kingdom, but the world indoor champion Allen Johnson, also of the United States, held them both at bay. So Jarrett collected yet another silver medal to add to a sizeable collection. His time was 13.04 seconds compared with Johnson's 13.00. One of the favourites, Florian Schwarthoff, of Germany, had crashed into a hurdle in his semi-final and failed to reach the final.

While Jarrett was attempting to take advantage of Jackson's absence, the world record holder himself was in Switzerland, recording 13.17secs and proving his fitness for a big invitation meeting in Zurich on Wednesday.

Linford Christie, who in midweek went to Zurich to get urgent treatment for his Achilles tendon tear, returned and said he would be prepared to run in the 4 x 100 metres if asked. He was not and probably as a result Britain failed to qualify for today's final. The injury he sustained this week was more serious than he thought and the long-term problem is a knee cartilage.

Without Christie the British sprint relay team of Jason Gardener, Darren Braithwaite, John Regis and Solomon Wariso began their challenge with a solid second place to Italy in the heats but had to compete with the stadium still buzzing from the extraordinary sight of the four- times world champions, the United States, making a complete nonsense of their heat and being eliminated.

John Drummond was approaching Theodore McCall for the second change faster than McCall was accelerating. It was obvious to everyone but McCall that a disaster was about to take place. Drummond had the baton in his left hand and McCall was holding out the wrong one. By the time they closed it was too late. Drummond tried to switch the baton but by then McCall was outside the limit and so the favourites did not finish. Drummond was in tears and Mike Marsh, waiting vainly down the track, fell to his knees in frustration. Drummond admitted: "It was my fault. I arrived too fast. I reached out with my right hand and the rest is history."

And so was Britain's chance, which had improved again when, in the first semi-final, France also failed to finish. Even so, in the second semi- final Britain were eliminated when Wariso was unable to catch the fading Japanese. The Canadians now look clear favourites.

Worthy Whitehead, page 30