Record man is hailed again

Simon Turnbull pays homage to the long-running feats of a legendary Ethiopian
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The Independent Online
IN THE stadium where Emil Zatopek performed his legendary distance running deeds, striking Olympic 5,000m, 10,000m and marathon gold in the 1952 Olympics, Haile Gebrselassie last night strengthened his own claim to all-time greatness. The tiny Ethiopian with the giant talent produced something special even by his own prodigious standards to reclaim the 5,000m world record in the Ericsson Grand Prix II meeting in Helsinki's Olympic Stadium.

Gebrselassie had to chase the clock on his own for the final 2,400m, and with the odds stacked heavily against him, the trio of pacemakers having failed to keep him on schedule to break Daniel Komen's 10-month- old record, 12min 39.74sec. It seemed a mission impossible but, covering the final mile in a stunning 3min 58sec, the East African phenomenon managed to complete it. He crossed the finish line in 12:39.36, the first world record set in the Finnish national stadium since 1972. On that occasion, it was also the 5,000m mark that fell - to Lasse Viren in 13:16.4. The great Flying Finn would have still been halfway down the back-straight when Gebrselassie finished last night.

At just two months past his 25th birthday, Gebrselassie has broken 14 world records. Last night's was his second in less than a fortnight and particularly sweet, together with his landmark 10,000m run in Hengelo 12 days ago successfully achieving his summer target of regaining the two treasured records he lost in one night in Brussels last August. With a hat-trick of 10,000m world titles, an Olympic 10,000m gold medal, two outdoor world records and the indoor 2,000m record, Gebrselassie now stands apart once again as the greatest ever distance runner.

Marion Jones stood apart too last night, with a blistering 100m exhibition lasting 10.86sec. So did Mark Richardson, who emerged as the clear leader of the Great British 400m pack. The 25-year-old, fourth in the world championships in Athens last summer, missed his personal best by a mere 0.06sec with a winning time of 44.53sec, laying a decisive claim to the individual 400m berth in the British team for the European Cup in St Petersburg on 27-28 June. Richardson, a member of the Windsor, Slough and Eton club finished some four metres ahead of his main rival for selection, his training partner Roger Black, the runner-up in 45.32sec.

Richardson's time put him joint fifth on the world ranking list for the summer but Colin Jackson equalled the year's fastest time in his event, winning the 110m hurdles ahead of Olympic silver medallist Mark Crear in 13.12 sec. There was success for another British world record holder, Jonathan Edwards beating his triple jump rivals with 17.04m, while Steve Backley maintained his impressive early-season form with an 87.48m throw for second place in the javelin - 43cm behind Finland's Aki Parvianen.