Smith fails to reach the heights

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The Independent Online
reports from Gothenburg

Steve Smith's bold effort to keep Britain in the medals after Jonathan Edwards's inspirational victory here ended in tantalising failure yesterday.

The 22-year-old British high jump record holder, competing with two cortisone injections in a heel injury, finished equal fourth with Norway's European champion, Steinar Hoen, on 2.35 metres - the same height which won Artur Partyka of Poland the bronze.

The title went to Troy Kemp, of the Bahamas, who beat Cuba's defending champion, Javier Sotomayor, through having fewer failed attempts after both had cleared 2.37.

Smith was on the brink of departure after failing at 2.35 twice, but he punched the air after a clearance at the final attempt put him back into the running for a medal. However, after failing twice at 2.37, this proven competitor - he won world bronze in 1993, and European and Commonwealth silver last year - elected to go for a do-or-die effort at what would have been a personal best of 2.39. He died.

"It was a gamble," said Smith, who has had problems with a painful callus on his take-off foot all season. "And it didn't pay off. It was a strange sensation jumping when I couldn't feel half of my foot. But I don't want to make that an excuse. It just wasn't there today. But all credit to Troy. He is one of the nicest guys on the circuit."

There was disappointment too for the bulk of the capacity 45,000 crowd as their local hero, the former world champion Patrick Sjoberg, could only finish sixth with 2.32.

Haile Gebrselassie, of Ethiopia, who set a world 10,000m record of 26min 43.53sec earlier this season, lived up to all the predictions by retaining his title with an annihilating burst of speed at the end of a relatively slow race.

Although he won in 27:12.95, his time for the final 200 metres was just under 25 seconds - faster than that recorded in the earlier 800m final.

That kind of speed was too much for even Morocco's Olympic champion, Khalid Skah, with his renowned acceleration, to cope with. Skah finished second in 27:14.53, with Kenya's world cross-country champion, Paul Tergat, taking bronze in 27:14.70.

Marie-Jose Perec, France's Olympic 400m champion, added the world title to her collection as she finished five metres clear of a field which included the defending champion, Jearl Miles of the United States, in 49.28sec.

Perec, who made a late decision here not to attempt the double with the 400m hurdles, has spent the last two winters in California training with John Smith's coaching group, partly to get away from the pressure of being France's superstar athlete. But she was unable to avoid national ramifications yesterday. Her victory received muted applause, a mark of Sweden's disapproval over the French decision to go ahead with nuclear testing in the Pacific.

Cathy Freeman, Australia's Commonwealth champion, stretched herself on the back straight to keep in contact with the leggy Frenchwoman, but paid for it in the final 50 metres as she slipped out of contention, with Pauline Davis adding a silver to the gold claimed for the Bahamas by Troy Kemp as she beat Miles on the line.

Natalya Shikolenko, of Belarus, won the javelin title with a throw of 67.56 metres in an event that missed the presence of the defending champion, Trine Hattestad of Norway, who missed Gothenburg because she is five months pregnant.

In the women's triple jump qualifying, there was bad and good news for Britain. Ashia Hansen, the national record holder who made a late decision to compete after injury, went out with a leap of 13.61m, well below her best. But Michelle Griffith took the 12th and last qualifying place with a personal best of 14.03.

n Linford Christie flew to Zurich yesterday to have specialist medical attention on the hamstring injury which left him lying on the track after losing his 100m title on Sunday. According to Tony Ward, the British Athletic Federation's press officer, Christie will return to Gothenburg for further treatment later this week with a view to competing in the relay. Christie has cast doubt on this, and the Zurich grand prix, a week from today, may be his next target.

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