Gabriela Szabo and Wilson Kipketer celebrate in Berlin (© © Allsport)
Romania’s Gabriela Szabo knew that she was at least $500,000 better off as she crossed the finish line here this evening.
Though the actual finish repeated a scene we have witnessed six times before this season, the later stages of the race were thrilling, as the world record holder in the marathon took the lead three laps from the finish, taking the leaders through the 4000m m stage in 11:49.97 and obviously hoping to be able to pull away from the leaders and build up a sufficiently large lead to hold off Szabo and Morocco’s Zahra Ouaziz.
It was not to be, the Romanian is far too good a tactician to be taken by such a ruse and hung doggedly on Loroupe’s heels, trailed by Ouaziz and Germany’s Irina Mikitenko. Mikitenlo made a move with around 500 metres to go, then dropped back again, as Loroupe lengthened her stride.
With the pace quickening at the final bell, Ouaziz tried to pull in front, but once again it was Szabo who scorched into the lead, closely followed by Mikitenko and Ouaziz, with Loroupe gradually falling away from the three as they sprinted for the line.
As devastating as always, Szabo pulled inexorably ahead of the others, now followed by Ouaziz ahead of Mikitenko and this was to remain the position at the finish, with Szabo timing 14:40.59, Ouaziz 14:41.34 and Mikitenko setting a new German record of 14:42.03. Szabo’s win took her for a short time to the head of the IAAF overall grand Prix standings. Sixth-placed Fatima Maama Yvelain (FRA) set a national record with her time of 14:58.18.
"It was really a great race," Mutola said. "I felt how much the fantastic audience pulled me to the win. To be honest, it was purely psychological. That was the key to the success. I’m so happy. One more time – thank you to everyone for the great support."
Maria Mutola retained her place at the head of the standings, equalling the 84 points achieved by Gabriela Szabo with seven Golden League event victories, as she narrowly beat arch rival Svetlana Masterkova in the women’s 800m.
A victory by both Mutola and Szabo in their respective events in the Grand Prix Final in Munich on Saturday 11 September, could well mean that the two will have to be separated using the outdoor scoring tables, with the better performance winning.
Doubtless, though, Masterkova will most certainly not let Mutola have it her own way as the Mozambican and Szabo tussle for the $200,000 which go to the winner of the Overall Grand Prix.
Japhet Kimutai made his play too late to shatter Wilson Kipketer’s jackpot hopes in the 800m. The 20 year-old Kenyan made his attack as Kipketer sprinted for the line and a half million-dollar payday, but there was nothing doing. The masterful Dane pushed just a little harder and finished first in 1:44.03 to Kimutai’s 1:44.18.
Kipketer’s success may have meant that Szabo would have to split the IAAF Golden League jackpot with him, but she showed no signs of regret as, waiting at the finish line, she rushed over and threw her arms around Kipketer’s neck.
Speaking afterwards, Kipketer once again spoke of the struggle to overcome the pre-race pressure: "It was definitely a fight for my nerves. I didn’t sleep well last night, but after the starting gun went off, everything was OK.
"The first lap in 50 seconds – I was satisfied with this because I trust my finish.
"Gabriela Szabo was the first person to congratulate me. Now we can both dig into the jackpot." Which they both did, as IAAF President Dr Primo Nebiolo and the directors of the seven meetings of this year’s IAAF Golden League congratulated the winning pair to the cheers of the Berlin crowd.
In another spectacular run, which rounded off the evening, Moroccan middle distance star, World Champion in the 1500m and World Record holder in the 1500m and Mile, Hicham El Guerrouj smashed Noureddine’s Morceli’s world record in the 2000m.
Paced by Robert Kibet through 400m in 56.70; 800m in 1:54.94, El Guerrouj went through the 1000m mark in 2:23 and 1600m in 3:49.60, finally crossing the line in 4:44.79, taking more than three seconds off Morceli’s 1995 time of 4:47.88. Morceli’s corresponding splits were: 57.1; 1:57.1; 2:26.2 and 3:52.82.
After his victory, El Guerrouj fell to his knees, kissed the track and offered thanks to God for his success.
The surprise of the evening came in the 3000m steeplechase, as Morocco’s Ali Ezzine set a new national record time of 8:06.70 to beat Bernard Barmasai in a final sprint for the line. Barmasai recorded a time of 8:07.02. Ezzine’s time was also the fastest time ever recorded by a non-Kenyan in this event, which has been dominated by the African nation for decades.
Kenya’s Benjamin Limo was the first of five Kenyans across the line in the men’s 5000m. When Morocco’s Salah Hissou started to make his move and took the lead two laps from the finish running easily and looking very strong, it seemed for a short time as though the race could well have been his, but after less than thirty metres the pack had bunched again.
Dieter Baumann too had a short-lived moment of glory before the 45,000 plus crowd, stepping out in front as the leaders approached the bell for the final lap, only to be swallowed up by the pack once again as they went into the final 400. In a tightly bunched group, the leaders came around to the final bend, with Hissou once again attempting to break away, running on the inside shoulder to shoulder with Kenya’ Benjamin Limo. But as they went into the home straight, the Kenyans accelerated en masse, leaving Hissou in their wake as they took the first five places; led by Benjamin Limo (12:59.54), the first three all clocked under 13 seconds.
Bahamians Debbie Ferguson and Sevatheda Fynes were first across the line in the women’s 200, in a near photo with World Champion Inger Miller of the USA. Miller seemed to falter in the final paces, giving way to the onslaught of Ferguson and Fynes, who took first and second place, respectively, in 22.55 and 22.58 to Miller’s clocking of 22.62.
World Champion Maurice Greene was not going to make any mistakes in his race. Greene powered away from the blocks and remained half a stride ahead of second-placed Claudinei Da Silva (BRA) all the way home, clocking 20.21 at the finish. Running in his second race of the evening, Canada’s Bruny Surin was third in 20.36.
Neck and neck until the final hurdle, Larry Wade had the better of Mark Crear in the men’s 110m hurdles, as the couple sprinted for the line. Wade crossed the line three-hundredths ahead of Crear in 13.27 seconds to Crear’s 13.30. Third-placed Anier Garcia of Cuba recorded a performance of 13.38 behind the two Americans who have largely dominated this event throughout the 1999 Grand Prix season. In a well-balanced race, just 37 hundredths separated the first seven places.
Jamaica’s Deon Hemmings won the day in the women’s 400m hurdles in front of Nezha Bidouane of Morocco and Tatyana Tereshchuk of the Ukraine. Hemmings’ winning time was 53.90.
"I’m just happy," said Hemmings, "because at the end of a long season I didn’t have the strength. In this case, I’m happy with this winning time.
"The Grand Prix Final is the last start this year, then I’ll start looking forward to the Olympics."
Excellent performance by Russia’s Maksim Tarasov in the men’s pole vault. The Russian World Champion cleared 6.01 metres at his third attempt, after making just one earlier vault at 5.90.
"Looking forward to the Grand Prix Final, I stopped at 6.01 metres. The conditions were very good here. I didn’t have any problems and was able to jump at my own rhythm. Having 20,000 spectators so close to you really heps too!"
In an unspectacular 100 metres, Canada’s Bruny Surin was first across the line in 10.07. With Maurice Greene appearing later in the evening in the 200 metres, Surin found little competition from the field. Second-placed Tony McCall (USA) clocked 10.19, with third place going to another American, Curtis Johnson in 10.22.
In a closely contested men’s discus competition, Germany’s gentle giant Lars Riedel won the first competition of this evening, to the delight of the crowd in the historic Berlin Olympiastadion. Riedel won with his fifth attempt, throwing 68.41 metres, against the 68.25 metre first attempt of Lithuania’s Virgilijus Alekna and the 68.23 metres managed by neo World Champion Anthony Washington of the United States (5th attempt).
"I knew I was in really good shape," Riedel said after his victory. "I had a good standing throw during the warm-up; this was also the case in Brussels, but my legs were tired there. Everything was perfect here – I felt fit and the crowd was great. Thanks also to the old Olympic Stadium!" (the stadium is scheduled for renovation staring next year).
Riedel’s victory was followed by another German victory in the throws, this time by reigning World Champion Astrid Kumbernuss in the women’s shot put, with a toss of 19.53 metres. Second place in this event also went to Germany, with Nadine Kleinert throwing 19.02. Valentina Fedyushina of Austria was third with 18.58, just one centimetre better than Yanina Korolchik from Bielorussia.
The German "throwfest" continued as Franka Dietsch repeated her success in Seville with a winning first throw of 66.60 metres in the women’s discus. Nicoleta Grasu of Romania took second place with 65.91.
Only Konstadinos Gatsioudis (GRE), the Sevilla 99 silver medallist, came to spoil the party, as he threw 87.96 with his first throw and clinched victory in the men’s javelin ahead of Boris Henry (86.48) and Raymond Hecht (84.89).
Sean Wallace-Jones for IAAF