Sunday, September 3, 2000 

Games reject Malot breaks Africa record


and Agencies 

Kenyan athletics selectors had their heads buried in the sand on Friday night after Leah Malot - who they rejected from the Olympic Games team despite her startling form - struck in Berlin.

Malot, ranked top in the world during the July Kenya trials at Kasarani, upset the world's top middle distance athlete, diminutive Romanian Gabriela Szabo, running 14 minutes, 39.83 seconds.

Malot's time was an African and Kenyan record, easily surpassing the continent's previous mark of 14:40.19 set by Morocco's Sarah Ouaziz in 1998 and the Kenyan fastest 14:46.41 that Rose Cheruiyot ran in 1996.

Szabo, who set her European 5,000 metres record of 14 minutes 31.48 on the same Berlin track two years ago was going for the 14:28.09 world record held by China’s Bo Jiang.

But she ran out of steam entering the final straight and was outsprinted by Malot. Szabo’s time of 14:40.60 was ordinary by her own high standards.

"My legs were feeling stiff in the last few laps," she said. "I’ll learn from it for Sydney," she mitigated.

Malot's achievement ignited another debate over Kenya's team selection for the Sydney Olympic Games.

She was rejected from the 10,000 metres despite having run the third fastest time in the world in July during the trials in which she, however, came fifth, a victim of KAAA's 1-2-3 selection mode.

"The whole KAAA selection procedure needs a total overhaul - how can they overlook one of the medal prospects and instead make an athlete who has not qualified to burn herself in Europe to get the qualifying mark and go to Sydney exhausted," a top veteran track and field administrator who prefered anonymity argued yesterday.

He was referring to Vivian Cheruiyot who was included in the 5,000 metres only after flying to Europe after the trials to get the qualifying time.

Berlin's Friday meeting, the last in the Golden League series, saw world sprint champion Maurice Greene sent a clear warning to his rivals for the Olympic 100 metres title by clocking the fastest time of the year.

Greene, who had suffered a rare setback by finishing third in Gateshead on Monday, restored his supremacy with a convincing victory in 9.86 seconds in his last race before the Sydney Games start on September 15.

The 26-year-old world record holder produced a sensational finish to overhaul training partner Jon Drummond, who finished second in 9.96, which makes him a serious contender for an Olympic medal.

After crossing the line, Greene jumped and punched the air with his fists amid loud cheers from the 40,000 crowd in Berlin’s Olympic stadium.

"It was a great run," said the muscular Texan, who will go for two gold medals in Sydney, where he should anchor the intimidating American 4x100 relay also featuring Drummond.

By winning this year’s final Golden League race Greene made sure of part of a jackpot of 50 kilograms in gold bars to be divided among athletes who win at five of the seven meetings in the most lucrative series in the sport.

Greene will share the prize, worth around $480,000, with four other athletes, all of whom could win more gold in Sydney.

Among them is Morocco’s Hicham El Guerrouj, who again looked unbeatable in the 1,500, which he won in 3:30.90.

Norway’s Trine Hattestad, who has set two women’s javelin world records this year, and Russian long jumper Tatyana Kotova also recorded their fifth victories for a share of the gold.

American hurdler Gail Devers, who pulled out of the Berlin meeting because of a slight hamstring strain, had already won five races.

Sprint queen Marion Jones was as impressive as fellow American Greene as she cruised to a comfortable win in the women’s 100 metres in 10.78 seconds, equalling the fastest time this year she had set in London.

Jones was in a class of her own again, leaving Savatheda Fynes of the Bahamas a distant second in 11.03 on dry, windy night in the German capital.

It was the 32nd time Jones, who aims to become the first woman track and field athlete to win five Olympic gold medals at a single Games, had run under 11 seconds.

The 24-year-old American will now fly home to prepare for her trip to Australia, where she will compete the 100 and 200 metres as well as the two relays and the long jump.

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