Helsinki, FinlandOf the five titles to be decided at Helsinki’s Olympic Stadium today, perhaps none is more anticipated than Kenenisa Bekele’s title defence in the 10,000 metres.
Two years ago in Paris, Bekele informally assumed the long distance mantle from his mentor and friend Haile Gebrselassie with his 26:49.57 victory, the first romp into sub-27 minute territory ever at the World Championships. With his convincing victory last year in Athens, the change in power became complete. In Helsinki, the still very young Bekele will continue on his journey to equal, and eventually to even surpass the peerless Gebrselassie, who claimed four World titles in the event.
In Paris, churning like the proverbial well-oiled machine, Bekele led Gebrselassie and Sileshi Sihine to the first-ever podium sweep in the event. Here, Sihine returns, and along with Abebe Dinkesa and Gebre Gebremariam, will be hunting for a repeat of their sweep. No other nation has ever swept the medals in this event.
Arron, at last?
If you’re looking for pure, raw speed, there will be plenty of that on tap as well in the semi-finals and finals of the women’s 100 metres.
While Justin Gatlin’s victory in the men’s 100 may have been seen as predictable and even inevitable, the chase for the title of world’s fastest woman is perhaps the polar opposite.
Christine Arron, a contender for the TDK Golden League Jackpot, has been the year’s most consistent sprinter, a fact the popular Frenchwoman underscored with her comfortable 11.03 win in yesterday’s opening rounds, the fastest of the day. For Arron, with a 10.73 personal best the long-time European record holder, Helsinki could finally bring her long-awaited individual major title. Another veteran chasing her first global title is Bahamian Chandra Sturrup, this year’s world leader after her personal best 10.84 in Lausanne. Yesterday, she eased into the semis with an equally comfortable 11.10, the second fastest on the day.
Arron and Sturrup, 31 and 33 respectively, are the ambassador’s of the event’s old guard here, but as in many events, this one too pits the older generation against the younger upstarts, led by Olympic silver medallist Lauryn Williams of the U.S and triple Olympic medallist Veronica Campbell of Jamaica. While Williams used the first two rounds to tune up her finish, Campbell used hers to fire up her start. U.S. champion Me’Lisa Barber and Muna Lee, second to Barber at the U.S. trials, are expected to be in the hunt as well. Somewhat of a mystery is reigning Olympic champion Yuliya Nesterenko of Belarus, who despite just one modest outing in late May, in Helsinki in form remarkable similar to that which propelled her to her surprise win in Athens. She would like nothing more than to prove her big meet mettle once again.
Bergqvist hopes to crown remarkable injury comeback
With reigning World champion Hestrie Cloete taking the season off and Olympic champion Yelena Slesarenko out with injury, Helsinki could prove to be Kajsa Bergqvist’s time to leap to the High Jump podium’s top step. Just a year after her major Achilles surgery, the Swede, a veteran of World championship and Olympic competition, has come back quickly to rapidly distinguish herself as the year’s most consistent jumper.
Her chief rival here could be ‘rising’ American star Chaunte Howard, one of just three jumpers to surpass the two-metre mark this year. Still just 21, the Georgia Tech student has dominated competition at the collegiate level over the past several seasons and is now poised to make her mark internationally as well.
Tikhon versus the home crowd
Olympic silver medallist Ivan Tikhon has his sights set on a second consecutive title in the Hammer throw. After a nervous opening round in which he needed a third effort just to move on, the 29-year-old Belarussian managed to produce a 79.26 effort to maintain his status as favourite. The longest qualifying effort was produced by Tikhon’s teammate, Vadim Devyatovskiy. Fourth in Athens last year, his 81.20 was the only throw beyond 80 metres.
The throws-crazed locals will be putting their vociferous support - a variable that cannot be ignored in the Finnish capital - behind Finn Olli-Pekka Karjalainen, a former World junior champion who appears to be rounding into form at precisely the right time.
Inaugural women’s Steeplechase title
Monday night will also witness the crowning of the first-ever champion in the women’s 3000m Steeplechase. Ugandan Dorcus Inzikuru has been the year’s most consistent performer, but with several contenders having few outings under their belt, a victory for the young Ugandan is anything but guaranteed. Poland’s Wioletta Janowska, a winner in yesterday’s heats with strong 1500 and 5000 credentials, is improving quickly in her first serious season in the event. Russian Yelena Zadorozhnaya, a veteran of major competition, looked particularly strong during her first round win, and will also play a key role in the final.
Elsewhere, the search for the successor to Hicham El Guerrouj continues with the semi-finals of the men’s 1500, while reigning champion Ana Guevara, Olympic champion Tonique Williams-Darling and American Sanya Richards continue their road towards the full-lap title in the women’s 400m semi-finals.
Bob Ramsak for the IAAF
Written coverage of the
10th IAAF World Championships in Athletics,
Helsinki, Finland (6 – 14 August)
on the IAAF Website:
‘Event by Event’ PREVIEWS and REPORTS
provided by the
Helsinki 2005 local organizing committee media team
FEATURES - Gold medal winners
As in Paris 2003, the IAAF's own team of writers will be producing a feature story/interview with every individual gold medallist crowned in Helsinki 2005. These stories will be published as soon as possible after each final in the main NEWS section
Daily Highlights - Preview and Wrap
A concise preview at the start and a wrap of the main highlights of the competition will also be a daily aspect of the IAAF website's coverage of the World Championships.
Dunaway's 'Helsinki Herald'
And our regular major championship columnist Jim Dunaway will again give his own unique view of some of the more bizarre or quirky aspects surrounding events at Helsinki 2005.
We hope you will enjoy our coverage.
IAAF Editorial Manager