Aldama and Lebedeva clear 15m, while Aliu improves to 10.00 at the Tsikiliria SGP
Tuesday 24 June 2003

Trikala, Greece – With the Americans and Europeans feeling the fatigue of their efforts of the last few days in the US Trials and European Cup, it was understandably those who had not competed last weekend who shone most at the Tsikiliria Super Grand Prix meeting, temporarily exiled from Athens due to the renovation in the Olympic Stadium.

The 12,000 spectators in the Municipal Stadium of Trikala confirmed the city’s reputation in Greeks athletics, supporting all athletes at this IAAF Super Grand Prix with vibrant enthusiasm.

Tatyana Lebedeva (RUS)
(Getty Images)

The triple jumpers had spectators enthralled from the start of the meeting, giving battle right under the stands along the home straight, the stadium resounding at every jump as the crowd clapped rhythmically to accompany the athletes along the runway, then held it’s breath as they rebounded on the tartan and landed into the sand. And a memorable contest it was, with two women together over 15.00m for only the third time in history.

World Champion Tatyana Lebedeva soared to a sizzling 14.86 in her first attempt, showing for her outdoor debut that she was back and meant business, and followed it up with 14.92 in the second round. After two fouls however, Cuban Yamilé Aldama finally found her marks and came very close to her world leading result with 14.98, which she followed by another huge mark in the next round, equalling her world best performance of 15.00m. Lebedeva was not impressed, and in her last attempt also soared precisely at 15 metres, but had to make do with second place.

As the temperature cooled down, the sprints set the stadium on fire again.

Dwight Phillips long jumps to US national win
(Getty Images)

After winning his heat in 10.03, Deji Aliu was the hot favourite and did not disappoint the crowd. The powerful Nigerian was the first to propel himself from the blocks, holding his lead solidly all the way to cross the line in 10.00, improving on his personal best (10.02 in 1995) inches ahead of Briton Dwain Chambers (10.03) with Canadian Nicolas Macrozonaris a convincing third in 10.15. “It was my day today, I’m thrilled!” exclaimed Aliu, “this proves I can compete with the American sprinters at the World Championships in Paris.”

In the women’s race Ukrainian Zhanna Block faced stiff opposition in her seasonal comeback from Christine Arron. The Frenchwoman had made her return to the track earlier this year, after giving birth to her first child in 2002.

Both were slow out of the blocks, but gained ground on Americans Angela Williams and Christe Gaines, with Arron’s more fluid action and greater race practice paying off. The star of the 1998 European Championships showed she may well be back soon to the very top, closing in 11.09 just days after her 11.07 in the European Cup. Block finished her effort in 11.13 while Gaines resisted Fergusons’s return to place third in 11.23 to the Bahamian’s 11.24.

Felix Sanchez (DOM) in full flight
(Getty Images)

After the triple jumpers, it was the men’s long jumpers who again had the tribunes vibrating. Home boy Lois Tsatoumas improved his PB (8.24 freshly established in this same stadium just nine days ago) to 8.34 in the second attempt to jump in the lead.

Dwight Phillips, who also boasted 8.24 this year when he took the title in the US trials last, Friday, showed he was not affected by the long journey from California. The American responded in the fourth round with 8.44, also a PB (previous 8.38). Stringfellow, third at the Trails, did not have the same amazing resilience and had to be content with 8.28 for third.

The other jump on the men’s programme was the High, and that was taken by Russia’s 2002 European champion Yaroslav Rybakov with a splendid 2.30m clearance. It’s been a good last few days for last year’s IAAF World Cup winner, as the Russian won the European Cup in Florence in a PB of 2.34m on Saturday (21 June). Czech Jan Janku was the Rybakov’s only real challenger tonight with a 2.27m jump. Poland’s Grzegorz Sposob was third with 2.24m.

Cherono celebrates in Ostrava after defeating El Guerrouj
(Pavel Lebeda)

After blasting to the top of the world lists almost two weeks ago in Ostrava, reigning World Champion Felix Sanchez confirmed his dominance in the 400m hurdles, taking the lead at the second hurdle and maintaining it to the tape with 48.07. Chris Rawlinson (GBR) valiantly contrasted the Dominican in the first half of the race, but faded in the home straight, losing second place on the tape to Ian Weakley and crossing the line in 48.57 to the Jamaican’s 48.55.

The women’s race was as expected a battle between Sandra Glover and South African Surita Febbraio. The veteran American, after placing third at the US Trials on Saturday, came back to her winning ways in a convincing 54.79 to 55.15 for the South African, while another veteran, Tatyana Tereshchuck had to content herself with 56.44 for fifth place in her seasonal debut.

Cornelius Chirchir confirmed his dominance at 1500m, while awaiting the return over the distance of King Hicham El Guerrouj. As in Ostrava, he closed the race just ahead of the pack in 3:32.61, with six competitors within 45 hundredths of a second.

Kostas Kenderis winning at the 2002 European Championships
(Getty Images)

Stephen Cherono instead, returning to the 3000m steeplechase after his resounding defeat of El Guerrouj over 5000m in Ostrava, was not content with sprinting to the tape, but left the other athletes behind after 1000m and raced on alone, closing in a world leading 8:05 68.

Stanislav Olijars (LAT) dominated the high hurdles as expected, closing in a regal 13.20, while Chris Phillips (USA) in 13.45 resisted the assaults of Cubans Yoel Hernandez (13.52) and Anier Garcia (13.55).

Russia’s Gulnara Samitova took her second success in three days; after ruling over the women’s 3000m Steeplechase in Florence, repeated her feat in Trikala, closing alone in 9:34.41.

Yuriy Borzakovskiy (RUS)
(Getty Images)

Franka Dietzsch took the Discus with 65.47m, over two metres ahead her closest competitors while reigning World Champion Natalya Sadova faded to ninth with 58.74m.

Sergei Makarov continues to dominate the Javelin this season, and with 86.34m was another athlete to follow his win in the European Cup with a victory in Trikala. Triple World Champion Jan Zelezny was second with a thrust of 85.47m.

Yuriy Borzakovskiy, though suffering from a very sore throat, the consequence of air conditioning in his Florence hotel, lead the from the bell and controlled the last lap. Only the head pushed forward and the strained tendons in his neck betrayed his effort, as he confidently fought back the attack from Japheth Kimutai in the home straight to close in 1:43.97 to 1:44.34 for the Kenyan.

Jolanda Ceplak showed she had no opposition today in the women’s 800. The blonde Slovene attacked shortly after the bell and increased her lead with every stride, closing within hundredths of her world leading mark in 1:57.79 and well ahead of the rest of the field. Russian Larissa Chzhao won the battle for second from Moroccan Mina Aït Hammou, closing far away in 1:59.52 to 1:59.62.

In the closing event on track, Kostas Kederis did not disappoint the home crowd, cruising to a comfortable win in 20.30, the second success in his second outing this season, ahead of Stéphane Buckland (MRI) in 20.32.

Jolanda Ceplak wins the European 800m title in 2002
(Getty Images)

The final applause was however for Svetlana Feofanova. After clearing 4.40, 4.50 , 4.60 and 4.70 in the first attempt the multi record breaker asked for the bar to be raised to 4.83, but no longer had the energy to make a convincing attempt at the new record height. Her compatriot Isinbayeva placed second in 4.60, with Monica Pyrek of Poland third and Tatyana Polnova fourth with the same height.