HELSINKI: 26July06 - good 800s

Splendid entertainment on a warm night of action in Helsinki
Wednesday 26 July 2006
Helsinki, Finland - Dominant 800m victories provided by Mbulaeni Mulaudzi (1:43.97) and Maria Mutola (1:58.72), and a gutsy 10,000m performance from Kayoko Fukushi (31:00.64) highlighted the track portion of tonight’s GE Money Grand Prix in front of approximately 12,000 appreciative spectators in the Finnish capital.

Finland’s leg of the IAAF World Athletics Tour 2006 supplied world class infield action too. In the men’s programme, Koji Murofushi’s 81.77m Hammer Throw, Reese Hoffa’s 21.59m Shot Put, and Ignisious Gaisah’s 8.32m Long Jump, and in the women’s events Trecia Smith’s 15.05m Triple Jump and Barbora Spotakova’s 66.00m Javelin Throw, were excellent performances.

Koji Murofushi throwing in Helsinki
(Paula Noronen)

This time even the weather was on Helsinki’s side. There was no sign of the heavy rain and gale force winds that hit many of the days at last year’s World Championships in the 1952 Olympic Stadium. The sun shone and the temperature was about 23 - 25C on a beautiful sky-blue Nordic summer night.

Murofushi battles with Ziolkowski

Japan’s Olympic champion Koji Murofushi was very pleased with his season’s best in the Hammer, 35cm ahead of Poland’s Szymon Ziolkowski, the 2000 Olympic champion who has rejuvenated his career in the last two summers.

Reese Hoffa’s 21.59m secures Helsinki win
(Paula Noronen)

“This was a much stronger competition than in Jyväskylä (Finnish champs at which he was a guest) last Friday (21),” said Murofushi. “I felt the Finnish spectators gave me 100% support and that meant a lot. Szymon is my favourite to win at the European Championships in Gothenburg, so it was important to beat him and continue my comeback after a back injury last year.”

The day was not very good for Finland’s World Championship finalist Olli-Pekka Karjalainen, who placed 5th with a 78.17m mark.

Murofushi established a solid series - 76.83 - 79.92 - 79.83 - 80.55 - 81.77 and 80.71 - but so did Ziolkowski: 78.73 - 80.41 - 80.61 - 80.46 - 81.42 - 80.65.

Trecia Smith victory again in Helsinki
(Hasse Sjögren)

“I am not pleased with my result. I did my best, but what could I do: Koji was better,” Ziolkowski admitted.

Three Shot Put over 21m

USA’s Reese Hoffa found his fighting spirit just at the right moment, winning with a last round heave of 21.59m. Before that the World Indoor Shot Put champion was in third place with his second round 20.63m. His compatriot Dan Taylor was the second best American on the night after producing 21.36m in the 5th round. Christian Cantwell completed the USA sweep. The world season’s leader started with a promising 21.13m but then lost his touch and could not improve.

Mbulaeni Mulaudzi wins 800m in Helsinki
(Hasse Sjögren)

“I felt tired. After the Madrid GP I was training in Denmark with Joachim Olsen to whom I’d like the European title to go in Gothenburg,” said Cantwell.

2002 World Junior and 2005 European U23 bronze medallist Mika Vasara was one of the happiest men. The promising 22-year-old Finn set his new PB of 20.18 in sixth place.

Spotakova - PB

Kayoko Fukushi, produces a brave 10,000m run in Helsinki
(Hasse Sjögren)

Another broad smiling Finn was Kirsi Ahonen who broke the 60m line for the first time in her career in the women’s Javelin Throw. She placed 5th with 60.68m, and though she placed 4th at the Finnish Championships last weekend is now likely to be selected to the Finnish team for the European Championships in Gothenburg.

The competition was spectacularly won by the Czech Republic´s Barbora Spotakova with her new PB of 66.00m in the first round. She improved her previous best mark by 11cm and now stands second on the world season list behind German Christina Obergföll (66.91).

Smith 15.05 - second on 2006 list

Trecia Smith of Jamaica won the World Championship title in Helsinki last year and was victorious again tonight on the same runway in the Women’s Triple Jump. On her 5th attempt she leapt 15.05m (+0.2m/s) which, like the Czech’s win in the Javelin, is the second best performance in the world this year. The Commonwealth champion than backed that up with a slightly wind aided 6th round 15.00m (+2.1).

“My result is not as good as I expected,” said the World champion. “My technique was not dynamic enough, but of course I could feel my good memories from here (last year),” Smith said with a smile.

Smith, who beat Sudan’s Yamile Aldama by 44 centimetres, will compete in the London Grand Prix on Friday (28) - but not in the Triple Jump. She will try the Long Jump there.

Gaisah comes alive in the fourth to deny Mokoena

Another jumper with exceptionally good memories of ‘Helsinki 2005’ is Ghanaian Ignisious Gaisah, the World Championship silver medallist. Tonight it took until the fourth round for Gaisah to awake into top form. The World Indoor champion jumped 8.25m to move into second place, and then produced a windy 8.32m (+2.3 m/s) in the next round which was enough to surpass the long time leader, South African Godfrey Mokoena, who flew to a nice series of 8.01, 8.29, 8.19, 7.98, 8.22 and 8.13.

“Already during the event introduction I remembered that this is the stadium where I stepped onto a new level in my career last summer,” said Gaisah. “The wind was a bit tricky but not too bad today. Now I will not compete before the African Champs in Mauritius (9 to 13 Aug).”

Tommi Evilä, a national hero of Finland with his World bronze last year, was a very disappointed man after a best of 7.80m and a new thigh injury.

“I think this can even mean the end of my season. My programme has been too hard during the last weeks,” said Evilä who has already battled with a hamstring and a knee injury earlier this year.

The Pole Vaulting runway which is positioned across the top of the 100m finish end curve of the stadium and is notorious for difficult wind conditions was mastered tonight by Steve Hooker of Australia who found how to jump it. He vaulted to 5.83m with his 1st attempt and then had one unlucky go at 5.95 and two at 6.01m.

All ends well for Mutola

The most expected running victory of the evening was of course that of Mozambique’s super star Maria Mutola in the women’s 800m. She spurted quite easily away from the field to register a time of 1:58.72 which beat Alice Schmidt of the USA by 0.75 seconds.

“I love to be back here,” said Mutola. “I did not have such good memories from last year here (4th at the World Champs), but I was looking forward to coming back and giving something to this great audience.”

“During the race I had a small misunderstanding with the pacemaker and I almost had to push her off the track. But it ended well after all,” confirmed Mutola.

Mulaudzi’s leaves the best to last

The men’s two lap race, the last race of the night, was won by South Africa’s Mbulaeni Mulaudzi, the Olympic silver medallist, who with a sustained run for home produced a solid 1:43.97, the ninth quickest run in the world this summer. Bram Som of the Netherlands placed next with 1:44.32, which shows he must be counted as a challenger for European Championship honours.

Fukushi’s brave solo effort

In the women’s 10,000m, Japan´s Kayoko Fukushi pursued her target, a sub-31 time, with a gutsy determination which while just falling short with a winning time of 31:00.64, was still the second fastest time recorded in the world this year.

The 24-year-old Japanese, who is the Area Record holder for the Half Marathon, and holds national records for 3000m and 5000m, had the assistance of Kenyan Irene Kwambai as the pacemaker till the 5km mark (15:25.00), after which it was a brave solo effort to the end.

Australia’s Benita Johnson ran 31:14.80 for second and Kara Goucher of the USA a new PB of 31:17.12 for third, with the top-8 all breaking 32 minutes.

Other events…

Kenneth Ferguson of Jamaica ran 48.48 seconds in the 400m Hurdles, his compatriot Maurice Wignall took the 110m Hurdles in 13.26, while Deji Aliu of Nigeria was fastest in the 100m with 10.28.

Radoslaw Poplawski of Poland took a nice 8:19.25 victory in the 3000m Steeplechase ahead of an African and Qatari posse led by Kenya’s Abraham Cherono (8:20.22). There was of course good local support for Finland’s 2003 World Championship finalist Jukka Keskisalo, whose fifth place in 8:22.89 was a season’s best.

There were comfortable victories for Damu Cherry of the USA in the women’s 100m Hurdles in 12.66 seconds, and Novlene Williams of Jamaica in the women’s 400m in 51.02.

Antti-Pekka Sonninen for the IAAF

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