PARIS GL -1July05-


Doucouré and Bekele’s night – TDK Golden League, PARIS

Friday 1 July 2005
Paris, France – A World record gathering of over 70,000 spectators - for a one day competition - in the Stade de France, jumped up from their seats to celebrate a French 110m Hurdles record by Ladji Doucouré (13.02), a performance which left reigning the World and Olympic champions, Allen Johnson and Liu Xiang in its wake.

The race was undoubtedly the highlight of this evening’s Meeting Gaz de France, Paris Saint-Denis, the opening fixture of the TDK Golden League 2005, though another stunning run by Ethiopia’s Kenenisa Bekele over 5000m, had earlier also brought the crowd to its feet.

Doucouré begins to make up for Athens

Ladji Doucouré of France wins the 110m Hurdles in Paris Golden League
(Getty Images)

Doucouré, whose appalling start in the Olympic final cost him any chance of a medal last summer, turned around his usually suspect exit from the blocks this evening. While by no means the fastest away, the 22 year-old Frenchman’s start was confident, and by the third hurdle he already held the race in his grasp. Then, when Johnson looked set to run off the fastest from the last barrier and challenge for the win, Doucouré responded again for a dramatic national record win in 13.02. Johnson was second (13.04), and Liu Xiang came late for third (13.06), equalling his season’s best.

“I am very pleased to have won here but what matters is what happens in Helsinki, and I intend to run the same race and result there,” said a not surprisingly upbeat Doucouré.

Absorbing duel with Dinkessa, as record flies away on the wind

Daniel Kipchirchir Komen wins the 1500m at the Paris Golden League meeting
(Getty Images)

Kenenisa Bekele, whose greatness as a distance runner at the age of 23, already does away with the need for any superlatives, made a good attempt to improve on his World 5000m record (12:37.35 – 2004). In the final analysis, the bid seemed only to be flawed because of the energy he expended in an exciting duel with his compatriot Abebe Dinkessa, though Bekele’s own verdict was that conditions were too windy this evening.

Bekele took the race through 3000m in 7:32.71 which was impressively ahead of his schedule (7:37.34) when setting the record in Hengelo last summer. Dinkessa, 21, who also attempted to shadow Bekele in the World and Olympic champion’s earlier 10,000m record bid this summer (also in Hengelo, 29 May 2005 - in which Dinkessa improved his PB by 53 seconds), is a rare commodity, being an athlete unafraid to challenge Bekele.

However, even this precocious Ethiopian talent had to give way to his older compatriot with four laps to go, after which it was Bekele against the clock (57.5 sec final 400m!). The finishing time of 12:40.18 was the fourth best in history - and of course a world season lead. Dinkessa was second with 12:55.58, while eight of the nine runners who followed set season bests, personal bests or better. In the latter category was Uganda’s Boniface Kiprop who established a national record (12:59.19), and a Saudi Arabian record also fell to Mouhhled Al Outaibi (10th 13:08.64).

Tatyana Lebedeva of Russia wins the Triple Jump at the Paris Golden League meeting
(Getty Images)

“I am very pleased tonight but it was too windy (for the record),” confirmed Bekele.

Walker’s record is broken

Another of the world season leading performances delivered-up tonight came in the men’s 1500m. Daniel Kipchirchir Komen of Kenya took a close fought battle in 3:30.01, from new American citizen Bernard Lagat (3:30.64), with France’s World silver medallist Mehdi Baala tying up in the final stages but holding on for third (3:30.80). Alex Kipchirchir (3:30.82) and Ivan Hesko (3:32.13) followed next, while in sixth place came New Zealand’s Nick Willis, whose time of 3:32.38 finally improved on 1976 Olympic 1500m champion John Walker’s national record (3:32.4 – 1975).

Jana Pittman of Australia at the TDK Golden League launch
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The women’s 1500m was taken by Russia’s Olga Yegorova in 4:01.85, with a personal best of 4:03.05 for France’s Hind Dehiba in second.

Lebedeva - world lead

There was a World season’s lead in the women’s Triple Jump which saw World champion Tatyana Lebedeva of Russia win with 15.11m. There was however an emphatic reversal of fortune for the woman who had beaten her to the Olympic Triple Jump title in Athens. Cameroon’s Francoise Mbango could do no better than 10th this evening (13.84m).

Edith Masai of Kenya wins the 3000m at the Paris Golden League meeting
(Getty Images)

Holm and Pitkämäki keep it a Nordic infield affair

The other TDK Golden League Jackpot field events, the men’s Javelin Throw and High Jump, led to Nordic victories.

Olympic champion Stefan Holm with the 2.32m he cleared on his third attempt took the jump. It was a competition in which the entire IAAF World Ranked top-10 for the event was competing, and so though the height achieved was not great, the victory was of the great significance in world terms, and psychologically very important for the Swede ahead of the World Championships.

Lashinda Demus of the USA takes the 400m Hurdles at the Paris Golden League meeting
(Getty Images)

Sweden’s neighbours Finland took the win in the Javelin Throw via the fast arm and flying body of the Tero Pitkämäki, who last weekend became the world’s sixth longest thrower of all-time (91.53m). With every release, the 22 year-old characteristically flings himself to the ground with the effort, and that motion propelled the Finn’s spear in the second round to 85.95m. That distance took the victory ahead of Andreas Thorkildsen of Norway, whose third round response of 85.29m was very much what one would expect from the Olympic champion. Russia’s Alexandr Ivanov was third (84.24m).

Hayes beats Felicien

There was a good ‘head to head’ promised in the women’s 100m Hurdles between the World and Olympic champions, and it delivered. The latter, Joanna Hayes (USA) got the better of Canada’s Perdita Felicien. The times were close 12.60 to 12.66 but in reality it always looked as if the Olympic champion had the race under control from the gun.

Aziz Zakari of Ghana wins the men’s 100m at the Paris Golden League meeting
(Getty Images)

The men’s 800m could not have been closer. With 400m passed in 51.02 thanks to a totally isolated ‘rabbit’(Osmar Dos Santos), who perhaps deserved better from his colleagues, nearly the entire field of 10 other athletes were still in contention as the final 100 metres was entered. For much of the run-in to the line it looked like the victory was going to be between South Africa’s Mbulaeni Mulaudzi and Kenya’s Wilfred Bungei, but at the line African champion William Yiampoy, in lane one, sneaked inside the South African Olympic silver medallist for a dip win in 1:45.98. Mulaudzi was a vest behind (1:46.00), with Bungei (1:46.25) in third.

Cherkasova - impressive

Russian Svetlana Cherkasova, who ran a world leading 1:56.93 when winning the IAAF GPII meet on home soil in Kazan last weekend, was again the victor, this time with 1:57.52. Cuban Zulia Calatayud who finished second in Kazan, was also runner-up today with 1:58.37. World champion Maria Mutola (MOZ) made a late charge to get into third place (1:58.96 – season’s best) but looked heavy legged by comparison to the winner’s fluency.

Svetlana Cherkasova of Russia takes the 800m in Paris Golden League
(Getty Images)

Masai – World 3000m lead

In an exciting 3000m duel set up by Jane Wanjiku, the designated pace maker (2:53.21 for 1000m), her fellow Kenyans Edith Masai and Isabella Ochichi (5:47.07 – led at 2000m) fought it out into the last lap with a world season lead the resulting. Masai, the World 5000m bronze medallist, had the greater power in the final sprint taking her rival, the Olympic 5000m runner-up, apart in the final straight. Masai crossed in 8:31.27 with Ochichi, second (8:33.59) and Britain’s Joanne Pavey (8:34.66) third. Masai, 38, has cut into a rich seam of form at the moment. The sergeant in the Kenyan Prisons Service, who has been three times World Cross Country short race champion, ran a 10,000m debut in Utrecht recently in 30:51.99.

Pittman fades after strong opening

Nick Willis of New Zealand brakes the national 1500m record in Paris Golden League meeting
(Getty Images)

Strangely it was Jana Pittman, IAAF World Ranked number one, who took the women’s 400m Hurdles race out very strong, in a similar fashion to the way World record holder Yuliya Pechonkina (RUS) ran here at the 2003 World Championships. Two years ago it was such an early effort which cost the Russian the race and gave Pittman her World title. The result of a similarly massive effort in the first half also cost the Australian tonight. Caught coming off the final bend by recently crowned US champion Lashinda Demus (ranked 7th), who powered past the Australian World champion to a superb 53.85 win, Pittman (3rd, 54.15) was also passed for second by Poland’s Anna Jesien, who established a national record (53.96) in the process.

Canadian national record and Williams-Dealing supreme

There were two swift and equally dominating performances in the men’s and women’s 400 metres. :smiley: Christopher Tyler of Canada set a national record (44.69) to defeat Olympic bronze medallist Derrick Brew (USA) - 45.30 - in the men’s race. The Bahamas’ Christopher Brown (45.31) was third but there was better news for the Caribbean island in the women’s race, as Olympic champion :smiley: Tonique Williams-Darling totally took apart the field with a season’s best in 49.69. Christine Amertil backed-up Bahamian delight with a second place in 50.32, with World champion :eek: Ana Guevara (MEX) left for pace and strength, tying up in third place (50.44).

2004 Olympic Steeplechase champion Ezekiel Kemboi of Kenya - running in 2002 Golden League, Paris-St.Denis
(Getty Images)

In the men’s one lap hurdles, James Carter (USA) upset French hopes in the opening international event of the night, taking a 48.05 second win over Olympic bronze medallist Naman Keita (48.27), after the Frenchman stuttered before the last line of hurdles.

The large crowd (displayed as a sell-out) but in actual attendance recorded as 70,253, were delighted however with :smiley: Christine Arron’s win in the women’s 100m in 11.03. the French girl in the process nipped the Bahamas’ Chandra Sturrup (11.05), with USA’s Lauryn Williams leading a distant posse (11.16).

:slight_smile: Aziz Zakari, who sped to his first sub-10 second clocking on 14 June in Athens, following the World record setting heels of Jamaica’s Asafa Powell, won the men’s 100m tonight. The Ghanaian’s time was 10.04, which just headed Olympic silver medallist Francis Obikwelu (10.05), with Jamaica’s Dwight Thomas following close behind (10.11).

2003 golds presented

The evening had begun on an emotional and patriotic note with the presentation of the 2003 World Championships 4 x 400m gold medals to France, with Stéphane Diagana, Naman Keita, Leslie Djhone, and Mark Raquil being presented with their awards by IAAF Treasurer Jean Poczobut (FRA). Note. the original winners USA were disqualified following the positive drugs test of one of their squad (Calvin Harrison).

Not so happy with the evening will be Frenchman Jean Galfione. The Olympic champion of 1996 ended the men’s Pole Vault, in this his year of retirement with three failures, and a NM (no mark) next to his name, hardly a fitting end for is last competition in the Stade de France. The event was won by USA’s Brad Walker with 5.80m.

Rounding off the evening was the men’s 3000m Steeplechase which brought the expected win for Olympic champion Ezekiel Kemboi (8:09.14), a season’s best for the Kenyan who is steadily returning to full fitness, and who won his country’s World Championships trials last weekend.

Chris Turner for the IAAF


Doucouré sets National record to defeat Johnson and Liu - Paris TDK Golden League
Friday 1 July 2005
Featuring the Co-World record holder and Olympic champion Liu Xiang, the World season leader and four-time World champion Allen Johnson, the second and third fastest performers in the world this year Dominique Arnold and Terrence Trammell respectively, the 110m Hurdles at the Paris Saint-Denis meeting was arguably the most expected event of the first leg of the TDK Golden League circuit.

Yet none of the hurdlers mentioned above took top honours tonight in the French capital as 22-year-old European Indoor champion Ladji Doucouré who lives and train in Paris prevailed over the nine-man field.

French record falls

Doucouré clocked 13.02 to equal the third best time of the year and improve on his own national record which he set in the Athens Olympic Games semi-final last summer. The Frenchman had just two hundredths of a second to spare over Johnson (13.04) who himself was two hundredths of a second faster than Liu Xiang, third in 13.06.

34-year-old Johnson who grabbed his seventh US title exactly one week ago in Carson, California and leads the IAAF World Event Rankings had the best start of the field and despite heavily hitting the first hurdle maintained the lead until the third barrier.

That is when the Frenchman took over and with himself and Johnson running next to each other the race was focused on the middle lanes of the track. Johnson, who yesterday admitted he had underestimated Doucouré’s talent when the two last met at the Liévin indoor meeting where Johnson was heavily defeated, wasn’t going to let the race go and the two ran shoulder to shoulder for the rest of the race.

Coming off the last hurdle it was Doucouré who prevailed and sprinted to the line to take probably the most important win of his still young career.

“It’s great to win here in front of my home crowd with 70,000 spectators watching me but what matters this year is the World Championships,” said Doucouré. “This is my first race with all the best hurdlers in the world and I am happy I came out on top. Now I need to do the same thing in two months time in Finland and win that race.”

Not the perfect race

Although Doucouré was understandably thrilled by his win, he remained very critical of his own hurdling technique.

“It was definitely not the perfect race. If I ran the perfect race and the clock marked 13.02 I would be very disappointed. I can run better and faster. It’s good that I am now consistently running level with the best in my event but my aim is not to defeat them but to run fast races.”

“I now have a good measure of them and it will be helpful for the one and only race that matters this summer, the World Championships in Helsinki.”

“Winning here is fabulous. Winning at home there is nothing better. However if I stop and contemplate just because I’ve run 13.02 then I may as well stop running. 13.02 is definitely not my limit.”

“I need to improve a lot technically. I have had a bad start and I need to work on that. I am very pleased with the way I reacted to being behind the other guys tonight. That’s the most positive thing about tonight’s race.”

Avoid a repeat of Athens

“Again, I was too close to each hurdle so I had to control my stride pattern. I definitely didn’t want to find myself in the same situation as Athens last year when I was so close to the hurdles that I stumbled and lost out on a medal.”

“Other than that I need to execute my race better and move from hurdle to hurdle more smoothly. I have been told that I touched Allen coming off the last hurdle which means that I was running too much on the left side of the lane and this too is not good.”

Indeed Johnson confirmed that he was involuntarily unbalanced by the French record holder in the run-in which according to him cost him the chance to remain in the race for the TDK Golden League Jackpot of $1 million.

Ladji grabbed my arm!

“I think I would have won it if Ladji hadn’t grabbed my arm coming off the last hurdle,” said Johnson. “Obviously these things happen in the hurdles and I’m 100% sure it wasn’t intentional but when you come off the last hurdle and one grabs your arm, you swing backwards and you lose time. That’s how I lost the race today. That’s where the two hundredths of a second went.”

“It’s good for him that he won in front of his home crowd but next week we meet again in Rome and it will be a totally different story. I will make sure I am way ahead of him so if he swings wide he’s not going to touch me!”

Doucouré is one of twelve contenders for a share of the TDK Golden League Jackpot and will line-up for the second leg of the circuit next week in Rome.

“Rome will be so much different,” explained Doucouré. “All the guys will be keeping an eye on me and I will no longer have the support of the crowd but we’ll see what happens.”

“It feels good to win in Paris but this was just the beginning. What I really want this year is to execute THE perfect race in Helsinki.”

Laura Arcoleo for the IAAF