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Mutola lifts 800m title without much fight

PARIS AUG. 25. Maria Mutola's third 800m title in the World championships came without much fight at the Stade de France on Tuesday. The Mozambique woman had to just outkick Briton Kelly Holmes on the home straight for what was forecast was a one-horse race weeks before this meet. Whatever little challenge there could have been for Mutola was ruled out even before the race started with Austrian Stephanie Graf pulling out because of an injury.

Graf, though beaten through the season by Mutola, the lone contender for the Golden League one-million dollar jackpot, was considered as the only threat to the defending champion after Jolanda Ceplak of Slovenia withdrew before the heats.

A slow 1:01.20, with the runners being led by Mutola on the opening lap itself, suggested that it would be easy for the Mozambique woman in the end. But there was a good fight by Kelly Holmes as the runners took the penultimate bend.

Holmes took off early, with Mutola in pursuit and into the straight, when Holmes threatened to speed away, Mutola came around and easily outpaced her.

As she neared the end, she could turn to her left three times and then raised her left index finger in victory. Mutola clocked 1:59.89, ordinary by her standards, Holmes 2:00.18 and Russian Natalya Khrushelyova 2:00.29.

Alekna bags discus gold

Lithuanian Virgilijus Alekna, the Olympic champion, won the men's discus title with a throw of 69.69m, his season best. Hungary's Robert Fazekas, the favourite was second at 69.01, while Belarus's Vasily Kaptyukh claimed the bronze with 66.51. German Lars Riedel, looking for his sixth world title, was fourth, with 66.23m.

A collision towards the finish with Russian Yelena Zadoroshnaya and a stumble led to Romanian Gabriela Szabo ending up sixth in her 5000m heat, but she did make it to the final as one of the fastest losers. Prominent among those who made it without fuss included Irishwoman Sonia O'Sullivan, Kenyan Edith Masai, Ethiopians Turunesh Dibaba and Berhane Adere and Chinese Sun Yingjie. Those who failed to progress included Ethiopian Meseret Defar and Kenyan Jane Wanjiru, the latter despite a personal best of 15:04.00.

To go out in the women's 200m quarterfinals were American Allyson Felix, on whom a lot of hopes were pinned, and veteran Merlene Ottey, the Jamaican who now runs in Slovenian colours. Americans Kelli White and Torri Edwards, Ukrainian Zhanna Block and Frenchwoman Muriel Hurtis were among those who easily qualified for the semifinals. "It wasn't my goal to win medals here. I have had those enough already I have had too little training after recovering from the operation I had. So I was merely getting used to compete again and building up my confidence for the next year. I will still compete in a couple of competitions this year. I would like to finish the season well. I see this sport as a challenge now,'' said the 43-year-old Ottey.

Defending champion Kostadinos Kederis withdrew from the men's 200m, it was announced. The Olympic champion from Greece had suffered an injury, according to an official statement. Kim Collins, the Commonwealth Games champion from St. Kitts and Nevis, crowned himself the world sprint champion, brushing aside the challenge of the Americans and the Britons on Monday night. On the third evening of the championships, if Collins wrote a new chapter for the small group of Caribbean islands, there were setbacks for two reigning champions, American Maurice Greene and world triple jump record-holder Jonathan Edwards, but celebration for Belarus as woman discus thrower Irina Yatchenko added a second gold for the day to her country's collection after Ivan Tikhon won the men's hammer.

Just like everyone else in contention in the men's 100 metres, Collins has had a mixed season. Unlike almost everyone else in the line-up he does not have bulging muscles that try to burst through the vests or singlets. His 10.02s in the second round here might have suggested that he was going to be a strong contender. But then he came in fourth in one of the semifinalss, perhaps portraying the wide open nature of the sprint battle that had always lacked the kind of match-ups there were in the past.

In the event, for the first time since 1995, there was no American in the medals bracket, though, even without Greene whose left quadricep muscle popped when he was looking for a place in the final, the US had enough ammunition to crash through to the podium. World record-holder Tim Montgomery finished fifth, while team-mate Bernard Williams, quite impressive in the semifinals earlier in the evening, was a slot behind. Greene, Montgomery and Williams had made an American sweep in Edmonton last time. The silver here went to another Caribbean, 19-year-old Darrel Brown of Trindad and Tobago.

The World junior champion who had posted a world junior record of 10.01s in the second round, was just a hundredth of a second behind Collins's 10.07. In fact Brown and Britons Darren Campbell and Dwain Chambers were all credited with 10.08. Chambers, one of the pre-meet favourites, missed out on a medal.

This was the slowest 100m since Carl Lewis won the inaugural meet in Helsinki in 1983, in 10.07s. After that at every meet 10 secs was cracked in the final. Christian Olsson, the rising young Swede who had run Jonathan Edwards close the past two seasons, took the triple jump gold with an opening jump of 17.72.

That virtually killed the competition. Cuban Yoandri Betanzos won the silver at 17.28 while just two centimeters behind was Leevan Sands of the Bahamas. South African Jacques Freitag won the men's high jump title, with favourite Stefan Holm taking the silver and Canadian Mark Boswell claiming the bronze. Freitag scaled 2.35, while Holm and Boswell were tied at 2.32.

On a countback, Holm won the silver improving from his fourth place last time. Pole Aleksander Walerianczyk, who led the season charts with 2.36, ended up 10th with just 2.25m.

The results:

Men: Discus: 1. Virgilijus Alekna (Ltu) 69.69m, 2. Robert Fazekas (Hun) 69.01, 3. Vasily Kaptyukh (Blr) 66.51.

Women: 800m: 1. Maria Mutola (Moz) 1:59.89, 2. Kelly Holmes (Gbr) 2:00.18, 3. Natalya Khrushelyova (Rus) 2:00.29.

Monday's results: Men: 100m: 1. Kim Collins (SKN) 10.07s, 2. Darrel Brown (Tri) 10.08, 3. Darren Campbell (Gbr) 10.08; High jump: 1. Jacques Freitag (RSA) 2.35, 2. Stefan Holm (Swe) 2.32, 3. Mark Boswell (Can) 2.32; Triple jump: 1. Christian Olsson (Swe) 17.72m, 2. Yoandri Betanzos (Cub) 17.28, 3. Leevan Sands (Bah) 17.26.

Women: Pole vault: 1. Svetlana Feofanova (Rus) 4.75m, 2. Annika Becker (Ger) 4.70, 3. Yelena Isinbayeva (Rus) 4.65; Discus throw: 1. Irina Yatchenko (Blr) 67.32m, 2. Anastasia Kelesidou (Gre) 67.14, 3. Ekaterini Voggoli (Gre) 66.73.

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