Story written by Eric
A cool wintery evening in the Swedish capital of Stockholm could not stop Sudan's latest track phenom from burning up the track tonight in his second-ever indoor competition.
Abubaker Kaki, 18, ran away with the World Junior record in the 1.000m run, clocking two minutes 15,77 seconds in a solid run in front of a capacity crowd of 10.641 - the largest ever assembled for a competition in our Scandinavian nation.
Kaki, a former goalee who was discovered by an athletics coach in Sudan only three years ago, became the fifth-fastest athlete at the distance, and trails world record -holder Wilson Kipketer's leading standard by a mere 0,81 seconds. Noureddine Morceli, the previous world 1.500m record-holder, has the fastest African time ever recorded indoors at 2.15,26.
Kaki ran with such confidence that he was able to unleash a very powerful final lap kick away from pursuing Kenyan Richard Kiplagat, closing in 26 seconds following his 1.49 opening 800m segment. The precocious young adult has high ambitions for himself outdoors - including breaking Sammy Koskeis 1.42,28 African record, and winning the Olympic final - two goals no one in attendance tonight will doubt he his capable of achieving following his excellent run.
Kenyan Sylas Kimutai held the former world junior record of 2.17,96 -- a mark which he set in Athens six years ago.
Kenyan 2000 Olympic 1.500m champion Noah Ngeny holds the world outdoor record of 2.11,96 set in 1999 in Rieti, with Kenyan Benjamin Kipkirui the fastest junior outdoors with a 2.15,00 set one month earlier in Nice, France.
The two-hour event offered great entertainment for our national stars, with Sanna Kallur and Johan Wissman taking home victories. One down side to the evening was Carolina Klüft's withdrawal from both the 60m hurdles and the long jump from a thy condition she stated gave her great pain.
Klüft, the reigning IAAF World Indoor pentathlon champion, will miss this weekend's Swedish Indoor Championships in Malmö, and her world title defense in Valencia is also questionable at this point.
Klüft is scheduled to have an MRI on Friday.
Kallur Continues Dominance
Kallur, the newly-minted world record-holder at 60m hurdles and defending IAAF World Indoor champion at the distance - unbeaten in her five previous competitions this this indoor season, ran another blistering time, stopping the clock 7,74 seconds after the starter fired away and sent her toward another record chase.
Kallur got a first-hand look and feel for the new, quicker track surface which is being used at next month's world championships, and also at the Olympics later this summer in Beijing, but shrugged off any suggestion the track adds significance.
"Everyone is talking so much about the lanes," she would say to Dagens-Nyheter, "but I don't think they have such importance."
What was remarkable about Kallur's time was that she reacted quite late to the starter's pistol, getting left in the blocks and forced to make up a deficit already at the first hurdle.
Kallur jumped a little too close to the first hurdle, which set her on a course against her natural rythym, and she didn't break free from the field until her first two steps over the second hurdle. Spain's Josephine Onyia staying closest to the 27-year-old, finishing second in a season's best 7,91 with Jamaican Lancena Golding-Clarke third in 7,93 - also her fastest of the year.
Unsurprisingly, Kallur is feeling some of the effects of having run eight of the 10 fastest times in the world this year, and is looking forward to two weeks of training ahead of the world championships once she competes at the national championshps this weekend.
"I've been a little bit tired in the last few days, but I felt good before tonight's race," Kallur said.
"I will see how I feel after dinner tonight [read Thursday]. If I can get up, then I will go [to the Swedish national championships]. If I am still seated, there won't be any nationals. I don't know right now - I have just run a victory lap and gone up a set of stairs."
Kallur's performance - her 48th under the eight-second barrier - concluded a good night of competition the GE Galan organisers put together, one which saw a powerful effort from Olympic and IAAF World Championship medalists in each of the 12 disciplines on tap for the evening.
Wissman Puts Exclamation Point on Evening
Another fantastic matchup was the men's 400m, where our own Johan Wissman took on Tyler Christopher, who set a new Canadian record in winning last weekend's Birmingham race in what appeared to be particularly easy fashion. Christopher and Wissman finished sixth and seventh at last year's world outdoor championships, separated by 0,01 seconds.
Tonight's final had Wissman in lane three, Christopher in four - with Dominican Arismendy Peguero and the Bahama's Chris Brown - who finished fourth in a national record 44,45 in Osaka - filling in the inner two lanes.
Brown got out quickest, and held the lead as the pack was approaching the bell. Wissman took over at the 200m mark and appeared to switch gears down the backstretch - a move which only Brown was able to cover. Wissman held on off the curve, but looked vulnerable to Brown's kick, with the Bahamian closing back in on the one-metre lead Wissman held. Brown was able to catch Wissman's back side, but did not have enough to pass him, as Wissman crossed the line in a season's best, 46,30.
Brown finished 0,01 behind, with Christopher third in 46,75 - nearly a second off his one-week-old personal record.
The victory was especially convincing for Wissman, who will double at the 200m/400m during this weekend's national indoor championships.
"It means I can beat anyone," he told Dagens-Nyheter.
"I have met all of the top athletes in the world - and beat them. That means a lot. The [winning] time doesn't matter. I would rather take a bad time and win the world championships."
The stakes are now at their highest for the trio, with the winner at the IAAF World Indoor Championships taking place 7-9 March in Valencia, Spain, earning bragging rights and a better lane draw against American Jeremy Wariner in the outdoor season's bigger, more illustrious meetings here in Europe.
Lagat Makes Good on 3.000m Promise
American Bernard Lagat, who won an unprecedented 1.500m/5.000m double at last season's world outdoor championships in Osaka, had promised a fast race, and had hoped running against steepler Paul Koech could spurn the field on to break Kenenisa Bekele's meet record of 7.30,51 set in last year's meeting.
"It will be a good race," Lagat said.
"Everyone knows how well Paul Koech ran in Birmingham on Saturday - a fantastic race! But I am prepared to meet them and I want to really run fast - down toward 7.30 - in my first race in Stockholm."
Lagat was unable to break the meet record, but he was able to hold off Koech's last lap charge and power home with exceptional speed during around the final curve and through to the finishing tape. Lagat's time of 7.34,65 was just two seconds shy of his personal best of 7.32,43 set last year when he also set the American record.
Koech ran a 7.36,24 for second - nearly the same time he ran on Saturday in Birmingham en-route to his national record in the 2-mile, with Kenyan compatriot Abraham Chebii setting a personal record of 7.38,63 in third.
Borzakovskiy Suffers First 800m Defeat in 2008
Another athlete who hadn't put on the brakes thus far this season was reigning 800m Olympic champion, Yuriy Borzakovskiy from Russia, who holds the GE Galan meet record with a 1.44,34 set in 2003.
Borzakovskiy, 26, had run the swiftest indoors this season, stopping the clock in 1.45,58 in Stuttgart 20 days ago, and anchored Russia to a new national 4x800m record (7.15,77) two weeks ago, splitting 1.44,5 on his anchor leg. He was undefeated this season at 800m - and had a four-meet win-streak in the event - in addition to having won each of his eight races ranging from 400m to 1.000m on the season.
Borzakovskiy slipped back into a last-to-first mode during the four lap race, but made a speedy challenge down the backstretch on the fourth lap to overcome a move made by teammate and training partner Dmitriy Bogdanov, who had the third-fastest time this season (1.46,24) entering the meet.
Kenya's Wilfred Bungei, who won the world indoor championships at this distance in Moscow two seasons ago, played it safe and ran in third the first 600m of the race before the lead pack split 1.20 at the 600m mark. Bungei was able to make a move which Borzakovskiy couldn't cover, and hold off his nemesis for the first time this season, winning in a relatively modest 1.47,16 to Borzakovskiy's 1.47,22.
Latvia's Dmitrijs Milkevics won the earlier "B" heat in 1.46,09 and missed the national record Einars Tupuritis set in Indianapolis in March 1996 by 0,29 seconds, and is the third-best time run this season.
Borzakovskiy is now 21-13 against Bungei in his career.
Mutola Finishes Perfect at 800m in Globen
African 800m queen Maria Mutola, who set her 800m indoor best - 1.56,36 - 10 years ago in Liévin, contested her final race under the lights at Globen, a venue which saw her set two 1.000m world records (2.31,23 in 1996 and 2.30,94 in 1999) in her previous five contests here.
Mutola is the reigning 800m world indoor champion, and was thought to have stiff competition from a formidable foe in Russian Olga Kotlyarova, the 600m world record-holder (1.23,44) who was also the 2006 European outdoor champion and fifth-place finisher at the 2006 World Indoor Championships, but was Great Britain's Jenny Meadows who braved the storming sprinters behind her and towed the field through the race when the rabbit stepped off to the infield.
Kotlyarova finished sixth in 2.02,74.
Holm's Unshakable Confidence
Field events also offer the partisan crowd an opportunity to cheer for two of its own, as Stefan Holm, the last high jumper to clear 2,40m (2005 European Championships in Madrid), led a field including teammate Linus Thörnblad and a Russian duo of Andrey Silnov and Ivan Ukhov, who are second and third on the yearly list with 2,37m and 2,36m clearances, respectively.
Holm, who has jumped 2,30m or higher in each of his five competitions this winter, won last year's contest with a 2,33m jump, with Thörnblad finishing second with a 2,30m clearance.
Holm made a daring move before the competition began, exchanging his original competition bib number for the number 119, the significance being the number of competitions in which he would have jumped 2,30m or higher had he cleared that height tonight.
The onus was on Holm to live up to expecations in not only clearing the height and surpassing Swedish record-holder Patrik Sjöberg's career total, but in ensuring that final height he cleared on the evening would be good enough for the victory.
Holm lived up to all expectations on the evening, first-attempt clearing four heights -- 2,22m, 2,26m, 2,30m and 2,33m -- before missing three tries at 2,37m. His closest competitors on the evening, Silnov, Tereshin and Cyrpus's Kyriakos Ioannou - the 2007 IAAF World bronze medalllist who had improved his indoor best to 2,32m earlier this month, were left 3cm behind at the competition's conclusion.
Thörnblad was left on the fifth spot after clearing only 2,26m -- 12cm under his personal best set last year.
Robles Continues to Near Record
Dayron Robles, contesting the 60m hurdles, was unstoppable by his foes, adding one more victory on the season in a relatively easy race for the Cuban. Robles stopped the clock in 7,44 seconds, and for the eighth time this season added his name to the top-10 60m hurdles world indoor list this season.
Robles leads the world heading to Valencia in two weeks, carrying a national record 7,33 seconds - the second-fastest ever, and a mere 0,03 seconds from Colin Jackson's indoor world record.
Nail-biter in Women's Long Jump
Russian Irina Simagina, who had the top-two jumps on the season at 6,94m and 6,92m, faced off against Portugal's Naide Gomes, the 2006 bronze medallist at the World Indoor Championships and third on the indoor list at 6,90m entering competition this evening.
The competition got off to a great start with Tatyana Kotova, the three-time world indoor champion and double world indoor silver-medallist, jumping 6,76m on her first attempt - a mark which was only 1cm off her season's best.
South African Karin Mey couldn't respond with an improvement on Kotova's mark, but had a safe jump at 6,64m ahead of an awaiting Gomes and Samagina, last in the jumping order. Gomes fouled on her first attempt, but appeared to had gotten off a very good jump - one which pressured Samagina to respond with a 6,69m - good enough for second after one round of jumping.
Kotova improved two centimetres on her next jump, with Mey making the jump of her life out to a personal best 6,85m and the lead in the competition; this is Mey's debut season indoors. Gomes, who had no mark at this point, planted safely and took over the lead with a 6,86m effort with Simagina again pressured to respond. Samagina answered with a foul as the athletes headed into the third round.
Kotova's third-round effort of 6,76 kept the fuel lit in the competition, with Mey stepping through her jump and Gomes fouling her attempt - which left Simagina under less pressure as she followed with a 6,79m effort and her first lead of the night.
Mey regathered her composure on the fourth round following a Kotova mis-step, and notched a 6,73m, with Gomes responding with a leading 6,88m on her second good jump of the four she had taken up to that point. Simagina didn't buckle under the pressure, recording a 6,83m to position herself into third with two jumps remaining.
Simagina made the only improvement in the fifth round, landing 6,89m into the pit - one centimetre ahead of Gomes' previously leading mark, and made for a great final round build-up as Mey, Gomes and Simagina had all cleared at least 6,85m with one jump remaining.
Kotova fouled her final attempt of the evening - ending the night with three-consecutive poor jumps, leaving Mey with a clear shot in the spotlight in the top of the order. Mey's final jump of 6,79 assured that neither Gomes nor Simagina would be threatened at the top, with the only question remaining of which one would win.
Gomes looked one final time down the runway and powered down to find the board with a good safety margin to spare. She jumped...then landed... 6,93m into the sandbox for the lead, a new personal best and a Portuguese national record. Simagina, jumping under pressure as she had from the outset, responded with the best jump of the evening, reaching out to 6,96m on her final jump - a mark which not only was a personal best for the 25-year-old Russian, but established a new meet record in the process.
Jamal's Debut a Success, Lukyaneko Wins Vault
Bahrain's Maryam Jamal, the 2007 IAAF World 1.500m champion, made her season's debut a victorious one, winning the event in Globen in 4.04,30 -- a time not too far shy of her national and African record best of 4.01,82.
Jamal's strongest competition during the race was from Ethiopia's Gelete Burka, the African Junior record-holder (3.59,60), who was also making her season's debut.
Burka, who was the third-fastest female 1.500m runner outdoors in 2007, finished second in 4.04,37 after a strong closing lap in which she was able to match kicks with the former Ethiopian national.
Russia's Yevgeniy Lukyanenko won the men's pole vault on countback against Tim Lobinger, with both athletes clearing 5,81m. Lukyanenko made a daring move to skip his final attempt at 5,71m and save it for 5,76m, which he cleared on his one and only attempt. Lobinger passed at 5,76m, and, like Lukyanenko, cleared 5,81m on his third and final attempt.
GE Galan has at present seen six world records and 22 Swedish records established at the venue. The GE Galan was shown on television in 35 countries.
GE Galan Results from Stockholm's Globen Arena
400_1, Johan Wissman, Sweden, 46,30. 2, Chris Brown, Bahamas, 46,31. 3, Tyler Christopher, Canada, 46,75. 4, Arismendy Peguero, Dominican Republic, 47,83.
800_1, Wilfred Bungei, Kenya, 1.47,16. 2, Yuriy Borzakovskiy, Russia, 1.47,22. 3. Dmitri Bogdanov, Russia, 1.47,71. 4, Ismael Kombich, Kenya, 1.47,74.
1.000_1, Abubaker Kaki, Sudan, 2.15,77 (World Junior Record, old record 2.17,96, Sylas Kimutai, Kenya, 2002). 2, Richard Kiplagat, Kenya, 2.16,96. 3, Abdelsslam Kennouche, Algeria, 2.17,78. 4, Johan Cronje, South Africa, 2.18,48.
3.000_1, Bernard Lagat, United States, 7.34,65. 2, Paul Kipsiele Koech, Kenya, 7.36,24. 3, Abraham Chebii, Kenya, 7.38,63. 4, Brimin Kipruto, Kenya, 7.46,05.
60 hurdles_1, Dayron Robles, Cuba, 7,44. 2. Yoel Hernandez, Cuba, 7,68. 3, Robert Kronberg, Sweden, 7,70. 4, Igor Peremota, Russia, 7,71.
High Jump_1, Stefan Holm, Sweden, 2,33m (7-7 3/4) (119th competition over 2,30m). 2, Andrei Silnov, Russia, 2,30m (7-6 1/2). 3, Andrei Tereshin, Russia, 2,30m (7-6 1/2). 4. Kyriakos Ioannou, Cyprus, 2,30m (7-6 1/2).
Pole Vault_1 (tie), Yevgeniy Lukyanenko, Russia, and Tim Lobinger, Germany, 5,81m (19-0 3/4). 3. Leonid Kivalov, Russia, 5,71m (18-8 3/4). 4 (tie), Alhaji Jeng, Sweden, and Denys Yurchenko, Russia, 5,61m (18-5).
800_1, Maria Mutola, Mozambique, 1.59,82. 2, Jenny Meadows, Great Britain, 2.00,42. 3, Mayte Martinez, Spain, 2.00,68. 4, Ewelina Setowska, Poland, 2.00,75.
1,500_1, Maryam Jamal, Bahrain, 4.04,30. 2, Gelete Burka, Ethiopia, 4.04,37. 3, Olesha Tsumakova, Russia, 4.07,42. 4, Lisa Dobriskey, Great Britain, 4.08,88.
60 hurdles_1, Susanna Kallur, Sweden, 7,74 (48th competition under 8,00). 2, Josephine Onyia, Spain, 7,91. 3, Lancena Golding-Clarke, Jamaica, 7,93. 4, Priscilla Lopes-Schliep, Canada, 7,93.
Long Jump_1, Irina Simagina, Russia, 6,96m MR (22-10). 2, Naide Gomes, Portugal, 6,93m NR (22-9), 3, Karin Mey, South Africa, 6,85m (22-5 3/4). 4, Tatiana Kotova, Russia, 6,78m (22-3).
High Jump_1, Antonietta Di Martino, Italy, 1,97m (6-5 1/2). 2, Emma Green, Sweden, 1,94m (6-4 1/4). 3 (tie), Tatiana Kivimyagi, Russia, and Svetlana Shkolina, Russia, 1,94m (6-4 1/4).
(Foto credit: GE Galan homepage)