Hail brilliant Gebrselassie

  • Other Sport
  • Sunday, 23 Feb 2003

BIRMINGHAM: Ethiopia’s Haile Gebrselassie and Russian pole vaulter Svetlana Feofanova lit up the Birmingham Grand Prix with two world records falling on Friday. 

Gebrselassie smashed the world indoor two-mile record by over five seconds while Feofanova increased her own best mark by one centimetre to 4.77m. 

“The inspiration was the crowd and the stadium. The race went to plan and the pacing was excellent,” said Gebrselassie after clocking 8:04.69 to eclipse the mark of 8:09.66 set by compatriot Halyu Mekkonen in Birmingham three years ago. 

The 29-year-old four-time world and double Olympic champion was roared on by a capacity crowd, including 200 members of the Ethiopian Community in Britain, which runs a fan club for the African country’s most famous sporting son. 

“I’m so happy. It is a fantastic feeling,” added Gebrselassie after setting his 16th world record on the track in a long and distinguished career. 

Feofanova, as she had done in Glasgow earlier this month, went higher indoors than any woman before. 

The 22-year-old European outdoor champion earned a US$50,000 bonus from the event sponsors for her efforts, but the Russian failed in two attempts to leap 4.82m, which would have been the highest ever mark achieved by a woman, indoors or outdoors. 

Both Gebrselassie and Feofanova earned standing ovations but Briton Colin Jackson received the biggest reception of the night in his last ever Grand Prix before retiring next month. 

The 36-year-old former world 110m hurdles champion breezed to victory in 7.51 in a fine dress rehearsal for next month’s World Indoor Championships at the same venue, after which the Welshman will hang up his spikes for good. 

“It was very special to win in Birmingham,” he said. “I hope I can sign off next month with a gold medal.” 

Briton’s Jason Gardener stormed to victory in the men’s 60m, but compatriot and European 100m outdoor champion Dwain Chambers failed to qualify for the final. 

European indoor champion Gardener was never headed from an explosive start in winning in 6.49, a season’s best. American Ramon Clay was second in 6.57 and Briton Mark Lewis-Francis was third in 6.59. 

But there was huge disappointment though for 24-year-old Chambers, who said this week he had set his sights on breaking Tim Montgomery’s world 100m record this season. 

He clocked a rusty 6.68 to finish fifth in his heat in his first competitive race of the season and his first indoors for two years.  

“That was not a reflection of the kind of shape I am in,” said Chambers. “I have no idea what went wrong. I have not seen the race and I don’t want to see it.” – Reuters  

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