Big guns flex their muscles

ZURICH: Turkey’s European champion Sureyya Ayhan and Mexican Ana Guevara produced performances worthy of a world championship final at the Zurich Golden League meeting on Friday. 

Ayhan clocked the fastest women’s 1,500m time for six years while Guevara’s 49.11 seconds for the 400m put her equal 10th on the all-time list. 

STILL NO 1:Moroccan Hicham El Guerrouj reacts after winningthe 1,500m race at the Golden League athletics meet in Zurichon Friday. - EPApic

Morocco’s three times world 1,500m champion Hicham El Guerrouj also dismissed worries over his fitness with a smooth victory eight days before the start of the Paris World Championships. 

Ayhan shaved more than two seconds off her personal best in clocking 3:55.60. She is the only athlete to break four minutes for the distance this year. 

The former semi-pro basketballer, unbeaten at the distance last year, beat her personal best by 0.23 of a second but said she needed to run even faster to secure the world title. 

“I’m certain that a time below 48.7 will be needed to win in Paris,” she said. “I’m on track with my preparations. I’m getting faster with the races.” 

El Guerrouj, who is planning a 1,500m-5,000m double in Paris, eased to victory in 3:29.13, ahead of Kenyan Bernard Lagat. 

The 28-year-old, winning at the Weltklasse for the eighth time in a row, pulled out of the London grand prix last week with a minor back complaint. 

Gail Devers, seeking a fourth 100m hurdles world title at the age of 36, warmed up with a morale-boosting win over one of her major rivals. 

The American sprinter-hurdler, twice Olympic champion over 100m, brushed aside Jamaican Brigitte Foster to win in 12.50. Foster holds the leading time this year with 12.45. 

“It’s always a challenge for me and I’m enjoying it,” said Devers.  

“I was pleased with my aggressiveness over the hurdles. I know that with the rounds in Paris, I’ll be better and better.” 

Zurich’s atmospheric Letzigrund Stadium for once witnessed a low-key men’s 100m with the event’s big guns – Olympic and three-times world champion Maurice Greene, out-of-form world record holder Tim Montgomery and European champion Dwain Chambers – keeping their powder dry ahead of their showdown in Paris. 

The spoils were shared by Americans Justin Gatlin, the world indoor 60m champion, and John Capel, who deadheated for first in 9.97, third quickest this year.  

Mozambique’s Maria Mutola said it was “business as usual” after chalking up her 16th successive 800m win and a record 11th in a row at the Weltklasse. Mutola needs only a victory in Brussels after the World Championships to win the Golden League’s US$1 million jackpot. 

The Olympic and world champion proved too strong again for Austria’s Stephanie Graf to win in 1:59.93, over four seconds slower than her previous best this year. 

Romania’s Gabriela Szabo, twice world champion at 5,000m, led from the front to set a world leading time of 8:33.95 this year in the 3,000m. 

Kenyan-born Saif Saaed Shaheen made a winning start in the colours of his newly-adopted country Qatar, but his attempt at eclipsing Brahim Boulami’s 3,000m world steeplechase record fell a long way short. 

The 20-year-old, formerly known as Stephen Cherono, has changed his name after receiving citizenship from the Gulf state. 

Shaheen, fastest in the world this year in both the steeplechase and 5,000m, edged Kenya’s Ezekiel Kemboi in a desperately close finish. – Reuters 

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