White upstages Jones in bagging a sprint double, Pitmann shows her true mettle

JANA Pittman and Kelli White made light of the absence of women’s athletics icons Cathy Freeman and Marion Jones here on Thursday as they landed the 400m hurdles and 200m respectively at the World Championships. 

Pittman – the anointed successor to Freeman in Aussie eyes – admitted to watching a Rocky movie where the Sylvester Stallone character humbled his Russian opponent in the ring. 

Out on the track on Thursday, her main rival was Russia’s world record holder Yuliya Pechonkina. 

White succeeded where Jones failed in achieving the sprint world championship double and emulated East Germany’s Katrin Krabbe’s feat back in 1991. 

Kelli White flashes the victory sign after she upstaged Marion Jones by completing a World Championship sprint double with the 200m gold. -- EPA/APpix

However, the hosts’ hopes of two of their fairest and hottest medal fancies stepping up to the plate were dashed as Muriel Hurtis finished fourth behind White while Manuela Montebrun took bronze in the women’s hammer behind Cuba’s Yipsi Moreno. 

France still has hope with heptathlon silver medallist Eunice Barber easily qualifying for the long jump final. 

While America’s male 200m sprinters carried on their work to repair the damage caused by the antics of Jon Drummond, who was disqualified from the 100m, the news hardly got better for 400m winner Jerome Young. 

While the 27-year-old shrugged off the revelations that he had tested positive for steroids, and then competed in the Sydney Olympics after being cleared by an internal inquiry, the IOC entered the fray. 

In a statement released on Thursday, they seemed to sweep aside the line taken by the USATF and the IAAF that they were both bound by the ruling at the Court of Sports Arbitration (CAS) last November that all cases between 1996-2000 were closed and the athletes’ identity would not be revealed. 

“The IOC has written to the IAAF and the USOC, strongly urging them to pursue the matter. It has also written to the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) calling on it to assist in finding the truth by using all means and powers at its disposal,” said an IOC statement. 

After the disgraceful behaviour of Drummond and the cloud over Young, the organisers will have been delighted that the mouthwatering 5,000m clash between Ethiopia’s 10,000m champion Kenenisa Bekele and Morocco’s 1,500m master Hicham El Guerrouj is on for Sunday. 

Both came through their semi-finals but while Bekele will have his other two teammates with him, the 29-year-old El Guerrouj will just have one and by all accounts Abderrahim Goumri is no friend of his. 

However, it nearly didn’t happen at all as the indefatigable Moroccan revealed that after just over three hours of sleep following his wonderful success in the 1,500m on Wednesday he had his doubts about competing. 

“When I woke up my first thought was whether I really wanted to do the 5,000 but here I am and I feel really good now and I feel really motivated.” 

Pittman was as expected in ecstasy after her victory. She showed no signs of nerves as she chased down Pechonkina. 

“I spent the day watching Rocky movies particularly the one where he beats the Russian. 

“I turned to my coach and I said: ‘That’s me – I’m going to beat the Russian.” 

That revelation would warm the heart of her fellow Australian, tennis ace Lleyton Hewitt who has admitted in the past that he too uses the Stallone character to fire him up before he goes on court. 

No shrinking violet the 20-year-old Pittman said there was no problem with taking on Freeman’s mantle. 

“I love the fact that I am filling Cathy’s shoes,” she said. 

White wasn’t feeling at her best. She was sick in the changing area but perhaps she was also mindful that Marion Jones, unlike Freeman, will be returning to the track after taking a year out to have a baby. 

“I am happy but I am just really really tired as it is my eighth race of the championships,” said White. 

“It’s great and it’s a good feeling but I have to repeat I am feeling sick.  

“There is nothing left in the tank.” 

While White just wants to run faster, two male walkers who walked faster than anyone else ever has in their events, Jefferson Perez in the 20km and Robert Korzeniowski in the 50km, received some welcome news. 

The IAAF Council decided to revise their decision not to give them the US$100,000 bonus for a world record, as they said world bests didn’t count, and said they could in fact have the money after all. – AFP  

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