Young guns take over from old stars

Tianna Madison

AMERICAN hurdler Allen Johnson, a veteran of six world championships, covered all bases in a succinct explanation for the special appeal of the biennial meeting of the world's elite track and field athletes. 

“This is where new stars are made, old stars fade away and current stars continue to shine,” he said. 

Although he continues to rage against the dying of the light Johnson, now 34, may have slid into the second category during the 10th World Championships which concluded on Sunday. 

Seeking a record fifth world 110m hurdles title, Johnson's enduring technical skills shone during the early rounds.  

In the final, though, he was relegated to third place by two 22-year-olds, French gold medallist Ladji Doucoure and China's Olympic champion Liu Xiang, and his chance might not come again. 

While Johnson did at least come away with a medal, others of the golden generation discovered that the sands of time are running out. 

The evergreen Maria Mutola finished fourth in the 800m and 38-year-old Lars Riedel made the discus final but no impression after that. 

Instead it was the youngsters, led by American sprint king Justin Gatlin, 23, who destroyed his rivals in the 100m and 200m. 

Jeremy Wariner

Lauryn Williams won the women's 100m and teenager Allyson Felix, described by Gatlin as a “close, close friend”, took the 200m gold. 

The deceptively slight Jeremy Wariner broke 44 seconds for the first time to win the 400m.  

The Americans were supported by 19-year-old Tianna Madison, who secured the long jump title in her first major final, and 22-year-old Bershawn Jackson. 

Ethiopia dominated the distance events with 19-year-old Tirunesh Dibaba emulating Gatlin by winning a 5,000m-10,000m double and leading three of her compatriots across the line in the shorter event. 

After a bright start on the opening Saturday, the championships were disrupted by rain, including a violent thunderstorm on Tuesday which forced organisers to postpone the women's pole vault. 

Tirunesh Dibaba

Five times the average weekly rainfall for August fell during the week and it was all the more credit to the athletes, therefore, that three world records fell during the meet. 

Olympiada Ivanova broke the women's record for the 20km walk on the opening weekend and Cuba's Osleidys Menendez extended the women's javelin record on Sunday. 

Russia's 23-year-old Yelena Isinbayeva garnered US$160,000 as she easily won the pole vault and setting her ninth world record of the year at 5.01m. 

If there was to be a symbolic moment of the championships, it was the airbrushing from the event's history of former glamour girl Marion Jones. 

Despite never testing positive for drugs, the 29-year-old triple Olympic champion and four-time world gold medallist was omitted from the video highlights of the three championships in which she appeared at the opening ceremony. 

That was a sure sign that the baton had been firmly handed over to the new clean cut generation and unlike the US men's relay team they did not drop it. – Agencies  

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