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Kipketer sets 800 mark again; Slaney loses old-timers battle

March 9, 1997

PARIS (AP) _ Wilson Kipketer had only to beat himself in the 800 meters at the World Indoor Championship on Sunday _ and he did. Mary Slaney had to beat someone six years older than her in the 1,500 meters _ and she couldn’t.

The sensational Kipketer, a Kenyan living in Denmark, smashed his world record again in winning by more than 20 meters. He was timed in 1 minute, 42.67 seconds, obliterating the mark of 1:43.96 he set in Friday’s first-round heats.

``I want to make history of my life,″ he said. ``I have my dreams. I still can see things I can improve.″

Slaney, ever resourceful at 38, has had more than 20 operations on her legs and feet and overcome a myriad of other illnesses and injuries during her star-crossed career.

On Sunday, 44-year-old Yekaterina Podkopayeva of Russia proved a shade better. Leading virtually all the way, Slaney, still jet-lagged after a ``hellacious″ three-day trip from Eugene, Ore., was overtaken in the final strides by Podkopayeva, who also won the 1,500 title in 1993.

The victory avenged Podkopayeva’s third-place finish behind Slaney at the 1983 World Outdoor Championships, where the American swept the 1,500 and 3,000 meters.

This was Slaney’s first appearance in the world championship _ indoors or outdoors _ since then, and she said, ``I was surprised to find that I wasn’t the oldest for a change.″

Podkopayeva, the oldest winner ever at the championships, was timed in 4:05.19 _ the fastest of her career in winning the battle of oldies but goodies. Slaney was .03 seconds behind.

The final day of the championships also produced a world record of 3:26.84 by the Russian team in the women’s 1,600-meter relay and a world record-tying pole vault of 14 feet, 5 1/4 inches by Stacy Dragila of the United States.

Dragila’s surprising victory over co-world record-holder Emma George of Australia in the first women’s pole vault competition at the championships keyed a strong finishing performance by the Americans.

The U.S. team, which repeated as medals champion, also got victories from Olympic gold medalist Charles Austin in the high jump at a 1997 world-leading 7-8 1/2, Jearl Miles-Clark in the women’s 400 in a world-leading and personal best 50.96, and its men’s 1,600 relay team of Jason Rouser, Mark Everett, Sean Maye and Deon Minor in a world-leading 3:04.93.

Overall, the Americans finished with 16 medals, including six golds, three silvers and seven bronzes. Russia was second with eight medals, three golds, and Jamaica was third with six medals, one gold.

Meanwhile, world record-holder Haile Gebrselassie of Ethiopia fell 3 1/2 seconds short of his world record in the 3,000 meters but set a championship record in winning in 7:34.71; Maria Mutola of Mozambique, competing only two weeks after her father’s death in a car crash, won her third straight title in the women’s 800 in 1:58.96; Michelle Freeman of Jamaica tied the meet record in winning the women’s 60 hurdles in 7.82, and Anier Garcia of Cuba celebrated his 21st birthday by beating world record-holder Colin Jackson of Britain by .01 seconds in the men’s 60 hurdles in 7.48, matching his national record.

Other winners were Nigeria’s Sunday Bada in the men’s 400 in 45.51, a national record; Italy’s Fiona May in the women’s long jump at 22-6, a national record; Joel Garcia in leading a 1-2 Cuban finish in the men’s triple jump, beating world record-holder Eliecer Urrutia with a leap of 56-9 1/4; and Robert Zmelik of the Czech Republic, the 1992 Olympic decathlon gold medalist, in the heptathlon with a national record 6,228 points.

This was the first time prize money was awarded at the championships, including $50,000 for world champions and $50,000 for world records, but Kipketer didn’t get a penny for his world record Sunday, only for his victory. That was because he already had earned the bonus money with his first world record in the prelims.

In his two races, he improved the world mark by a total of 2.16 seconds.

``The decision that I would run a world record for the second time fell during the warmup,″ he said. ``The second important thing was the atmosphere in the arena and I knew the public loved me.

``I was here to run. I was not after the money. I was doing this for the audience and my coach (Kenya’s Mike Boit, the 1972 Olympic 800 bronze medalist).″

Kipketer, who missed the 1996 Olympics because he was a man without a country _ he is expected to obtain his Danish citizenship in December _ broke into the lead immediately from the outside lane.

He blazed through the first 200 meters in 24.22, reached the halfway point in 50.22 and was clocked in 1:16.49 at the 600 mark. By that time, he was running away from the field and running against the clock.

``He’s just on another planet,″ third-place finisher Rich Kenah of the United States said. ``I don’t know what it would have taken to run like he did today.

``He was like Michael Johnson in the 200 (at last year’s Olympics). It was mind-boggling.″

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