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World indoor winners getting paid for first time

March 6, 1997

PARIS (AP) _ Track and indoor competition have never been a natural match. The modern athlete and money are a different story.

So to get the modern athlete indoors for the World Championships, the world track federation has thrown in $2.3 million in prize money, including $50,000 to every champion.

``It’s all very logical,″ said Ato Boldon, the favorite to win the 200 meters at the three-day event, which opens Friday.

The championships are missing some of the marquee names like Michael Johnson and Noureddine Morceli. But with double middle-distance world record-breaker Hicham el Guerrouj of Morocco and Cuba’s Eliecer Urrutia, who set a triple jump record last week, the hottest athletes of the indoor season will appear.

Add another incentive of $50,000 for setting a world record, and some could walk away with $100,000 this weekend. Such figures could be a great impetus to everyone _ well, almost everyone.

``I’m happy with the money I make now, but it doesn’t hurt,″ said Boldon, who won Olympic bronze for Trinidad and Tobago in the 100 and 200.

Most of the top stars forgo the indoor championships to concentrate on the outdoor version at Athens in August. Others use it as a good way to keep busy.

``This is a good training exercise, but one I want to win,″ Boldon said.

For many on the Chinese team, it’s a great opportunity for a first taste of international competition.

But the prize money actually robs emerging stars of the opportunity for quick success, Chinese coach Feng Shuyong said.

``There wasn’t any prize money before, so there weren’t the top athletes. It’s going to change now,″ he said.

Now, the Chinese might concentrate on second or third place, still worth $20,000 and $10,000. For the relays, the prize money per team is $60,000, $30,000 and $16,000 for first, second and third.

El Guerrouj, who broke both the mile and 1,500-meter records last month, originally planned not to compete in Paris, preferring to center his efforts on Athens.

But following some heavy lobbying from the organizers and the assurance that no other 1,500 competitor in Paris has come within five seconds of his time, El Guerrouj changed his mind.

His closest rival in the 1,500 this winter season, Ethiopia’s Haile Gebrselassie, is running in the 3,000 against Kenyan rivals Daniel Komen and Moses Kiptanui.

Africans are expected to dominate all running events beyond the 400.

In the 800, Kenyan native Wilson Kipketer is heavily favored, even though he hasn’t run indoors this winter.

After missing the Olympics because he had yet to obtain Danish citizenship, Kipketer imposed himself as the king of the distance, and few doubt he will prevail here.

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