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Encore Performances for World Champions Lagat, Jepkosgei and Jamal in Zurich
by Bob Ramsak
(c) 2007 Race Results Weekly, all rights reserved
September 7, 2007

ZURICH -- A trio of recently-minted world champions turned in impressive encore performances at Zurich’s Weltklasse, as the IAAF Golden League series resumed here tonight.

Competing in unseasonably chilly conditions before an energetic capacity crowd of 26,500 at the rebuilt Letzigrund stadium, Bernard Lagat, Janeth Jepkosgei and Maryam Yusef Jamal produced victories quite similar to those which brought them their respective world titles in the 5000, 800 and 1500 meters, respectively, in Osaka last week.

Contesting the 3000 just five days after completing his 1500/5000 double at the world championships, it was no contest from the moment Lagat took the lead for good coming off the final bend. Passing Kenyan Edwin Soi, the American crossed the line unchallenged in 7:38.77.

“The race without pacemakers was very exciting and challenging,” said Lagat, adding that he’s still being propelled by the momentum and adrenaline from his Osaka triumph. “I wanted to lead the last lap but (Soi) took over and I just stayed in second and controlled my position.”

Soi, who tried to steal the race at the start of the final lap, held on for second (7:39.02) with Ugandan Moses Kipsiro (7:39.69) third.

Jepkoskei, the 24-year-old Kenyan who looks poised to become the leading force in the women’s 800, followed up her impressive Osaka performance with another front-running victory, this time in 1:59.03. While nearly three seconds slower than her victory in Osaka, she was clearly in a class of her own when sprinting away from the solid field over the final 100 meters.

While fatigue and jetlag were a common, if sometimes unspoken underlying theme in Zurich, Jepkosgei didn’t blame her slowish performance on the residual effects of crossing seven time zones after three fiercely competitive races.

“I think if it was warmer, we would have run much faster,” said Jepkosgei, last year’s Commonwealth champion. To underscore her point, Jepkosgei promised an attack on her 1:56.04 PB, the fastest in the world since 2003, on Sunday in Rieti, Italy.

Finishing well back was Osaka bronze medallist Mayte Martinez, second in 2:00.42, and Italy's Elisa Cusma Piccione, third in 2:00.50.

For Jamal, the Ethiopian-born Bahraini who spends much of the year training in Switzerland, her victory was nearly identical to her world title run in Osaka. Kicking past Russian Yelena Soboleva at the top of the final backstretch, she immediately created a gap that the quick Russian couldn’t overcome. Again unpressed, Jamal crossed the line in 4:06.32, well ahead of Soboleva (4:07.66) and another Russian, Olga Yegorova (4:08.10).

With Lagat skipping the 1500, the only certainty in the men’s 1500 was that the world champion wouldn’t repeat here. And after an opening lap of just under 62 seconds and an 800 meter split of just under two minutes, the race was still very much up in the air until the waning stages. Frenchman Mehdi Baala produced the decisive move midway through the final bend, taking the lead from the tightly wound pack to close unchallenged in 3:38.62, somewhat making amends for his disqualification in the semifinals in Osaka. Algerian Tarek Boukensa nipped Daniel Kipchirchir Komen over the final few meters to take second, 3:38.84 to the Kenyan’s 3:38.96. World leader Alan Webb, third at the bell, drifted to seventh down the homestretch, clocking 3:39.69.

“The snap just wasn’t there,” said Webb, who still has two or three races on his schedule this month. “I have to get back into that groove.”

U.S. 400 meter record holder Sanya Richards and Russia’s world pole vault champion Yelena Isinbayeva remained alive in the hunt for the $1 Golden League Jackpot; two-time world 100m hurdles champion Michelle Perry did not. Richards dominated the one-lap in 49.36, the fastest in the world this year, and more than a second-and-a-half clear of the field. Isinbayeva showed some signs of difficultly before clearing 4.80m to take the win, while Perry finished third in a contest won by Swede Susanna Kallur.

Nearly $1.3 million in prize money was awarded at the Weltklasse, making the traditional Swiss meet the richest one-day meeting, certainly in terms of prize money, in the world.

The six-meeting Golden League series resumes next Friday at the Memorial Van Damme in Brussels, before moving on to Berlin and the series-capping ISTAF the following Sunday.


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