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Day 2 World Athletics Final Distance Recap: Soi Gets 3000, 5000 Double, Defar Impresses
By Bob Ramsak
(c) 2007 Race Results Weekly, all rights reserved

STUTTGART, Germany – Meseret Defar produced an impressive front-running victory in the 3000 while Edwin Soi became the first man to capture the 300/5000m double to highlight the second and concluding day of the 5th IAAF/VTB Bank World Athletics Final.

After a slew of world records and bests, her first world title and an undefeated season, Defar raced as though she wanted to get her 2007 campaign over as quickly as possible. And that’s precisely what the 23-year-old Ethiopian did with her captivating 8:27.24 gun-to-tape victory.

Taking control of the race from the gun, she upped the tempo throughout before covering the second half in just over 4:10 and the final kilometre in 2:45.22. But in Defar’s personal universe, the year’s second fastest performance wasn’t all that fast.

“Without a pacemaker, it’s difficult to run fast,” she said. “But 8:27 is still alright.” The world leader in the event after her 8:24.51 en route performance in the Brussels two-miler nine days ago, Defar said she’s targeting 8:20 next year. With a 14:16.63 world record in the 5000 behind her, her target for the shorter distance is well within reach.

After one more outing --the 5000 in Shanghai on Friday-- Defar said she’s planning a brief getaway in Greece to celebrate what she describes as “a very special season.”

Behind her, Vivian Cheruiyot and Priscah Jepleting were pulled to an epic battle of their own, with the former prevailing after a stride-for-stride battle in 8:28.66 to the latter’s 8:29.06. Both were career bests, capping the Kenyan pair’s solid season. Cheruiyot was second behind Defar in her World record run in Oslo and again in Osaka. All three dipped under the previous competition record of 8:34.22 set by Defar last year.

In pure money terms, Edwin Soi was the weekend’s big winner after becoming the first man to clinch the 3000/5000 double. The 21-year-old Kenyan, who missed a trip to Osaka after taking fourth in the Kenyan Trials 5000, won that race here in 13:38.16 to leave Stuttgart $60,000 richer after the weekend. Kenyans Micah Kogo (13:39.91) and Moses Masai (13:39.96) had nothing in reserve when Soi shifted gears with 200 to go. Soi apparently likes late-season competitions. Last year, he finished runner-up at both distances.

With another commanding front-running performance, Janeth Jepkosgei dominated the 800 with her 1:57.87 win. The margin of victory –Osaka bronze medallist Mayte Martinez of Spain was second in 1:58.14—was somewhat deceiving, so in control of the proceedings was the recently-minted world champion.

“I like to run from the front because I can control my self and the other girls,” said Jepkosgei, who has produced the season’s three quickest performances, topped by her 1:56.04 national record in Osaka, the fastest in the world since 2003. “It’s much easier for me to do it this way.”

Her performance here easily eclipsed the 1:59.02 meet record set by Zulia Calatayud last year, the woman Jepkosgei succeeded as world champion.

Briton Marilyn Okoro’s feisty performance, a 1:58.76 for third, was a career best, and a memorable gift for her 23rd birthday, which she celebrated today.

Paul Kipsiele Koech also illustrated that’s clearly the world’s finest steeplechaser at the moment. Controlling the race from the outset, he ran to a surprisingly fast 8:00.67 to win handily. Behind him, Richard Mateelong (8:07.66) and Brimin Kipruto (8:11.05) took the minor spots, altering slightly their third and first place finishes in Osaka.

Daniel Kipchirchir Komen continued his late season on a high. After victories in Brussels and Berlin, the 22-year old kicked to a seemingly effortless victory in 3:37.96, well ahead of Frenchman Mehdi Baala (3:38.35). Alan Webb’s decision to return to Europe for one more contest was a worthwhile one. Next to last at the bell, the U.S. champion and world leader fought his way to fourth over the final stretch, reaching the line in 3:38.84.

Despite the late date, the second day of competition was clearly an unabashed success, with a significantly larger crowd of some 25,000 on hand. On Monday, discussions will take place about the location of next year's WAF, but a decision isn’t expected until later in the fall.

Results here

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