Imperious Gay, Bolt breeze to semifinals

Kenyas Linet Masai ends Ethiopias hold in 10000M

Imperious Gay, Bolt breeze to semifinals

Russian Valeriy Borchin crosses the finish line to win the men’s 20km walk gold on the opening day of the World Athletics Championships in Berlin on Saturday. AP

Usain Bolt’s quest for the world title and his impending tussle with Tyson Gay were understandably in focus as the two marched into the semifinals of the 100M. But as the night wore on, it was the turn of the long distance queens to jostle for attention in the 10000M, with a stunning result unfolding in the end.

The longest race on the track had been an Ethiopian preserve in recent times, with runners from that country emerging champions in the last five editions of the World Championships.

Despite the absence of defending champion Tirunesh Dibaba due to injury, Ethiopia were expected to retain the gold, with the likes of Meseret Defar and Meselech Melkamu in their ranks.

At the end of an absorbing race, however, it was Kenya’s Linet Chepkwemoi Masai who sneaked away with the gold medal -- her country’s first in the event since Sally Barososio’s triumph in 1997 -- with a spectacular surge in the final few metres. Defar and Melkamu had battled Kenyans Masai and Grace Momanyi in the last four laps but with 50 metres left, Defar seemed very much in control. Melkamu then provided the first surprise, edging ahead as Defar began to fade. Then came the sledgehammer blow for the Ethiopians as Masai arrived from nowhere to stride past a celebrating Melkamu.

The timings said it all – 30:51.24 to Masai and 30:51.34 to Melkamu in the closest final since 2001 when Derartu Tulu had edged Berhane Adere by four hundredths of a second. Defar, who had a 29:59:20 earlier this season, was pushed to fifth, with another Ethiopian Wude Ayalew taking the bronze in 30:51.95.

Bolt, meanwhile, strolled through the second round, finishing second behind Daniel Bailey of Antigua in 10.02 seconds. It was all fun as the Jamaican exchanged smiles with Bailey after the half-way mark, with the race very much in control. The Jamaican had earlier waltzed through the first round in 10.20 seconds.

With Bolt in a relaxed mood, it was left to Asafa Powell and Gay to turn up the heat. Powell, who almost didn’t make it to the second round after taking a casual approach in the first round, blazed ahead in 9.95 seconds while Gay won his heat in 9.98. Sparks, certainly, will fly in the remaining two rounds on Sunday. Earlier, Olympic champion Valeriy Borchin of Russia uncorked a tremendous burst past the half-way mark to win the first gold medal of the championships, in the men’s 10KM walk.

At the historic Brandenburg Gate, Borchin, who was in ninth place after ten kilometres, stepped on the pedal to storm past early leaders, clocking one hour 18 minutes and 41 seconds. China’s Wang Hao won the silver in a personal best 1::19:06 while the bronze went to Mexico’s Eder Sanchez, in 1::19:22. “I’ve got a lot of experience with this kind of races. So I wasn’t worried when I was trailing. I was prepared for it,” said Borchin. “The important thing was not to leave the group. I did a lot of races this year and I am happy that it ended successfully,” he added.

For China’s Wang, the silver was a perfect birthday gift. “It’s my birthday tomorrow, so it’s a nice present,” said Wang, who was fourth at the Beijing Olympic Games last year.
Meanwhile, Christine Ohuruogu and Sanya Richards, the main contenders for the women’s 400M gold, advanced to the second round with ease. Both were placed in the same heat and Richards won it, clocking 51.06. Ohuruogu timed 51.30 for the second spot.

DH News Service

Results: Men: 20KM walk: Valeriy Borchin (Russia) 1::18:41, 1; Wang Hao (China) 1::19:06, 2; Eder Sanchez (Mexico) 1::19:22, 3.
Women: 10000M: Linet Chepkwemoi Masai (Kenya) 30:51.24, 1; Meselech Melkamu (Ethiopia) 30:51.34, 2; Wude Ayalew (Ethiopia) 30:51.95, 3.

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