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Isinbayeva steals the show

Last updated on: August 28, 2007 22:56 IST

A nonchalant manner masking her lust for gold, Yelena Isinbayeva sashayed into Osaka's Nagai stadium and stole centre stage at the world championships in Osaka on Tuesday.

Kenya swept the men's 3,000m steeplechase and Janeth Jepkosgei gave Kenya gold in the women's 800m but it was Russian gymnast-turned-pole vaulter Isinbayeva who sprinkled the stardust on day four in Osaka.

Not even the defeat of mighty discus thrower Virgilijus Alekna nor a surprise victory for American Kerron Clement in the men's 400m hurdles could prevent her stealing the show.

Although Isinbayeva failed to extend her own world record, knocking the bar off twice at 5.02m, she won gold at a canter.

Stretched out on her back, her long limbs clad in a light blue tracksuit, the 25-year-old lay on the side of the track during the first three rounds, a white towel draped over her dark locks.

Up the bar crept and sure enough her rivals began to fall away.

SMALL DISAPPOINTMENT

She cleared 4.65m and sat back before sailing over 4.80m. It was enough to claim gold with just two clearances -- the fewest number to win a world championship.

While Katerina Badurova and Svetlana Feofanova celebrated silver and bronze, the champion called for the bar to be raised to a new world record height.

The Nagai stadium crowd cheered her on, clapping rhythmically in unison.

Isinbayeva aborted her first jump, knocked the bar with her second and only just grazed it on her third before treating the crowd to an impromptu back-flip onto the mat.

"I won and that is the most important," Isinbayeva smiled. "The only small disappointment is that I did not jump the world record. I wanted to show everybody something special.

While Isinbayeva swept all before her with ease, Alekna was toppled from his discus podium. The Lithuanian, winner of the last two world championships and Olympic Games, finished fourth in a contest won by his Baltic rival Gerd Kanter of Estonia.

BIG PARTY

"There will be a big party today, it is my day," the 28-year-old Kanter told reporters.

"Virgilijus is the best discus thrower ever and inspired me a lot in recent years. I think he will be back, you cannot count him out."

Alekna was philosophical after his first loss in a major championship since Edmonton in 2001.

"Finally I lost, there is nothing to do," he said, adding that he had picked up a calf injury last week. "Life goes on and the time to rehabilitate myself will come."

Olympic silver medallist Brimin Kipruto led a Kenyan sweep in the men's metres steeplechase. He surged clear of Olympic champion Ezekiel Kemboi in the final 150 metres, leaving Richard Mateelong in third before the trio celebrated together with a lap of honour wrapped in their national flag.

"It's the first time I won a gold medal," Kipruto told reporters. "We will celebrate tonight as a team, as a country."

Their compatriot Jepkosgei ran from the front to win the women's 800m gold. The 23-year-old Commonwealth champion clocked the quickest time of the year on her way to the final and improved it again to win in one minute 56.04 seconds.

"This medal is important for Kenya and for me," Jepkosgei told reporters. "This is the first medal for middle distance where we don't have many runners."

In the men's 400 metres hurdles, Clement took surprise gold, clocking the year's quickest time of 47.61 seconds with Olympic champion Felix Sanchez taking silver for the Dominican Republic. Poland's Marek Plawgo claimed bronze.

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