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Mutola on course for sixth title

March 03, 2004 18:31 IST

Mozambique's Maria Mutola, the leading women's 800 metres runner for more than a decade, aims for a record sixth gold medal at the world indoor championships this weekend.

Mutola, the Olympic and world champion, won her first crown in Toronto in 1993. The only interruption to her run of titles came in Maebashi in 1999 when Ludmila Formanova of the Czech Republic outsprinted her in the straight.

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This year her preparations suffered a setback when she was defeated for the first time in 23 races, falling at the Birmingham meeting last month after she appeared to clip the heels of training partner Kelly Holmes, who will bid for gold in the 1,500.

Age has done little to diminish the powers of Gail Devers and the 37-year-old American, the greatest ever female sprinter-hurdler, will attempt a unique double in Budapest.

Devers, who defends her hurdles title from Birmingham last year, will also double up in the 60 metres sprint, an event she won in 1993 and 1997. No sprinter has won both disciplines at the same championships.

The withdrawal through injury of Ethiopian Haile Gebrselassie has detracted from a championships already deprived of some of the sport's big names.

Briton Jason Gardener, twice a bronze medallist, will start among the favourites to win the men's 60 metres having clocked the fastest time indoors this season.

With triple Olympic champion Marion Jones bypassing Budapest in her comeback season and Ukraine's Zhanna Block not defending her title, the women's sprint is a wide open affair with Devers, Belgium's Kim Gevaert and Frenchwoman Christine Arron possibilities for gold.

NEW HEIGHTS?

Off the track the principal interest will figure around the women's pole vault where rarely, it seems, does a month go by without a world record.

Russian Svetlana Feofanova, the world indoor and outdoor champion, regained the indoor world record in Athens last month by clearing 4.85 metres, just one week after compatriot Yelena Isinbayeva had surpassed her team mate's mark with a jump of 4.83.

The 23-year-old Feofanova has broken the world indoor record eight times in the last two years and few would bet against either Russian pushing each other to greater heights in the Hungarian capital.

Like Mutola, Cuban long jumper Ivan Pedroso will attempt a record sixth indoor title. However, the 31-year-old, who limped out of the Paris world championships with a recurrence of a foot injury last year, is yet to discover his form of old and has a best of just 8.01 metres this season.

Justin Palmer
Source:
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