26 May 2008

Kenya: Athletics - Jelimo Sets New World Junior Record

Nairobi — A month after clinching the Africa title, Kenya women's 800m runner Pamela Jelimo was on the mark again as she set a new world junior record, with a strong sprint of 1:55.76 against strong winds, in the Hengelo Grand Prix in Netherlands on Saturday.

Jelimo's performance sends a clear message to her rivals as she launches her quest for the Olympic glory.

Pamela Jelimo celebrates after winning the women's 800m race during the Africa Athletics Championships in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia last month. Jelimo set a new world junior record in the Hengelo Grand Prix in the Netherlands on Saturday. Photo/MOHAMMED AMIN

She will be in for a bruising battle with compatriot Janeth Jepkosgei, when they meet in Sunday's Berlin IAAF Golden League.

While Ethiopia's Haile Gebreselassie received much of the ovation, the enthusiastic crowd at Fanny Blankers-Koen Stadium, confirmed the arrival of a new sensation, in the frame of Jelimo.

After making waves with her 1:58.70 victory, at the African Championships in the high altitude Addis Ababa last month, the 19-year-old burst onto the international scene with a powerful message, as she clocked 1:55.76 (new Kenyan record), by far the evening's most impressive display of running.

Powering to the front down the back stretch, Jelimo stretched her lead through the bend and extended it down the homestretch, slowing little through the finish.

Her reward was a world junior record (subject to ratification), smashing the 1:57.18 set by China's Yuan Wang in Beijing in 1993, and a new Kenyan record, eclipsing world champion, Janeth Jepkosgei's 1:56.04 which she set last year in Osaka.

Jelimo won by nearly three seconds over Maryam Jamal (1:58.66), the reigning world 1500m champion.

Lucia Klocova of Slovakia was third (1:59.76) with Dutch woman Yvonne Hak fourth with a personal best 2:00.10.

However, 14 years after setting his first World record on the Hengelo track, Ethiopia's Haile Gebrselassie returned to the venue in the role of sentimental favourite in the 10,000m, but in reality, as an underdog in his quest to achieve a qualifying performance, in the event for Beijing.

Under the assumption that reigning Olympic champion Kenenisa Bekele has already secured on team berth, Gebreselassie needed to finish at least second, among the formidable group of Ethiopians in the field in order to be considered for the Beijing squad, and he fulfilled his goal in quite impressive fashion, giving selectors plenty to think about.

Running near the front throughout, Gebrselassie followed Olympic silver medallist and compatriot, Sileshi Sihine for much of the proceedings, and in the latter stages, when only the pair, along with Kenyans Eliud Kipchoge and Leonard Komon remained in contention, he even took his turn with the lead.

Sihine kick didn't disappoint as he cruised to a 26:50.53 victory, but Gebrselassie wasn't far behind, gliding to a runner-up finish in 26:51.20.

Kipchoge (26:54.32) and Komon (26:57.08) both also dipped under 27 minutes while Gebre Gebremariam, the recently-minted African champion finished a distant seventh.

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