The Star (Nairobi)

25 February 2012

Kenya: Kiplagat Rules

World junior indoor record holder Isaiah Koech clocked an impressive 7:33.55 to win the 3,000m race at the 2012 edition of "XL-Galan" at the Ericsson Globe Arena in Stockholm on Thursday night The race featured a major speed-up in the closing stages with a large group of about 10 runners-all from Kenya and Ethiopia-moving together through the first two kilometre in 2:32.6/2:34.3. With two laps to go, pre-race favourite Augustine Choge begun winding it up but in the last 100m, Koech launched a finish neither Choge nor someone else could match. Dejen Gebremeskel of Ethiopia finished second in 7:34.14 while Choge clocked 7:34.74 for third.

The victory saw Koech miss his less than two weeks old world junior Indoor record from Liévin by merely 0.66 seconds. Another Kenyan, Bethwel Birgen, who has been drafted in the national team to the IAAF World Indoor Championships set for Istanbul, Turkey next month, clocked 3:35.38 for second place in the 1,500m. The race started on a high pace and slowed midway (1:58.4 between 400m and 1200m) before Birgen and eventual winner Ilham Ã-zbilen of Turkey engaged in a blistering last lap of 26.1. Ã-zbilen and Birgen have in the last fortnight run four races in between 3:34 and 3:36.

The event saw Russia's Olympic champion Yelena Isinbayeva set a new indoor pole vault world record with a clearance of 5.01m. The 29-year-old had held the previous best of five metres set in Donetsk in February 2009. Isinbayeva, who also holds the outdoor world record of 5.06m set in Zurich in August 2009, has now set 28 world records in her career. "I'm so happy to come back at this level. I've been dreaming about this," she said after setting the record on her second attempt.

Double Olympic champion Isinbayeva had already clinched first place at 4.92m, ahead of Britain's fast-improving Holly Bleasdale and Cuba's Yarisley Silva who both finished at 4.72m. Isinbayeva's latest world record comes just over two weeks before the world indoor championships in Istanbul. It was also her third win of the year, following indoors victories at Volgograd, Bydgoszcz and Lievin, although until Thursday, she hadn't got beyond the five-metre mark.

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