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Anju Bobby George in long jump final
- WORLD ATHLETICS - El Guerrouj races to fourth consecutive 1,500m title

Paris: Paris: India’s Anju Bobby George reached the final in women’s long jump at the world athletics championship on Thursday.

Anju, ranked ninth in the world, became the second Indian after discus thrower Neelam J. Singh to reach the world championship final. Neelam, incidentally, achieved the feat in the ongoing meet before finishing 12th among 13 participants in the final.

Competing in group B in the preliminaries, Anju managed a best of 6.59m, which was below the original qualifying mark of 6.65. The Indian made the cut as the top 12 from the two groups qualify automatically. Just four athletes, interestingly, managed to meet the cut off of 6.65.

Anju’s effort of 6.59m was the sixth best among all qualifiers. Eunice Barber (France, 6.78), Lyudmila Galkina (Russia, 6.72), Olga Rublyova (Russia, 6.67), Bronwyn Thompson (Australia, 6.65), Jade Johnson (Britain, 6.62) were the ones ahead of the Indian. The first two were in Anju’s group.

Anju, the gold-winner in the Busan Asian Games, won a silver at a Super Grand Prix event in Europe recently. She is the only Asian to have made the women’s long jump final at the ongoing meet.

On Wednesday, Hicham El Guerrouj repulsed a spirited challenge from Frenchman Mehdi Baala to win a fourth consecutive world 1,500 title with his accustomed majestic authority, as reported in Thursday’s Late City edition.

The stylish Moroccan, who could legitimately claim to be the best middle-distance runner in history if he were not so modest, celebrated his victory by playing an imaginary guitar as he crossed the line. “I like the Rolling Stones,” he explained.

El Guerrouj, who will now aim for an unprecedented world championships’ 1,500-5,000 double, faced an initial threat from Spain’s 1998 European gold medallist Reyes Estevez.

Baala, who edged Estevez by the narrowest of margins in last year’s European championships, took up the challenge on the last lap, roared on by the crowd. But El Guerrouj moved away again to win in three minutes 31.77 seconds, kissing his right finger and waving it in the air before giving a brief exhibition of air guitar.

A Mexican first

Ana Guevara, an even bigger favourite than El Guerrouj after dominating her event for the past two years, won the women’s 400 metres in 48.89 seconds, the fastest time this year. Guevara, a former basketball player, whose first childhood hero was Michael Jordan, is the first Mexican woman to win a world title.

While the 400m was eminently predictable, the 100m hurdles was not. Canada’s Perdita Felicien smashed her lifetime best to upset title favourite Brigitte Foster. The 22-year-old Felicien flew out of the blocks to take victory in 12.53 seconds ahead of Foster, who had to settle for silver in 12.57. Bronze went to American Miesha McKelvy in 12.67.

Russia’s Svetlana Krivelyova won the women’s shot put title at the sixth time of asking. The 34-year-old, who has the leading distance in the world this year, sealed a comfortable victory with a best of 20.63 metres.

Olympic and four-times world long jump champion Ivan Pedroso limped out of the qualifying round after injuring his foot. The 30-year-old Cuban quit the competition after hurting his foot during his first jump.

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