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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Stars Hit Slow Pace In Race for Gold

BRUSSELS -- On a night when more was expected, the stars of track seemed to be biding their time in Friday's third leg of the Golden Four track meets.


Six athletes -- Sonia O'Sullivan, Michael Johnson, Linford Christie, Natalya Shikolenko, Gwen Torrence and Raymond Hecht -- started the night having won their events at the first two meets in the series, and as a group they seemed able to continue their strings but not to put on truly exciting shows.


Britain's Christie won the men's 100 meters in a good time of 10.08, but few of the other performances sizzled.


Ireland's distance star O'Sullivan kept alive her hopes of picking up the most lucrative prize in athletics with a victory in the women's 5,000 meters at the Brussels meet.


The 25-year-old world champion clocked 14 minutes 50.69 seconds to clinch her third win in the Golden Four series of meetings which shares out a jackpot of $250,000 to athletes who win their events in Oslo, Zurich, Brussels and Berlin.


American sprinter Michael Johnson, who achieved an historic double in the 200 and 400 meters at the world championships in G?teborg earlier this month, also stayed in the hunt with a win in the 400 meters.


Just before O'Sullivan's victory, Shikolenko threw 68.42 meters to win the women's javelin and stay in the race for the prize.


The competition for the jackpot, which is paid out in 20 one-kilo bars of gold, will be fiercest in the final meeting of the series in Berlin next week.


O'Sullivan was also bidding to improve the world record of 14:36.45 set by Portugal's Fernanda Ribeiro last month. But despite mild conditions which were good for distance running, the Irishwoman was unable to find the stamina to make a serious bid.


The first 2,000 meters were inside world record pace in 5:51.75 but O'Sullivan tired in the second half of the race and never looked capable of breaking the record.


"I tried for the record but it wasn't there tonight," O'Sullivan said. "I just didn't feel right."


Likewise Johnson, who returned to the United States after his victory in Zurich last week and who looked slightly jaded after a tough season, clocking an unofficial 44.64 seconds. His best for the season is 43.39.


Kenyan men's world 800 meters champion Wilson Kipketer produced a typically strong kick in the final 80 meters to take the two-lap race in one minute, 44.38 seconds.


France's Marie-Jose Perec, the women's world 400 meters champion, made a late withdrawal from the 400 hurdles because of illness. American world record holder Kim Batten won the race in 54.03 seconds.


Javelin thrower Hecht and 200-meter runner Torrence had late events as they pursued the golden prize.


Another late starter was Britain's world triple jump champion Jonathan Edwards, who said before the meet that he believes he has little chance of breaking the world record again this season despite the huge financial incentives on the grand prix circuit.


A record was worth $25,000 plus a sports car worth the same amount for a new best at Friday's meet. But Edwards that he would just be content to win the rest of his competitions this year.


"There is very little chance of me breaking the record again this season. In fact there is no chance," said Edwards, who broke the record twice at the world championships in G?teborg earlier this month. His mark now stands at 18.29 meters.


"I want to make money. But I would not swap 18.29 here with the bonus and car for doing it at the world championships in G?teborg. There is nothing that could to compare with that."


Edwards said has felt tired with all the attention he has received since his victory in Sweden.


Although he is scheduled to compete in London, Berlin and Italy in the next month, Edwards is prepared to stop jumping this season if he cannot keep his form.


"I have felt very tired, " he said. "I have been emotionally drained after G?teborg with all the pressure. But I feel more positive here than I did in Gateshead."


"But, if things go downhill, I will stop, " he said. "Atlanta is very much my objective, even now."


(Reuters, MT)