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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Masterkova Cruises in Russian Trials

Svetlana Masterkova barely had to break a sweat to win the women's 1,500 meters Thursday at the Russian track and field championships, beating the rest of the pack by more than three seconds with a time of 4:03.51.


The two-time Olympic champion was one of only a few stars who chose to compete at the Russian nationals, which concluded Thursday in the sleepy provincial city of Tula, some 200 kilometers south of Moscow.


Though local organizers spared no expense in hosting the event, renovating the 20,000 seat Arsenal stadium, most of Russia's big track names chose to stay away from the competition -- a qualifier for the World Championships in August.


"Some of our top athletes have already secured their place on the national team," said Russian head coach Vadim Zelichonok. "For others who are not quite there yet, this meet was probably the last chance to book their tickets to Athens."


Besides Masterkova, other performers of note over the three-day event included Lyudmila Galkina, who posted 6.98 meters, the best this year in the women's long jump, and Tatyana Alekseeva, who broke 50 seconds in the 400 meters by finishing in 49.98.


Zelichonok said that the Russian team in Greece will comprise no more than 80 athletes.


"We won't take any 'tourists' with us to Athens," he said. "They can only act as a distraction to those who are really going to shoot for medals."


Zelichonok thinks the Russians can get three or four golds at the Worlds, primarily in the field events such as the men's pole vault and triple jump and the women's javelin and discus -- aside from Masterkova -- and place second behind the United States in the overall medal count.


"We certainly hope to do better than we did two years ago," he said.


Once a track superpower, Russia had a disappointing showing at the 1995 World Championships in Gothenberg, Sweden, where it only won a single gold medal in the women's race walk.


It had a slightly better result at the last Olympics in Atlanta, winning three golds, but two of those came from Masterkova.


But Russia's gold medal chances suffered a severe blow last month when indoor world champion triple jumper Inna Lasovskaya, who had the world's best jump this year, tore her achilles tendon while competing in France. This follows the loss earlier this season of top sprinter Irina Privalova, who is recovering from an operation to repair a torn thigh muscle.