Team USA ended the third and final day with a strong finish in Valencia, Spain. All told, the United States led all countries in the final medal count with five gold, five silver, and three bronze medals.
The international meet, while absent some of the sport’s biggest names, was marked with quite a few memorable performances. There were break through moments for athletes who had been waiting for validation of their years of work and sacrifice.
Nine women towed the starting line in the 1500-meters and one ended by breaking her own world record: Yelena Soboleva of Russia. This race will be remembered in the halls of track for many years to come.
The first 1,200 meters passed at a brisk pace. Yelena took the lead at the final bell lap winning with nearly a 12-meter lead. When she crossed the line the clock read 3:57:71: a new world record.
Yelena ran away with $40,000 for first place and $50,000 for setting a world record. $90,000 is not bad for less than four minutes of work in her office on the track. Fellow Russian Yuliya Fomenko was second in 3:59.41, while Gelete Burka of Ethiopia grabbed the bronze.
American Bryan Clay dominated the men's heptathlon from beginning to end during the two-day competition. He registered a personal best total of 6,371 points, just 105 short of Dan O’Brien’s 1993 world record.
Clay said, “I was sick and then I was hurt. Two weeks ago I would have told you that I wouldn’t even be able to compete here. This just shows how well my training is going.”
In the women’s 800-meters, Maria Mutola came up short in her bid for an eighth indoor world title. In what was a disasterous race for her, Mutola gave up the lead to the inside and then got boxed in during the final lap. Tamsyn Lewis of Australia slipped by Mutola to won in 2:02.57. Mutola took home the bronze and closed the chapter on what has been one heck of a career.
Canada's Tyler Christopher took advantage of a world 400-meter final without Jeremy Wariner, Angelo Taylor, or LaShawn Merritt. Tyler drafted behind Johan Wissman of Sweden for most of the race and then swung out wide down the home stretch to win in 45.67.
The Russian women completely dominated the 400-meters without American superstars such as Sanya Richards and Allyson Felix. Olesya Zykina won by a lean over teammate Natalya Nazarova in 51.09. American Shareese Woods ran her fastest time ever to win bronze in 51.41.
The men’s 800-meters was a brutally fast race. Eighteen-year-old Abubaker Kaki Khamis of Sudan took the lead from the break and held the lead to win in a jaw dropping 1:44.81. Every runner in the final ran a personal best including a world best time and two national records. American Nick Symmonds took sixth but had to leave the meet knowing that he did not wilt under the intense heat on the race. Symmonds ran a personal best 1:46.48.
Afterward Symmonds said, "It was just too fast."
Tariku Bekele won the 3,000-meters in an inspiring fashion with a searing final 400-meters, to win gold in 7:48.23. The last name may ring a bell. He is the younger brother of Keneisa Bekele, the defending 3,000 meter champion, who skipped the world indoors to focus on the upcoming World Cross Country Championships.
Brad Walker of the U.S. set a personal best of 19 feet, 2.25 inches in the pole vault but it wasn’t good enough to beat Evgeniy Lukyanenko. Walker won silver and goes home with a $20,000 check.
U.S. Indoor champion Aarik Wilson was seventh in the men's triple jump with a leap of 55 feet, 4.75 inches, and Texan Amy Acuff cleared 6 feet, 4.75 inches for sixth place in the women's high jump.
Team USA ran away from all other men to win the 4 x 400 meter-relay. The American women took home bronze as the Russians won their eighth straight indoor relay title.
By Jay Hicks, a.k.a. Track Evangelist