Alleyne Francique (GRN) and Paul Korir (KEN) earned their first global titles with victories at the World Indoor Championships at the weekend. For both athletes it was just the start they wanted to this Olympic year with Korir also the fastest in the world at the classic mile distance. Other medals came from Francique’s training partner Leuroy Colquhoun who struck Gold with the Jamaican 4×400 relay team and Laban Rotich made the 1500m a double joy for Kenya by picking up the Bronze medal.
Francique produced a brilliant display of 400m running to win the World Indoor Championships title in Budapest and claim his country’s first ever global medal in athletics. The popular Grenadan looked very smooth all through the rounds, first winning Friday’s heat in a time of 46.76 secs and following up with a semi-final win in 46.32 secs. Going into the final as the fastest qualifier he was confident of taking the title with the expected challenges coming from Jamaica’s Davian Clarke, Congo’s Gary Kikaya and Francique’s Tunisia training partner Sofiane Labidi.
Running from lane 5 in the final the Pat Henry coached athlete got off to a good start. As the runners came to the break point coming off the second turn Francique made the all important surge that took him into pole position. Clarke made a strong challenge for the lead on the back straight but Francique held his position and entered the final bend with a slight advantage. Clarke attacked again in the final straight but Francique had the superior strength and held on to cross the line first in a season’s best time of 45.88 secs. Clarke took second in 45.92 secs with Kikaya third in 46.30 secs, both season’s best times.
The LSU based athlete was delighted with his first World Championship medal, “I came here to win the gold and it feels good. This medal is not only for me but for all the people of Grenada. In the final it was important to hit the break in the lead and I knew it would be hard for anyone to pass me on the home straight “.
World Ranked No. 2 Paul Korir (KEN) took control of a pedestrian pace in the men’s 1500m final with 300m to go and slowly wound up the tempo to hold off a fierce final charge by World outdoor 1500m bronze medallist Ivan Hesko (UKR). After a pair of opening 400m splits around 68 seconds Korir and team mate Laban Rotich (KEN) went to the front in preparation for a very fast finish. However it wasn’t until 300m to go when British champion Michael East challenged for the lead that the race finally sprang into life. Korir surged hard going into the final lap with the big kicking Hesko and East in hot pursuit. As the athletes came into the final straight Korir’s final acceleration was good enough to just hold off Hesko’s charge for the line, 3:52.31 to 3:52.34. Behind this duel Rotich looked to be moving through for the bronze medal but as the line was growing nearer East was pushing Rotich further and further out towards the barriers, both athletes eventually crossing the line in lane 5. Although East crossed the finish line ahead of the Kenyan record holder, he was later disqualified for his actions as Rotich was awarded the Bronze medal (3:52.93).
Korir was delighted to become the first Kenyan to win the World Indoor 1500m title as he actually miscounted the laps, believing there were still 2 laps to go until he heard the bell sound. For Rotich this completes the set of 2nd, 3rd and 4th place finishes in the World Indoor Championships, perhaps he will try for that elusive Gold medal in 2006.
Hurdles specialist Lueroy Colquhoun (JAM) took another Gold medal back to the LSU base he shares with Francique. In the final event of the Championships the 4x400m title race came down to a neck and neck duel between Jamaica and USA. Going into the final leg USA still held a slight lead but all changed as their third and fourth runners dropped the baton, allowing Jamaica to stroll home for a comfortable win ahead of Russia and Ireland.
Elsewhere there was relative disappointment for British favourite Jo Pavey and Jamaican Ronetta Smith as both finished outside the medals in 5th position in the women’s 300m and 4 x 400m events respectively.