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Friday, September 3, 2004
Two world marks surpassed at Belgian meet

Associated Press

BRUSSELS, Belgium -- Pole vaulter Yelena Isinbayeva of Russia and steeplechaser Saif Saaeed Shaheen of Qatar set world records at the Van Damme Memorial meet Friday.

Isinbayeva set a world record for the second time in two weeks and improved on the mark she set to win the Olympic title. She leaped 16, feet, 1¾ inches, bettering by a half inch her winning vault at the Athens Games. It was her fifth record in two months.

Shaheen, kept from the Olympics because of a nationality switch from his native Kenya, set a world record in the 3,000-meter steeplechase of 7 minutes, 53.63 seconds, smashing the mark of 7:55.28 set by Moroccan Brahim Boulami three years ago in Brussels.

Felix Sanchez's three-year winning streak in the 400 hurdles also ended when he was forced to abandon the race halfway through, apparently with a left thigh injury. It also threw the Dominican world and Olympic champion out of contention for the $1 million Golden League jackpot.

South African high jumper Hestrie Cloete also lost a shot at the jackpot when she was beaten by Olympic champion Yelena Slesarenko. That leaves just Olympic 400-meter champion Tonique Williams-Darling of the Bahamas and triple jump gold medalist Christian Olsson of Sweden to vie for the jackpot at the last Golden League meet in Berlin next week.

Double Olympic champion Hicham El Guerrouj abandoned his world record attempt in the 3,000 before the start complaining of fatigue and illness. He apologized in person to the crowd and received a rapturous applause.

In several events, the gold medalists of Athens were missing, many too tired or called back to their nation for celebrations.

Isinbayeva capped a night of excitement for the sellout crowd of 47,000 at the King Baudouin Stadium. She missed twice at the record height before easily clearing it on her last jump. She shouted "I love you" to the crowd over the public address system, then danced round the track to Tina Turner's "Simply the Best."

When Shaheen was far ahead with 50 meters remaining, he began celebrating near the top of the straightaway, thrusting a finger in the air.

The world champion formerly known as Stephen Cherono, knew in March he would not be allowed to compete at the Athens Olympics because of a conflict over his new citizenship.

"I was watching the Olympics on TV like every other person. It was a bad feeling," he said. During the games, though, he increased his training to three times a day.

The race started quickly and Shaheen, boosted by a band of African drummers, was running alone with over two laps to go. Even a slight stumble at the last water jump did not noticeably slow him.

"The drumming, I really enjoyed that," he said.

Sanchez had not lost a 400 hurdles race since July 2, 2001. In between, he won two world championships, the Pan American Games in 2003 and Olympic gold.

"The jackpot would have been nice but my body just couldn't take it," he said. Instead, Bayano Kamani of Panama won.

Asafa Powell of Jamaica overcame a disappointing Olympics to win the 100 meters in 9.87 seconds _ 0.02 seconds off the season's best time by Olympic champion Justin Gatlin.

Powell, a pre-Olympic favorite to win in Athens, finished fifth at the games but had the season's third-fastest time Friday to beat Shawn Crawford of the United States and Aziz Zakari of Ghana. Gatlin did not compete in the Golden League event.

The Jamaican record was the fastest time ever at the stadium, where greats like Carl Lewis, Maurice Greene and Linford Christie competed for years.