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August 22, 2009

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Russians hone art of walking

AS perfect as the Jamaicans are in the sprints, so are the Russians in the walking events at the world championships in Berlin.

Russia made three-for-three yesterday when Sergey Kirdyapkin used late surge to win the 50-kilometer walk yesterday, the longest event in the nine-day championships.

Kirdyapkin was as imposing as Valeriy Borchin and Olga Kaniskina were over 20 kilometers, giving Russia a clean sweep in the discipline.

The 2005 world champion finished in a season-leading three hours, 38 minutes and 35 seconds over a course at the Brandenburg Gate.

Norway's Trond Nymark took the silver and Spain's Jesus Angel Garcia claimed bronze.

Usain Bolt has boosted Jamaica to the top of the medal standings with five golds and nine overall. The United States is second with four gold and 13 overall. Kirdyapkin's victory gave Russia three golds and 10 overall for third place.

Croatia's Blanka Vlasic went some way to making up for her Olympic disappointment when she retained the women's high jump title with a leap of 2.04 meters, while Trey Hardee survived a gruelling 12-hour second day to win the decathlon.

Hardee can lay claim as the complete all-round athlete. The American produced three successive season's bests in the 110 hurdles (13.86), discus (48.08) and pole vault (5.20) then somehow found a 68-meter javelin throw, his best by almost four meters, for a hefty lead of 264 points going into the 1,500.

He duly got round safely to finish with 8,790 points, well ahead of Cuba's Leonel Suarez and Aleksandr Pogorelov of Russia.

In the 400 hurdles, Melaine Walker produced a storming last 100 to overtake American Lashinda Demus and post a time bettered only by the 52.34 of Russian Yuliya Pechonkina.

Ryan Brathwaite, 21, of Barbados took the 110 honors by the thickness of his vest in 13.14. Terrence Trammell had to settle for his third world silver to go with two from the Olympics as he finished ahead of compatriot David Payne after both clocked 13.15.

Bolt is not the only man with double vision as Kenenisa Bekele and Yusuf Saad Kamel are on course to join him. Bekele, who won his fourth successive 10,000 gold on Saturday, was the fastest qualifier for the 5,000 final while Kamel, who claimed the 1,500 on Wednesday night, was up early to win his 800m heat.

Later yesterday, Olympic champion Veronica Campbell-Brown will try to keep Jamaica's domination going in the sprints in the women's 200, where her toughest competition will come from defending champion Allyson Felix of the United States.

Now, it's up to Felix to salvage some sprinting pride for the Americans.

There is nothing Felix can do about Bolt, but after winning three golds at the world championships in Osaka, Japan, two years ago, she knows something about streaks.

And after failing to win gold last year at the Olympics until the 4x400 relay, Felix has something to make up. She feels up to it.

"I feel I still have a lot of energy," she said after two days of heats. "I'd love to win. I feel good."

The Jamaicans, though, are riding an incredible high. And Campbell-Brown would hate to be the first one out. So far, the Jamaican team has drawn all its inspiration from Bolt.


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