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El Guerrouj repulses French challenge
( 2003-08-28 10:35) (Agencies)

Hicham El Guerrouj repulsed a spirited challenge by Frenchman Mehdi Baala on Wednesday to win a fourth consecutive world 1,500 title with his accustomed majestic authority.

 The stylish Moroccan, who could legitimately claim to be the best middle-distance runner in history if he were not so modest, celebrated his victory by playing an imaginary guitar as he crossed the line.

 "I like the Rolling Stones," he explained.

 El Guerrouj, who will now aim for an unprecedented world championships' 1,500-5,000 double, faced an initial threat from Spain's 1998 European gold medallist Reyes Estevez.

 Baala, who edged Estevez by the narrowest of margins in last year's European championships, took up the challenge on the last lap, roared on by the crowd at the Stade de France.

 But El Guerrouj moved away again to win in three minutes 31.77 seconds, kissing his right finger and waving it in the air before giving a brief exhibition of air guitar.

 "I was so excited about this race that I could not sleep for five days," said El Guerrouj. "I decided to accelerate with 900 metres to go and that was the right decision."

 Ana Guevara, an even bigger favourite than El Guerrouj after dominating her event for the past two years, won the women's 400 metres in 48.89 seconds, the fastest time in the world this year.

 Guevara, a former basketballer whose first childhood hero was Michael Jordan, is the first Mexican woman to win a world title.

 "This is the result of years of work and dreams in my mind," she said.


 While the 400 was eminently predictable, the 100 hurdles was not.

 Canada's Perdita Felicien smashed her lifetime best to upset title favourite Brigitte Foster, winning in 12.53 seconds.

 Jamaican Foster, the fastest woman in the world this year, was the clear favourite after three-times champion Gail Devers failed to make the final.

 Defending champion Robert Korzeniowski of Poland broke his own world best to win his third world 50 km men's walk title on Wednesday.

 Like Jefferson Perez, who won the 20 km walk on the opening day of the championships, he will not collect a $100,000 bonus for breaking a world record. Road events will not be recognised for world record purposes until next year.

 Korzeniowski, who lives and trains in northern France, clocked three hours 36 minutes and three seconds on a humid morning, beating the previous best of 3" Tom Pappas won the first global decathlon title for the United States since Dan O'Brien at the 1996 Atlanta Olympics, collecting 8,750 points and relegating world record holder Roman Sebrle of the Czech Republic into second place.

 Surprise overnight leader Dmitry Karpov of Kazakhstan took the bronze.

 In the other title decided on the fifth day of the championships, 34-year-old Russian Svetlana Krivelyova finally won the women's shot put with a mark of 20.63 metres.

 "I would like to go to the Olympics next year but this is probably my last world championships. There are plenty of young talents at home who will replace me on the team," she said.

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