Dragila sets world record

Posted: Wednesday, June 09, 2004

OSTRAVA, Czech Republic (AP) Stacy Dragila broke the world outdoor record in the pole vault and Kenenisa Bekele set the mark in the 10,000-meter race at an IAAF meet Tuesday.

Bekele, of Ethiopia, finished in 26 minutes and 20.31 seconds, breaking countryman Haile Gebrselassie's record of 26:22.75 set in 1998. Bekele's feat came just nine days after he broke Gebrselassie's 5,000-meter record in 12:37.95.

Dragila cleared 15 feet, 10 inches on her third attempt, beating by a quarter-inch the record set by Yelena Isinbayeva of Russia. The Olympic champion and 33-year-old pioneer in the sport seemed as surprised as anyone that she made it.

''I wasn't expecting it to happen today,'' Dragila told The Associated Press at the IAAF Super Grand Prix Golden Spike meet.

Still, she said she was confident she can jump even higher as she prepares for the Athens Olympics in August. She must finish among the top three at the U.S. Olympic Trials in July to qualify for the games.

She recently revamped her technique to try to stay at the top in world competition, a radical move few athletes would have attempted so late in their careers.

As for Bekele, he is the most decorated cross country runner in history with three straight long-short course doubles at world championships. All that at age 21.

''I'm very happy,'' he said. ''I knew I would break the world record only in the last lap.''

Bekele said he would prefer the 10,000 meters to the 5,000 at the Athens Games.

Dragila probably will be there, too, hoping to win another gold medal.

She was the event's first Olympic champion when it debuted as a women's sport at the 2000 Sydney Games. Since she began pole vaulting as a heptathlete at Idaho State, she has won three world championships and 17 U.S. titles, and has held the record indoors and out numerous times.

Dragila held the outdoor record of 15, 9 1/4 for two years until last July, when Isinbayeva reached 15, 9 3/4. Isinbayeva still holds the indoor record (15 feet, 11 1/4 inches), which she set in March at the world championships in Budapest, Hungary.

With her new technique, Dragila hopes she can top that mark, too.

Using her old form, she would take off close to the pit, then let the pole bend and propel her over the bar like a slingshot. Under the direction of coach Greg Hull, she learned to plant a longer, larger pole farther from the box and power her way over the bar.

So far, it's worked well.



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