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06.08.2005 Sports News

Expect Thrills, chills

Expect Thrills, chills

This year's World Athletics Championship in Helsinki, Finland which starts this weekend has been robbed of some of the top stars as most of them are staying away to nurse injuries.

Double champions at last year's Olympic Games,Kelly Holmes of Great Britain, Asafa Powell (100m individual), Jan Zelezny javelin),Paul Burgess(pole vault),Morocco's Hicham El Guerrouj (1,500m and 5,000m),Christian Olsson (triple jump), Koji Murofushi (hammer),Jana Pittman and Ionela Tirlea-Manolache (400m hurdles),Jolanda Ceplak (800m),Lidia Simon (marathon)will all be missing in action when the starters' gun go at the Helsinki Stadium.

But while athletics lovers may be saddened by the absence of these athletes, the competition will not be robbed of the excitment and thrills that usually crown such events with many stars likely to step out of their shadows into the limelight.

The absence of these top stars,opens a window of opportunities for others to shine.Indeed, this championship could be the one for the stars who have the potential but are yet to realise it to the full.

While there would be a lot to cheer about in both the track and field events,there is no doubt that most of the excitment will be generated from the sprint events, especially in the men's race.

Despite the absence of former world record holder, USA's Tim Montgomery (banned on suspicion of drug cheating) and current holder,Jamaica's Asafa Powell who is nursing a groin injury,the 100 metres event is still packed with former champions and potential stars,making it perhaps, the most attractive of all the events to be staged at the Helsinki championships.

Ghana's Aziz Zakari who has had a good preparation towards this competition, says he has a positive feeling this championship is one that he could win a medal as he seems to have a lot going for him.

Currently the fourth best sprinter in the world, Zakari, who has won two out of the on-going IAAF Golden League events,is hoping to spring a pleasant surprise on the others and end the heart-breaks and chain of disappointments that have clouded his performances at such events.

He must, however, find a way of going past former champion, Maurice Greene, 2004 Olympic champion, Justin Gatlin, Nigerian-born Francis Obikwelu,who now runs for Portugal and the silver medalist at the Athens Games,as well as Kim Collins, the guy who stunned everyone to win the 100m final at the 2003 Championship in Paris.

The elimination series could also be thrilling and keenly contested,but at the end of the day,the spotlight will be on the final eight who will be aiming for the ultimate.

Another Ghanaian, hoping to step out of the shadows will be long jumper Ignatius Gaisah, who only in the third year of international competition, has assumed the third ranked position in the world.

Though it was his first competition at the last championship in Paris,he finished fourth and has remained consistent in his performance.

Only 23, he has great potential and with the experience gained, he looks set to end the competition with a medal. His strong challengers still are the Olympic champion, Dwight Philips of the USA, and Spain's Joan Lino Martinez.

The women's event is an open race as most of the previous winners will all be missing in action due to drug bans or injuries.The most celebrated champion,Marion Jones failed to make it in the US trials while Kelli White is serving her two-year ban.

That leaves the race wide open with Lauryn Williams, Veronica Campbell, Aleen Bailey, Debbie Ferguson, Chandra Sturrup,Kim Gevaert,LaTasha Colander and European champion,France's Christine Aaron.

Aaron, currently the highest-ranked female sprinter, believes that she is the heiress apparent to the 100m throne with the absence of all the well-known stars.

There will be many more athletes likely to go for the double at this championship Ethiopia's Kenenisa Bekele, who rightly stepped into the shoes of his mentor, Gebrselassie and won the 10,000m at a record time in Athens last year may only have himself to beat as he looks good to add the 5,000m event.

Morocco's El-Guerrouj,who beat him in a photo-finish to win the 5,000m in Athens,is out because of ill-health and none of his challengers from Kenya has been able to catch up with him since the Golden League began.

Paula Radcliffe is also hoping to make up for her disappointment in Athens with a double in the cross country and 10,000m races in Helsinki while the absence of Holmes means, Maria Mutola, the athlete to have held on to her ranking for the longest period, can reclaim her 800m title.

The array of stars are ready to make the athletics world tick with action and excitment and hopefully, their determination to win means it will be free and fair, at least,devoid of any drug scandal that seems to be tainting the track and field events.