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Galfione Wins Pole Vault

March 6, 1999

MAEBASHI, Japan (AP) _ France’s Jean Galfione, the 1996 Olympic gold medalist, won a controversial pole vault competition at the World Indoor Championships Saturday over American Jeff Hartwig.

Galfione became the fourth pole vaulter to clear 6.00 meters (19 feet, 8 1/4 inches) indoors, but he was not given credit for the result until after the French team lodged a protest.

At first, his clearance at that height was ruled invalid by technical delegate Cecil Smith of Canada because it appeared that Galfione illegally touched the bar with his hand.

But after the appeal, the decision was reversed, and Galfione became the winner over Hartwig, who set an American record for the third time this season, clearing 19-6 1/4.

If the original ruling had stood, Hartwig would have been the winner since Galfione had passed at 19-6 1/4 after missing his first try.

By clearing 6.00 meters, Galfione became the No. 4 performer in indoor history, behind world record-holder Sergei Bubka of Ukraine, and Rodion Gataullin and Maksim Tarasov, both of Russia.

Galfione then missed three times at 19-10 1/4, but it didn’t matter.

Had Hartwig won he would have been the first American to capture a major title in the pole vault in 31 years, since Bob Seagren at the 1968 Olympics.

Meanwhile, Romania’s Gabriela Szabo, the 1997 women’s 3,000 champion, won the 1,500 in 4:03.23, a meet record and the fastest time in the world this year. She will try for a distance double in the 3,000 Sunday.

Frankie Fredericks of Namibia, winner of four Olympic and four silver medals, sped to victory in the men’s 200 in 20.10, the second-fastest time in history. Obadele Thompson of Barbados became the No. 3 career performer, finishing second at 20.26, and Kevin Little of the United States won his third bronze in the event, placing third at 20.42.

Ionela Tirlea of Romania won the women’s 200 in 22.39, the best in the world this year; Tatyana Kotova of Russia took the women’s long jump at 22-6, and Vita Pavlysh of Ukraine successfully defended her title in the women’s shot put at 70-3 3/4.

Haile Gebrselassie remained on target for his unprecedented distance double.

The seemingly unbeatable Ethiopian, who won his second straight 3,000-meter title Friday, advanced to Sunday’s 1,500-meter final by winning his semifinal heat in 3:41.21 _ the fastest of the two heats.

While he was pressed by Rul Silva of Portugal and Laban Rotich of Kenya, the irrepressible Gebrselassie prevailed.

Ali Hakimi of Tunisia won the other semifinal at 3:42.46.

But it was Gebrselassie who commanded all the attention.

One dissenter of Gebrselassie, however, was qualifier Andres Diaz of Spain. Diaz said he didn’t think Gebrselassie would win and Silva would provide the toughest opposition.

``I think it will be a slow race, a tactical race,″ Diaz said. ``I think it will be decided in the last 300 meters.″

Mozambique’s Maria Mutola, seeking to become the first woman to win four track gold medals at the championships, cruised into the women’s 800-meter final with an easy victory.

Controlling the pace from the outset, Mutola, the 1993, 1995 and 1997 gold medalist, won her semifinal heat in a modest 2:02.18, more than five seconds slower than her 1999 best of 1:57.06.

``The World Championships are important,″ Mutola said. ``Going for a record-breaking win, for the fourth time, means a lot to me.″

Only Bulgarian high jumper Stefka Kostadinova, with five titles, has won more world indoor titles than Mutola.

Mutola is unbeaten this season in six races, including a world record at 1,000 meters, and is the prohibitive favorite in Sunday’s final.

The Czech Republic’s Ludmila Formanova, the 1998 European indoor champion, won the other semifinal heat in 1:59.82. Russia’s Natalya Tsyganova also dipped under two minutes, finishing second to Formanova at 1:59.96.

American Jearl Miles-Clark, the defending champion in the women’s 400, had the world’s fastest time, 50.83, in winning her semifinal heat and leading the way into Sunday’s final.

Her performance came shortly after Germany’s Grit Breuer, the European indoor and outdoor champion, won the other heat in 50.88, also under the previous 1999 world best of 50.91.

Denmark’s Wilson Kipketer, who seemed invincible at the 1997 championships, breaking the world 800-meter record twice, was beatable Saturday, finishing second to South Africa’s Johan Botha in a semifinal heat, 1:46.65 to 1:46.76. Germany’s Nico Motchebon (1:47.05) and Hungary’s Balazs Koranyi (1:48.74) won the other heats.

After the first four events of the heptathlon, Roman Sebrle led a 1-2 placing by the Czech Republic, accumulating 3,616 points. Tomas Dvorak, the 1997 world outdoor champion, was runner-up with 3,550.