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In a world championship with few stars, Irina Privalova stands

March 10, 1995

BARCELONA, Spain (AP) _ In a world championship with few stars, Irina Privalova stands out.

The Russian sprinter is bidding to become the first woman to win gold medals in three different races at the World Indoor Championships _ and she’s aiming for a world record in the process.

Privalova is one of the few marquee names competing in the championships, which run Friday through Sunday at the Palau Sant Jordi arena.

Privalova, the European outdoor champion at 100 and 200 meters, is running the 400 meters for the first time at an indoor meet. She won the 60-meter gold at the 1991 world indoors, the 200-meter gold in 1993 and now wants the 400-meter title to complete the set.

``I want to be the first woman to win gold medals at 60, 200 and 400 meters,″ Privalova said. ``I also will try for the world record.″

The 400 indoor record is 49.59 seconds, set by Jarmila Kratochvilova of Czechoslovakia in 1982.

``I’m feeling good and I think it’s possible to break the record,″ Privalova said. ``I think 400 meters is a good distance for me. I don’t have to worry about the start or the reaction time. It’s only speed and endurance, and I have both.″

The women’s 400-meter heats were scheduled for today, with the final on Saturday.

Today’s program also included finals in the men’s and women’s 60 meters, the men’s shot put and women pentathlon, heats in the men’s 3,000, semifinals in the men’s and women’s 200, and qualifications in the men’s and women’s triple jump.

The 27-year-old Privalova has been in sparkling form this winter, setting a world record of 5.96 seconds in the 50 meters and equaling her own world record of 6.92 seconds in the 60 meters.

While she has chosen to enter the 400 in Barcelona, Privalova said she will concentrate on the 100 meters for the world outdoor championships in Goteborg, Sweden, in August.

``Everybody wants to know who is the fastest woman in the world,″ said Privalova, bronze medalist in the 100 at the 1992 Barcelona Olympics.

Privalova is one of several athletes from the former Soviet Union who have complained about the conditions and rising crime in their homeland.

``My biggest problem is going back to Russia,″ she said. ``It’s terrible at the airport in Moscow. You often have to wait in line for three hours to get through immigration and customs. Sometimes they look at my passport for five minutes or more.

``Then I’m scared when I leave the airport. It’s dangerous to take a taxi in Moscow because you can get robbed.″

Privalova is among the record field of 690 athletes from more than 140 countries competing in Barcelona.

Other stars include Sergei Bubka of Ukraine, world indoor and outdoor record-holder in the pole vault; Javier Sotomayor of Cuba, world indoor and outdoor record-holder in the high jump; sprinter Merlene Ottey of Jamaica, the biggest winner in the indoor world championships with five medals, including two golds; and Olympic champions Mark McKoy of Austria (hurdles), Maksim Tarasov of Russia (pole vault), Fermin Cacho of Spain (1,500), Heike Henkel of Germany (women’s high jump) and Paraskevi Patoulidou of Greece (women’s hurdles).

The event lost two top names Thursday: world and Olympic 100-meter champion Linford Christie of Britain and Burundi’s sensational distance runner Venuste Niyongabo.

Niyongabo, ranked No. 2 in the world in 1994 at 1,500 meters, was detained at the Barcelona airport for three hours when he arrived Wednesday without a visa. He flew back to Italy, where he is based, and decided not to return _ despite an apology from the Spanish government.

The IAAF had hoped that Christie, who often has changed his mind about competing, would be able to run as a member of the British team. But the British Athletic Federation already had filled its two spots in both the 60 and 200 meters and would not change its lineup.

Christie did arrive Thursday for the championships _ but will be strictly a spectator.