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Steffenson beats Taylor; Mutola back to winning in Madrid Grand Prix

21 July 2007

By Gary Smith

John Steffenson of Australia defeated 2007 world number two runner Angelo Taylor to win the men’s 400m dash at the 26 Meeting de Atletismo Madrid 2007 on Saturday.

After a fast first 300m, Steffenson, the 2006 Commonwealth Games champion from Melbourne, Australia, held off a strong final 100m finish by Taylor to win the close contested race in a season’s best of 45.05.

Immediately after crossing the finish line, the Australian celebrated with his American challenger by giving him a huge with a smile on his face – reflecting the importance of the victory, especially with him trying to hit top form for the upcoming IAAF World Championships.

“It’s getting better,” Steffensen said. “The most important thing is that I’m healthy. It’s great to win and it’s my first win in Europe which is nice, but five minutes after the race you realise that the world champs is still to come.

“That brings you back to earth pretty quickly. My aim is to put in a good performance every time, so by the time worlds come I’ll be competitive,” he added.

Taylor, who looked a bit tired in the final 50m, took second in same time as Steffenson, with Jamaican former Commonwealth Games champion Michael Blackwood finishing third in 45.60. American Rickey Harris, who clocked 45.64 to win the ‘B’ Race, was fourth overall.

The performance of the day, however, came from Croatia’s Blanka Vlasic, who won the women’s high jump with a season-best leap of 2.05m.

Vlasic completely outclass the field before trying for the long standing world record of Stefka Kostadinova. Though she came close on two of her attempts, the Croatian was unable to clear the 20-year-old height.

In the women’s 800m, Maria Mutola of Mozambique destroyed a strong field with a fast final 150m sprint to get back to winning ways with a time of 1:58.80.

Hasna Benhassi of Morocco ran on strong at the end to finish second in 1:59.47 with Australia’s Tamsyn Lewis taking third in 1:59.80.

In the men’s race, Youssef Saad Kamel of Bahrain chased down American champion Khadevis Robinson with a fast sprinter in 1:44.49. Robinson was second in 1:45.03 with his fellow countryman Nicky Symmonds (1:45.06) taking third.

In other results, Rachelle Boone-Smith edged World 100m champion Lauryn Williams, 23.12 to 23.14 to win the women’s 200m, Poland’s Anna Jesien ran on late to win the women’s 400m Hurdles in 54.85, Russian Olympic champion Tatyana Lebedeva gave herself a 31st birthday by leaping the second best mark in the world this year of 7.15m to win the women’s, while Rutger Smith (NED, 21.12m) defeated American Reese Hoffa (20.81m) in the men’s Shot Put.

Iyan Heshko took the men’s 1,500 in 3:37.54, Russia’s Olesya Chumakova took the women’s event with a time of 4:06.89, European champion Francis Obikwelu took the men’s 100 in 10.38, while Kenya’s Julius Nyamu won the men’s 3,000 steeplechase in 8:23.81.

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