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Dayron Robles of Cuba did not threaten Liu Xiang of China in the mens 60 hurdles
Dwain Chambers of Britain qualifying for the final of the mens 60 meters at the world indoor championships. He tied for second in the final.

Yelena Isinbayeva of Russia did not come close to breaking her latest world record in the womens pole vault Saturday, trying and failing three times to clear 15 feet 11 inches, which was about 4 inches short of her new mark. Instead, Isinbayeva had to settle for her latest gold medal after winning a countback with Jennifer Stuczynski of the United States after both cleared 15-7.

Susanna Kallur, the world-record holder from Sweden in the 60-meter hurdles, did not get the chance to run in the final. She withdrew before the race after feeling a twinge in her hamstring, leaving the obstacle-cluttered path wide open for LoLo Jones, the charismatic American, to win her first major title.

Most significantly for an event that is distinctly short on high-profile duels, Dayron Robles of Cuba did not threaten Liu Xiang of China in the mens 60 hurdles. In fact, Robles did not race at all after a mistake in the opening round. Thinking there had been a false start, Robles failed to accelerate after the starters pistol sounded. The race continued, and although Robles eventually started running, it was far too late.

It was the second such gaffe this indoor season for Robles, and he ended up in last place and disconsolate in the finish area. Liu, who had just won the heat, came over to offer his condolences. "I feel really sorry for Dayron," Liu said.

It remains to be seen who will be consoling whom after the hurdles race that matters infinitely more: at the Olympics in August. Liu is the world-record holder in the 110-meter hurdles and also the reigning world outdoor champion, but the 21-year-old Robles, an explosive athlete with plenty of margin for technical improvement, has been closing the gap. And unlike Liu, he will not have a great wall of expectation on his shoulders in Beijing.

"I cant relate to it at all," said Allen Johnson, the 37-year-old American who took the silver medal behind Liu in Saturday nights final.

"Sometimes, when I talk to people, and they ask me, 'How big is this guy in China? I say, 'Well, you know how big Michael Jordan is or was in the United States? Hes bigger than that in China. He is the athlete. "

Liu is planning to run a reduced outdoor schedule leading up to the Beijing Games, but he handled his only indoor meet with equanimity, winning in 7.46 seconds, four one-hundredths of a second short of his personal best, after a mediocre start.

"It is something like a surprise to me to be a champion here," Liu said. "I came here relaxed and took it as preparation for the Olympics."

But " one of his many future-oriented interlocutors interjected " will he have peace of mind in Beijing?

"Actually, I am very peaceful at all competitions, not just this one," he said. "The difference is all the people around me want me to stay very depressed about all competitions, but Im not."

Johnson, an Olympic gold medalist in 1996 and four-time world champion indoors, was in a reflective mood Saturday, and one of the subjects he discussed was Marion Jones, his former teammate who began serving a six-month prison sentence in Fort Worth on Friday after acknowledging that she had lied to federal agents about using performance-enhancing drugs.

"First, I think its unfortunate for her, but Id never say its a dark day for the sport," Johnson said. "And the reason I dont say that is because track and field has decided to implement a testing program and it seems to be pretty effective."

"I always tell people, I think people should look at track and field and applaud us because were not protecting anyone. If Marion Jones can go down, then anyone can."


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