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Last Updated: Saturday, 30 August, 2003, 12:36 GMT 13:36 UK
Saturday's Paris diary
Tom Fordyce
By Tom Fordyce
BBC Sport at the Stade de France

Jana Balboa

Jana Pittman, the new 400m hurdles world champion, had the media eating out of her hand in the aftermath of her victory.

Jana Pittman poses with her gold medal
Pittman delivered her own knock-out punch
There are some athletes who follow the Alan Shearer approach in post-race interviews: say nothing, and say it in as dull a tone as possible.

Not Jana. Grab Jana for a quick word and she'll still be chattering away hours later, when your Dictaphone has run out of batteries and your bed is calling you to sleep.

Pittman prepared for her showdown against Russian world record holder Yuliya Pechonkina by watching Rocky IV on video.

In the film, Sly Stallone famously defeats fearsome Russian hero Ivan Drago, as played by Dolph Lundgren.

And moments after Pittman took gold, her coach Phil King could be heard shouting: "She did it! She beat the Russian - just like Rocky!"


Military marathon man

France's Driss El Himer has a rather unusual pedigree for a marathon runner.

As a junior the Moroccan-born 29-year-old trained with 1500m legend Hicham El Guerrouj.

He then gained French citizenship by signing up with the Foreign Legion, in which he served from 1996 to 2001.

No doubt the strict regime, harsh conditions and tough physical labour he encountered helped toughen him up for the cruel demands of the marathon.

More to the point, time was when people ran away and joined the Foreign Legion.

El Himer might be the first man in history to join first and only get round to the running bit later on.


Garment gamble

New world long jump champion Dwight Phillips is one brave fellow.

Dwight Phillips celebrates his victory in the long jump
Phillips was well suited to victory

His decision to wear an all-in-one body suit for Friday night's final clearly paid off in spectacular fashion when he claimed gold - but what a gamble he took.

It's bad enough missing out on a medal when you're dressed in standard issue vest and small shorts.

But when you rock up looking like you're about to go deep-sea diving, you really set yourself up for a fall.

Then again, body suits do have something of an impressive record in major finals. Remember Cathy Freeman's green and gold space suit at the Sydney Olympics?

Probably best keeping them away from the shot put competitors all the same.


Fruit frenzy

Many thanks to all those who e-mailed in to tell me that, yes, there is indeed a form of French slang called 'verlan' where the syllables in certain words are reversed.

I was also intrigued to be told of several other slang expressions, most of which refer to the association in the French mind between food and happiness.

Apparently you can express the fact that you're feeling good by exclaiming: "J'ai la peche!" or "J'ai la frite!" - which translate literally as "I have the peach" and "I have the chip".

I may well test them in a Parisian bar on Saturday night. Then again, there's a lingering fear that I might come across like the Americans who go to Dublin and spend their time winking at locals and shouting, "Top o' the morning to ya!"

Links to more World Athletics 2003 stories





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