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Maria Mutola Wins $1 Million IAAF Golden League Jackpot - 2003-09-05

Mozambique's Olympic and world champion runner, Maria "The Maputo Express" Mutola, has won the most lucrative prize of her very successful career -- a $1 million Golden League jackpot in Brussels, Belgium.

Mutola is the first athlete ever to win the Golden League jackpot outright. She won all her Golden League 800-meter races, capping it in Brussels Friday night with a winning time of 1:57.78.

The Golden League is a series of six athletics meets in Oslo, Paris, Rome, Berlin, Zurich and Brussels. An athlete who wins his or her event in all six events takes home a share of $1 million in gold. This year, Mutola is the only athlete to win at all six meets.

The 47,500 fans at King Baudoin Stadium gave the African runner a standing ovation and the song "Maria" from "West Side Story" blared over the Public address system.

To collect her winnings Mutola still has to compete in the World Athletics Final in Monaco September 13 and 14.

Speaking after the race, Maria said it was very difficult. She said it was the biggest amount of money she's ever run for in her life and it was not easy to stay calm during the competition.

The Brussels competition also produced six other African winners. Ethiopia's Derartu Tulu, the reigning Olympic champion at 10,000 meters, won the 5,000 meters in Brussels, clocking 14:44.22. South Africa's two-time world champion in the women's high jump, Hestrie Cloete, had a winning leap of 2.03 meters in Belgium.

In men's action, another Ethiopian Olympic champion, Haile Gebrselassie, was the winner in the men's 10,000 meters with a time of 26:29.22. Haile was hoping to break his own world record in the event, but he finished more than six seconds outside his mark.

Meanwhile, Morocco's world champion in the 1,500-meters, Hicham El Guerrouj, won again, clocking 3:28.40. Africa's two other winners in Brussels were Kenyan Wilfred Bungei, who won the men's 800-meters race in 1:42.52, and Algerian Ali Saidi-Sief, who won the men's three thousand meters event in 7:30.79.

All in all, a great night for African athletes in Belgium!