With the staging of the 14th IAAF World Half Marathon Championships, in damp weather conditions in Edmonton, Canada, on October 1, the IAAF’s World Athletics Series (WAS) for 2005 was concluded in style with a finishing line struggle between Tanzania’s Fabiano Joseph Naasi and Qatar’s Mubarak Hassan Shami in the men’s race, and an emphatic European triumph for Constantina Tomescu-Dita of Romania in the women’s contest, sealing the year off in dramatic style.
The combination of finish line excitement and the wet weather in Edmonton brought back memories of the pinnacle of the athletics year, the tenth IAAF World Championships in athletics, which was staged less than two months before in Helsinki, Finland (August 6 – 14). Appallingly unseasonable weather in the Finnish capital, where one month’s rain fell in three days and torrential rain and violent winds caused a two-hour delay on the fourth evening, did nothing to dampen the level of the performances of the athletes or the enthusiasm of the spectators, in the city which had been the inaugural host of these championships when they were born in 1983.
86% of the available seats were sold during the nine days of competition in Helsinki, tickets which were bought by a knowledgeable crowd, who sat on the mainly unroofed spectator tribunes and stayed determinedly through the wet conditions fixated by some remarkable competition. Three world records were of course the highlight of the entertainment provided by 1850 athletes from the 199 countries which participated. In this most universal of sports, 61 nations placed athletes in the top eight in finals, 40 won medals, 21 won gold medals.
What’s more these statistics were set against a backdrop of the largest ever anti-doping programme at an athletics event, with two positive cases emerging from 884 tests.
If there was a residing competition thread throughout the championships it was the youthfulness of many of the winners, notably the three 19-year-olds, Tirunesh Dibaba (5000m/10,000m), incidentally who was one of three double individual gold medallists in Helsinki, Allyson Felix (200m), and Tianna Madison (long jump).
Of course, we had witnessed even younger talents at work only a month before at the fourth IAAF/Maroc Telecom World Youth Championships in Marrakech, Morocco (July 13-17) and, with around 1400 athletes representing close to 180 countries, this was a new record for this WAS event!
The last day of competition in Marrakech was highlighted by Harry Aikines-Aryeetey, 17, who became the first sprinter in the six-year history of these championships to win gold medals at both the 100m and 200m. Within two months, the young British sprinter’s achievement was recognised by the sport as a whole when he was presented with the Rising Star Award at the 2005 World Athletics Gala, which this year was held at the Fairmont Hotel, Monte-Carlo on Saturday September 10 after the conclusion of the 3rd IAAF World Athletics Final.
It was at the climax of this spectacular annual finale to the season that the senior World Athletes of the Year awards were presented for the second consecutive year to Yelena Isinbayeva and Kenenisa Bekele, who were of course gold medallists in Helsinki. These two 23-year-old stars had sealed off their seasons in marvelous world record fashion, with Isinbayeva raising her pole vault mark to 5.01m at the World Championships, and Bekele a few weeks later in Brussels tearing nearly three seconds off his own world record for 10,000m, the distance at which he had triumphed in the Finnish capital a few weeks before.
Though the main track and field season is now concluded, this month’s World Half Marathon Championships, news of which opened this edition of the IAAF column, signals that we are now in the autumn road running season which as ever is highlighted by many major city marathons, and soon the cross country running season, which will climax at the 34th IAAF World Cross Country Championships in Fukuoka, Japan (April 1-2, 2006) will also get underway. Even so, thoughts are already turning to the winter’s indoor track and field competition.
The forthcoming IAAF Council Meeting on November 12-13 will take place in the World Trade Centre in Moscow, and of course from March 10-12, 2006 the Russian capital will also host the 11th IAAF World Indoor Championships. Never let anyone say that athletics is not a year round sport!
IAAF Editorial Manage