Last Saturday saw the start of the World Athletics Championships in Helsinki, which will close with the men’s 4×400 meters relay on next Sunday.
Apart from some of the big names mentioned on this page last week who were missing, Kelly Holmes as well as European, World and Olympic triple jump champion Christian Olsson, discus gold medallist Koji Murofoshi and javelin record holder Jan Zelezny were also absent. American superstars Marion Jones and Tim Montgomery, involved in the BALCO doping scandal, did not even make it to the US trials.
On a more positive note, fans look forward to Ethiopia’s Kenenisa Bekele, still only 23, but already almost unbeatable at all distances from 5,000 meters upwards. Paula Radcliffe, regarded by many as the greatest distance runner of her generation, is also out to polish up her tarnished reputation, while Russia’s Yelena Isinbayeva will no doubt attempt to better her own world record in the pole vault once more.
The highlight for many was certainly last Sunday’s men’s 100 meters final, for which Olympic champion Justin Gatlin was a strong favourite, especially in the absence of Asafa Powell, Maurice Greene and the aforementioned Montgomery.
The blue riband event, which has produced legends such as Jesse Owens and Carl Lewis, also saw Leonard Scott, Marc Burns and Portugal’s Francis Obikwelu attack the world’s best mark set by Powell earlier this year (9.77 seconds). As the starter’s gun echoed around the stadium, Gatlin burst clear of the field, to add the World title to Olympic Gold in a very fast 9.88 seconds.