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'Connoisseurs had money's worth'

By unknown | Jan 02, 2007 | COMMENTS [ 0 ]

LONDON - In athletics, seasons like 2006, without a global outdoor championship, are often dismissed as "transitional".

LONDON - In athletics, seasons like 2006, without a global outdoor championship, are often dismissed as "transitional".

But I reckon the past year connoisseurs had their money's worth.

We had truly world-class performances by Asafa Powell, Jeremy Wariner and Sanya Richards in the Golden League, and new world records by China's Liu Xiang and Ethiopia's Meseret Defar.

Asafa Powell twice equalled his own world record of 9,77 seconds in the men's 100m and a clutch of young British athletes proved their credentials, notably Mo Farah and Becky Lyne.

At the heart of all those athletics adventures, you can usually find BBC columnist and pundit Steve Cram. I asked him to cast his expert eye over the season and pick his favourite race. Here's what he had to say:

"There were two very different races that stood out this season and they are: Craig Mottram against Augustine Choge in the Commonwealth 5 000m and Asafa Powell's world-record equalling run at Gateshead.

"All Games need a local hero and Craig Mottram was Melbourne's. The Australian media had been hanging the gold medal around his neck for weeks.

"What they didn't understand was how good Choge was, in fact he is one of the best prospects the Kenyans have had for a long time.

'Everyone in the stadium was expecting Mottram to win. You couldn't get a seat in the house, and there were 80 000 of them, the noise was deafening at times.

"Mottram is an aggressive runner and he tried to kick on from three laps out but it was never enough to break Choge. Choge ran away from Mottram on the back straight of the last lap, Mottram tried to answer him but couldn't.

"It was one of those rare nights in athletics. A packed house, two athletes at the top of the game going head-to-head, the home crowd cheering on their man --and it was a true run race too.

'In contrast, when Powell equalled his own world record in Gateshead in June it was just a complete and utter surprise.

"He was obviously in shape but with no one there to push him, there was just no reason to run that fast.

"When you're commentating you normally get a feel for just how fast races are but Powell is such a deceptive runner that it was only when we looked at the clock that we saw how fast he had gone."

Like Steve, I also watched Choge and Mottram's duel. I was in the trackside mixed zone at the MCG, where the media stand to grab their post-race interviews, and I have to agree that it was a thriller.

When Mottram went to the front, the stadium rose to its feet to cheer the hero home - but when Choge passed him on the last lap the sense of disappointment was palpable.

Mottram looked bewildered as he ambled over to where the press were clamouring for his explanation of where it had gone wrong. Amid the crush to speak to the Australian, Choge was allowed to wander past without a single interview. - BBC

l See Page 23 for South African athletics' highs and lows in 2006.


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