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Monday, August 30, 1999 Published at 14:51 GMT 15:51 UK


Athletics saves face

Michael Johnson: Awesome display and the athlete of the 90s

By the BBC's Harry Peart in Seville

The seventh World Championships ended with the traditional blaze of noise and colour, typical of any big-event closing ceremony.

Seville 99
Lights, deafening fireworks and dramatic music were all used to bring the nine days of competition to an end.

The King of Spain, Juan Carlos, officially declared the championships closed and the president of the International Amateur Athletics Federation, Primo Nebiolo said they had been an extraordinary success for Seville, for the province of Andalucia and for all of Spain.


Harry Peart reports on the concerns over the future of World Athletics
Few would disagree. The World Championships, widely regarded as the third biggest sporting event behind the Olympic Games and the football's World Cup, passed off without major incident.

The organisers can rejoice that there were no high profile positive drug tests coming out of the IOC accredited laboratory in Madrid, or any problems with the heat that had caused some concern when Seville was selected as host city in 1997.


[ image: Out with a bang at the closing ceremony]
Out with a bang at the closing ceremony
On the track and on the infield there was a wealth of performances to savour. Hicham El Guerrouj of Morroco wound up the pace by imperceptible degrees to take the gold in the 1,500 metres.

Qualifying races are often regarded as inconsequential for the stars, but to see Michael Johnson slow up to a walk in his 400 metres semi-final was awe-inspiring - a phrase too often used, but in this case perfectly apt.

He ambled to a time below 44 seconds - only a handful of runners have broken that barrier and it was too fast for lesser mortals. His disdainful look at the clock said it all.

In the final his world record run of 43.18 was a privilege to watch. Even the uninitiated in the packed crowd sensed it was something special.

This man, whose style has been described as a man running with a broom handle welded to his spine, smashed the record of Butch Reynolds that had stood for 11 years.

Johnson, now holder of the 200 and 400 world record, the Olympic double and now the World Championships double, is undoubtedly the athlete of the 1990s.


[ image: Colin Jackson: Flying the flag]
Colin Jackson: Flying the flag
There may be more to come at the Olympic Games in Sydney, but with his 32nd birthday looming next month, he is relieved that record his under his belt at a major occasion.

Strange though that the United States is still a parched desert for athletics - top of the medal table table, but unable to sustain even a Grand Prix meeting or television exposure.

For the British team it was the youngsters who saved the day. Most pundits had pencilled in four titles - only Colin Jackson turned lead into Spanish gold with a sharp performance which underlined his class over the sprint hurdles.

Triple Jump world record holder Jonathan Edwards was under par and brought home a bronze. Paula Radcliffe, a silver medallist, had no answer in the 10,000 metres when Gete Wami of Ethiopia ran well above the form book. And Denise Lewis, widely promoted by her sportswear company here, had to settle for second place in the heptathlon.


[ image: Jonathan Edwards: Disappointed with bronze]
Jonathan Edwards: Disappointed with bronze
But Dean Macey, 21, showed he's a worthy successor to Daley Thompson in the decathlon. No one can ask more than a personal best points tally at a major championship at such an age to take a silver medal home to Essex.

The other huge potential talent on display was another 21-year-old, Dwain Chambers. He gave 100 metres world record holder Maurice Green a fright in the final, finally winning the bronze in under 10 seconds, and repeated the dose on the anchor leg of the 4x100 metres final.

To come away from Seville with two bronze medals from the most fiercely contested distance of all bodes well for the future.





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In this section

Athletics saves face

Brits sprint to relay silver

Injury wrecks Backley medal bid

Wembley to host athletics showpiece

Red leader powers Korean runner to gold

Seville winners: Final day

Red-faced relay runners crash out

Devers wins, but Engqvist earns plaudits

Anton is home hero

Greene flies to historic double

Miller makes it gold

Johnson smashes 400m record

Radcliffe wins silver in 10,000 metres

Heat is on in Seville

Michael Johnson: Life in the fast lane

Jackson hurdles to gold

Magnificent Macey snatches silver

Devastated Edwards gets bronze

A sprint too far for Jones

Colin Jackson: Britain's golden boy

Dean Macey: The great unknown

El Guerrouj stuns Seville

Hansen flops in triple jump

Two disqualified over drugs

May quits after medals row

Injury wrecks Smith's medal dream

Jones fails in four-gold attempt

Lewis takes heptathlon silver