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Page last updated at 10:53 GMT, Thursday, 18 March 2010

Who are Britain's most successful athletes?

By Mark Butler
BBC Sport's athletics statistician

Jessica Ennis
Ennis and Dwain Chambers were winners at the World Indoors

In most years Jenny Meadows would be an easy choice as Britain's female indoor athlete of the year - but that honour must, in 2010, go to Jessica Ennis.

Meadows has a world silver medal and two splendid British records at 800m.

Yet with her performance in Doha, winning the pentathlon at the World Indoor Championships, Ennis has now joined an elite group of British athletes to have won two or more world championship gold medals.

She is the first British woman with world titles indoors and out, and only the third GB athlete to achieve that feat individually, after Colin Jackson and Phillips Idowu.

Now 114 Britons have won at least one International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF) gold - the 114th being, of course, Dwain Chambers and his 60m gold in Doha.

By far the most successful British athlete in these terms is Paula Radcliffe, with seven golds at cross-country and road events during the period 1992-2005.

Countries with most IAAF world athletics champions, 1973-2010
United States 315
Kenya 269
Ethiopia 156
Russia 142
Germany 137
Team GB 82
China 68
Cuba 58
Jamaica 52

Counting junior, youth and team events we have now had at least one world champion in all but four years since the first autonomous IAAF World Championships, starting with Scotland's Jim Brown, who won the junior race at the inaugural World Cross-Country Championships in 1973.

It was Britain's strength at cross country events which accounted for many of those golds in the early years.

In 2009 the team matched their record yearly total of six thanks to Ennis, Idowu and four golds by three athletes at the World Youth Championships. It may be that some of those 2009 World Youth champions go on to win World Junior gold later this summer.

Some 72 British men and 42 women have won a total of 158 world athletics gold medals since 1973.

This list includes scoring and non-scoring team members (in keeping with the IAAF's policy up to 2008), and relay runners who ran only in preliminaries.

Counting team wins as single medals, Britain's current total is 82 golds, an amount bettered by only five countries.

The United States head the list as they did in Doha, but surely the gap will close slightly after the forthcoming World Cross-Country Championships in Bydgoszcz, where it will be a shock if a country other than Kenya and Ethiopia takes top honours.


Including junior, youth and team events:

Seven Paula Radcliffe
Four Colin Jackson
Three Harry Aikines-Aryeetey
Jamie Baulch
Carole Bradford
Zola Budd
Bernie Ford
Mark Lewis-Francis
Two Tim Benjamin
Roger Black
Marlon Devonish
Jonathan Edwards
Jessica Ennis
Jason Gardener
Carol Gould
Ashia Hansen
Andy Holden
Phillips Idowu
Steve Kenyon
Nick Lees
Christian Malcolm
Liz McColgan
Mick Morton
John Regis
Mark Richardson
Rita Ridley
Nick Rose
Wendy Sly
Joyce Smith
Barry Smith
Jodie Williams
One 84 athletes

see also
World Indoor athletics photos
14 Mar 10 |  Athletics
Meadows settles for Doha silver
14 Mar 10 |  Athletics
Ennis & Chambers win gold in Doha
13 Mar 10 |  Athletics
Olympic athletes set medal target
10 Mar 10 |  Olympics

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