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Medals, money or both?

(Small pics clockwise from top left) Kipketer, Szabo, Mutola and Isinbayeva won world gold and the Golden League in the same year, while Jelimo (right) added Olympic gold in 2008

Mark Butler
By Mark Butler
BBC Sport's athletics statistician takes a look at the numbers behind the big races

Nine weeks before it hosts the World Championships, Berlin's historic Olympic Stadium is on Sunday the venue for the start of the most important circuit of meetings in athletics, the AF Golden League.

And if previous results are any guide, only the very best athletes will be able to target success in both.

Berlin - 14 June
Oslo - 3 July
Rome - 10 July
Paris - 17 July
Zurich - 28 August
Brussels - 4 September

From 2010 the league is to be expanded and renamed the "Diamond League" and will include two of Britain's top meetings.

But for now the Golden League provides the world's top athletes with the chance to win the "grand slam" of athletics.

A share of a million-dollar jackpot is on offer to all who can achieve victories at the same event in six out of six of Europe's biggest one-day meetings between June and September.

Only a handful of British men and not one British women have won designated 'golden' events since the league started

Last year the sole winner was the teenage Kenyan 800m sensation, Pamela Jelimo.

She not only won all six Golden Leagues hands down, but was unbeaten at seven other meetings including the African Championships and Olympic Games.

Sadly she now seems to be experiencing something of a reaction to her success with two comprehensive defeats in recent days, but in 2008 she proved that it is possible to win on the circuit and at championships in the same season.

Men: 100m, 400m, 3000m/5000m, 110m hurdles, javelin
Women: 100m, 400m, 100m hurdles, high jump, pole vault

Taking up this challenge means being ready to travel and compete at the highest level throughout the whole season.

Traditionally British athletes have not been dominant in the Golden League.

Only a handful of British men and not one British women have won designated "golden" events since the league started in 1998 and none have won a share of the overall jackpot.

That might well have something to do with the fact that every year is a major championship year for British athletes.

In the even year between the Olympics we have both the European Championships and Commonwealth Games to consider.

How the $1m jackpot has been divided over the last 10 years

So how have past Golden League jackpot winners fared in World Championship years?

I am discounting 2001 when (as in 2000), the IAAF softened the rules and the prize was halved to $500,000, shared by athletes winning at only five out of seven meetings.

There have been just six jackpot winners across 1999, 2003, 2005 and 2007. Each has won a share of or all of the $1m purse in those years.

Of those, four (Wilson Kipketer and Gabriela Szabo in 1999, Maria Mutola in 2003 and Yelena Isinbayeva in 2007) also won world golds in the same year.

The other two (Tatyana Lebedeva in 2005 and Sanya Richards in 2007) did not even win an individual medal at the Worlds.

Lebedeva and Richards
Lebedeva and Richards both prioritised the Golden League over world gold

We will never know if Lebedeva and Richards would have been world champions in those years had they not chased the money.

Triple jumper Lebedeva actually qualified for the World Championship final in 2005, but with the prospect of winning $1m a few days later, decided not to risk her Achilles tendon injury and did not jump.

In 2007, Richards interrupted her build-up to the US trials by travelling to Europe to win the first Golden League in Oslo.

But she then went on to place only fourth in those cut-throat trials and so was not even selected to compete at 400m in the Osaka World Championships.


In that event both gold and silver went to Britain through Christine Ohuruogu and Nicola Sanders.

Each were soundly beaten by Richards after Osaka as she claimed her Golden League reward.

They had the medals, she had the money. The 10 event winners in Berlin on Sunday will be on their way to the jackpot and may be forced to decide which prize is their priority before the summer is over.

Golden League jackpot winners 1998-2008

(On 11 June 2008, $1m = £611,853)

1998 (7/7 wins needed)

Total jackpot: $1,000,000 (each awarded $333,333.33)

Hicham El Guerrouj (MAR) 1500m

Haile Gebrselassie (ETH) 3000/5000m

Marion Jones (USA) 100m

1999 (7/7 wins needed)

Total jackpot: $1,000,000 (each awarded $500,000)

Wilson Kipketer (DEN) 800m

Gabriela Szabo (ROU) 3000/5000m

2000 (5/7 wins needed)

Total jackpot: $500,000 (each awarded $166.666.66)

Gail Devers (USA) 100m hurdles

Trine Hattestad (NOR) javelin

Tatyana Kotova (RUS) long jump

2001 (5/7 wins needed)

Total jackpot: $500,000 (each awarded $83,333.33)

André Bucher (SUI) 800m

Hicham El Guerrouj (MAR) 1500m

Allen Johnson (USA) 110m hurdles

Marion Jones (USA) 100m*

Violeta Szekely (ROU) 1500m

Olga Yegorova (RUS) 3000m

2002 (7/7 wins needed)

Total jackpot: $500,000 (each awarded $125,000)

Hicham El Guerrouj (MAR) 1500m

Felix Sánchez (DOM) 400m hurdles

Marion Jones (USA) 100m*

Ana Guevara (MEX) 400 Metres

2003 (6/6 wins needed)

Total jackpot: $1,000,000 (one winner)

Maria Mutola (MOZ) 800m

2004 (6/6 wins needed)

Total jackpot: $1,000,000 (each awarded $500,000)

Christian Olsson (SWE) triple jump

Tonique Darling (BAH) 400m

2005 (6/6 wins needed)

Total jackpot: $1,000,000 (one winner)

Tatyana Lebedeva (RUS) triple jump


Main jackpot $500,000 (6/6 wins needed), secondary jackpot $500,000 (5/6 wins needed)

Each awarded $249,999 (one third of main jackpot plus one sixth of secondary jackpot):

Asafa Powell (JAM) 100m

Jeremy Wariner (USA) 400m

Sanya Richards (USA) 400m

Each awarded $83,333 (one sixth of secondary jackpot):

Kenenisa Bekele (ETH) 5000m

Irving Saladino (PAN) long jump

Tirunesh Dibaba (ETH) 5000m

2007 (6/6 wins needed)

Total jackpot: $1,000,000 (each awarded $500,000)

Sanya Richards (USA) 400m

Yelena Isinbayeva (RUS) pole vault

2008 (6/6 wins needed)

Total jackpot: $1,000,000 (one winner)

Pamela Jelimo (KEN) 800m

*All Jones's performances since 2000 were annulled in 2008 for doping violations

see also
Britain to host two Diamond meets
16 Jun 09 |  Athletics
Women given Golden League boost
18 Dec 08 |  Athletics
Bolt defeats Powell in Brussels
05 Sep 08 |  Athletics
Jelimo claims landmark 800m gold
18 Aug 08 |  Athletics
GB women show Berlin credentials
03 Jun 09 |  Athletics
Will Kenyans run wild in London?
22 Apr 09 |  Athletics
Reasons for cheer after Euros
12 Mar 09 |  Athletics
When is a record not a record?
19 Feb 09 |  Athletics
How Olympic finals were won and lost
28 Jan 09 |  Athletics

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