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Page last updated at 08:25 GMT, Tuesday, 4 August 2009 09:25 UK

When Boxer set the standard

Christiana Boxer
Boxer was the first British woman to run 800m in less than two minutes

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

It is 30 years since Christina Boxer played her part in what was a memorable summer for British middle distance running.

On 4 August 1979, at the age of 22, the Londoner became the first British woman to run 800m in less than two minutes.

Boxer, now a director of girls' sport at Malvern College in Worcestershire, was at Crystal Palace last week when Sebastian Coe's own record-breaking feats of that summer were celebrated at the Aviva London Grand Prix.

But, while Coe's times were achieved in paced record attempts, Boxer's effort came in the cut and thrust of the European Cup final in Turin against the top women in the world that year.

The 1979 model of Christina Boxer would have been right up there in the fight to make the British team for this month's World Championships

Her time of one minute 59.1 seconds (actually 1:59.05) took more than one second from the British record of Rosemary Stirling which was set in the Munich Olympic final in 1972.

Only two women have followed Boxer as British record holder in 30 years, Kirsty McDermott (1:57.42) and Kelly Holmes (1:56.95 and 1:56.21).

Boxer, like Coe, set a pioneering standard for British middle distance running.

In 1984 she came very near to becoming the first British woman to break the four-minute barrier for 1500m.

She was frustratingly close to winning the Olympic bronze at that event in 1988, placing fourth - just behind third-placed Tetyana Dorovskikh, a Russian who, in 2003, was later suspended for a doping violation.


That was her best championship performance, though she did also take Commonwealth 1500m gold in 1982 and silver in 1990.

Among her post-retirement achievements is the distinction of coaching Britain's 10th (and the youngest) two-minute 800m runner, Charlotte Moore.

Hannah England
Hannah England ran 800m inside the two-minute mark in June

Sadly, no current male British 800m runner is remotely near to the sort times achieved by Coe in 1979.

However the women's 800m is now one of Britain's strongest events, and one of the few at this month's World Championships in Berlin where we will have three representatives - Jenny Meadows, Marilyn Okoro and Jemma Simpson.

Not that the 1:59.05 would rank lowly these days. Meadows is the only Briton currently quicker this year, so the 1979 model of Christina Boxer would have been right up there in the fight to make the British team.

Two minutes remains a tough barrier to crack and one of the highlights of the summer so far was when, live on the BBC, Jonathan Edwards informed a thrilled Hannah England that she had done so at the European Team Championships.

She became the 17th member of the British two-minute club, but let's not forget who got there first.

Chronological list of British women running below two minutes for 800m for the first time:

1. Christina Boxer 1:59.05 (Turin 4 Aug 79)
2. Shireen Bailey 1:59.54 (Oslo 23 Aug 83)
3. Kirsty McDermott 1:57.42 (Belfast 24 Jun 85)
4. Lorraine Baker 1:59.99 (London 11 Jul 86)
5. Diane Edwards 1:59.34 (Oslo 4 Jul 87)
6. Ann Williams 1:59.88 (Frankfurt 29 Jun 91)
7. Paula Fryer 1:59.76 (Rome 17 Jul 91)
8. Kelly Holmes 1:59.16 (Oslo 10 Jul 93)
9. Susan Scott 1:59.30 (Manchester 29 Jul 02)
10. Charlotte Moore 1:59.75 (Manchester 29 Jul 02)
11. Joanne Fenn 1:59.86 (Manchester 29 Jul 02)
12. Rebecca Lyne 1:58.20 (Gateshead 11 Jun 06)
13. Jemma Simpson 1:59.99 (Heusden 22 Jul 06)
14. Amanda Pritchard 1:59.74 (London 28 Jul 06)
15. Marilyn Okoro 1:59.75 (London 28 Jul 06)
16. Jenny Meadows 1:59.88 (Birmingham 17 Feb 07)
17. Hannah England 1:59.94 (Leiria 20 Jun 09)

800m world record:

Jarmila Kratochvilova 1:53.28 (Munich 26 July 83)

Top 10 800m times in 2009:

1. Caster Semenya (SA) 1:56.72 (Bambous 31 Jul)
2. Maggie Vessey (US) 1:57.84 (Monaco 28 Jul)
3. Anna Alminova (Rus) 1:57.86 (Cheboksary 23 Jul)
4. Mariya Savinova (Rus) 1:57.90 (Moscow 1 Jul)
5. Svetlana Klyuka (Rus) 1:58.23 (Cheboksary 23 Jul)
6. Mariya Savinova (Rus) 1.58.39 (Monaco 28 Jul)
7. Elena Kofanova (Rus) 1:58.60 (Moscow 1 Jul)
8. Yuliya Krevsun (Ukr) 1.58.62 (Leiria 20 Jun)
9. Jenny Meadows (GB) 1.58.63 (Monaco 28 Jul)
10. Anna Willard (US) 1.58.80 (Paris 17 Jul)

see also
GB pick Chambers in Worlds squad
31 Jul 09 |  Athletics
Britain claim third in Portugal
21 Jun 09 |  Athletics
Worcester raises the Olympic flag
25 Sep 08 |  Disability Sport
Richards set for 400m landmark
09 Jul 09 |  Athletics
Medals, money or both?
12 Jun 09 |  Athletics
GB women show Berlin credentials
03 Jun 09 |  Athletics
When is a record not a record?
19 Feb 09 |  Athletics

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