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Steve Cram column

Venue: Olympic Stadium, Berlin Date: 15-23 August
Coverage: Watch the action live and highlights on BBC Two, BBC HD, Red Button, Radio 5 live and the BBC Sport website (video for UK users only)
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Steve Cram
By Steve Cram
BBC Sport commentator

Will all eyes be on Berlin for the World Championships?

If I am being brutally honest, the World Championships that follow the Olympics are generally not very memorable.

The main problem is, after making such a big effort to reach their peak for the Olympics, a lot of athletes struggle to regain that form and I think that has an impact on the quality of the events.

I am also not so sure that staging the World Championships every two years is such a good idea with so many other events scheduled, like the Commonwealth Games, European Championships, Indoor Championships and so on.

When it was four-yearly it gave the championships a sharper focus.

Sanya Richards
Sanya Richards will have a point to prove in Berlin

Having said that there are a few people this year who could reverse that trend in Berlin and give us something special to watch.

American 400m runner Sanya Richards was favourite to win gold in Beijing last year but was overtaken in the finishing straight by Christine Ohuruogu and Shericka Williams from Jamaica.

After such a disappointment, she has an extra point to prove.

Paula Radcliffe showed how the World Championships can be a hugely positive event when she won the marathon in Helsinki in 2005 a year after the disappointment of pulling out in Athens.

Another athlete who will be the exception, as ever, is Usain Bolt.

The Jamaican is in the midst of a two-year window which some athletes seem to reach in their careers where they can do nothing wrong - a purple patch. He will also be a huge draw for the crowds who will expect big things in the 100m and 200m.

On the opposite side you find athletes like 19-year-old Kenyan Pamela Jelimo who, having been thrust into sporting superstardom in her home country after winning 800m gold in Beijing, had a tough winter and is only just beginning to get back into shape.

She has had to work hard to start reaching the high standards she set herself in China. It will be intriguing to see how far she has come.

Whatever happens I expect Germany to fully embrace the championships.


The Olympiastadion has lots of history and the Germans have a good record of filling it. As a nation they have suffered on the track in recent years but are still strong in the field.

There was a feeling that after reunification between East and West Germany they would be stronger, it never really happened although there are signs they are turning the tide.

It is a pity for the home crowd that London Marathon winner Irina Mikitenko pulled out because of poor form because she would have been a big star running for Germany.

One event which should light up the home support is the high jump where German Ariane Friedrich, who won gold at the European Indoor Championships this year, will go up against reigning world champion Blanka Vlasic of Croatia. Friedrich holds the edge at the moment - it should be fascinating.

In contrast to Osaka two years ago there will also probably be a fair few people travelling to Germany from Britain, Spain, France and Italy, which should swell the crowds and improve the atmosphere.

One of my best memories of the World Championships was the very first one in 1983, which went a long way to revitalising athletics.

Steve Cram
Cram won the 1500m at the World Championships in Helsinki in 1983

With the Olympics on a downward trend after boycotts in 1976 and 1980 there was a huge push to have a boycott-free championship in Helsinki, which resulted in everyone being there.

We had a strong team with Daley Thompson winning gold in the decathlon and Fatima Whitbread performing well.

In the 1500m I had one of those races that you look back on and think "great, I got that right".

I had a plan and stuck to it, and all the tactics seemed to come together to allow me to win the gold medal. It was memorable because of the stature of the championships and the execution of the race.

While it is not the Olympic Games, hopefully this year's World Championships can again provide some memorable moments.

Steve Cram was talking to BBC Sport's Marc Vesty

see also
Radcliffe wins NY half-marathon
16 Aug 09 |  Athletics
Jamaican stars cleared for Berlin
12 Aug 09 |  Athletics
GB stars set sights on World gold
14 Aug 09 |  Athletics
Richards confident after Rome win
12 Jul 09 |  Athletics
Jelimo claims landmark 800m gold
18 Aug 08 |  Athletics
Battle of the sprint kings
26 Jul 09 |  Athletics
Medals, money or both?
12 Jun 09 |  Athletics
Hurdler Pechonkina to miss Berlin
08 Aug 09 |  Athletics
Mara runs out from Paula's shadow
26 Apr 09 |  Athletics
Steve Cram column
25 Apr 09 |  Athletics
Athletics on the BBC
21 Apr 11 |  Athletics

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