In 2007 Birmingham had a double header with the top IAAF Indoor GP event of the year and the successful European Indoor Champs. Euro Indoor 400m winner Nicola Sanders & Christine Ohuruogo later also completed their famous 1-2 double at the Osaka IAAF World Champs.
The Birmingham National Indoor Arena (as then) hosted its annual British Athletics IAAF Indoor GP event in February and, as a prelude to the European Athletics Indoor Champs, the usual high standard of the event had Kenenisa Bekele’s 2000m WR of 4:49.99 as its highlight. Two weeks later for the EAIC the venue was once again sold out as the GB team with 4 gold medals and 10 in total headed the medal table. Jason Gardener won his 4th 60m title and was joined by Philips Idowu / Triple Jump with a CR 17.56m and the M 4x400m team as gold medal winners. However, it was the thrilling running of Nicola Sanders that had the stadium on its feet with her breakthrough 50.02 secs NR 400m gold. Later in the W 4x400m she was part of the squad that won a bronze with a new NR. Kelly Sotherton with 4927 pts also set a NR with silver in the Heptathlon only just edged out by Carolina Kluft. Craig Pickering / 60m and Nathan Douglas / Triple Jump won silvers and Robert Tobin and Martyn Bernard / High Jump were bronze medalists. For Sweden Susanna Kallur / 60mH and Stefan Holm / High Jump secured more gold for their collections.
At the European Athletics Cup the GB Women’s team in Vaasa, Finland easily won their division to gain promotion back to the top division. At the top division event in Munich the GB men’s team came 4th with 3 event winners – Craig Pickering / 100m, Marlon Devonish / 200m and the 4x100m team. Whilst the majority of British fans were in Munich a select few joined the Supporters of Sweden Club group in Vaasa to support the GB women’s team. As the Swedish women’s team also gained promotion it was party time in Finland which conveniently coincided with the traditional Midsummer Festival celebrations in Vaasa.
That 2007 was transitional, with the GB women more than restoring a competitive balance with the GB men, was confirmed at the Osaka World Champs as five of the six GB medals won were by female athletes. Star billing was clearly the outstanding measured performances of Christina Ohuruogo and Nicola Sanders in the 400m with their gold and silver medals both running down Jamaica’sfading Novlene Williams who was edged into 3rd place – CLICK HERE to view. Christina and Nicola combined again, with Marilyn Okoro and Lee McConnell, to win bronze medals in the 4x400m with a new NR. Other bronze medals were won by Jo Pavey / 10,000m, the M 4x100m squad and Kelly Sotherton / Heptathlon an event in which the multi-event queen Carolina Kluft triumphed again as her heiress apparent, the rapidly improving, Jess Ennis finished a close 4th.
Someone else making steady progress, and also soon to no longer be someone exclusively only known to track and field fans as our best kept secret, was Usain Bolt. He gained silver medals in both the 200m and 4x100m in Japan and had a season best of 19.75 secs but Osaka double sprint champion Tyson Gay was still “the man” especially as Usain, in pre-Beijing Olympics year, had not started to take the 100m seriously and in Rieti Asafa Powell had improved the 100m WR to 9.74 secs. Who could have imagined then what would happen next?
In Osaka there were no world records and just two CR performances but the USA team with 26 medals was again dominant. At the T&FT Osaka Supporters Party our star USA guest was Mike Powell – the world champion and long jump world record holder from the previous World Champs event in Japan, Tokyo 1991, of course. Still in great shape he was an excellent guest not only recounting that spell binding titanic long jump competition with Carl Lewis but with other tales told with energy and humour too. Another outstanding champion of the many we have been able to invite to attend such social events over the years.
As the season ended Haile Gebrselassie, his major track days behind him, broke the WR for the marathon in Berlin running 2:04.26 as the steady progression towards the 2 hours mark continued. Asked at the time Haile predicted it might take “20, or possibly, 40 years” to do so – like the rest of us he clearly never saw the astonishing development in shoe technology becoming so important.