On the run
The ninth World Athletics Championships in Paris were a display of athletic grandeur. Nashwa Abdel-Tawab watched the competition and the blossoming of new talents
The 2003 World Athletics Championships were one of the best the world has witnessed; bringing to spectators intense competition and brilliant races. As the days progressed, and Parisians flocked to the races, viewers on the grounds and across the globe watched the evolution of a new generation of talent.
The competition start was slow for those who eventually came home with the top notch and gold.
The US squad eventually struck a big pot of gold; in the men's 400- and 1,600-metre relays, and a gutsy anchor leg by 18-year-old Sanya Richards gave the Americans a win in the women's 1,600 relay.
Americans took home 20 medals, 10 of them gold, to lead all nations in the nine-day meet. Next was Russia with 19 medals, including six golds. Those numbers could change, based on the resolution of US sprinter Kelli White's drug case.
The US team had averaged 21 medals in the previous eight World Championships, which began in 1983. But this was the first time in a decade the Americans reached 20 medals.
But there were several embarrassments for the Americans in the meet, including the temper-tantrum that led to sprinter Jon Drummond's withdrawal and the drug sample that showed White -- who won the 100 and 200, the only US woman to take an individual gold at the meet -- had used a stimulant.
White's case remains under investigation. Though she is likely to lose at least one of her gold medals, world track officials said they need to do more research before deciding on her punishment and passing the case on to US officials.
World track officials said Sunday that White had passed a drug test after her win in the 200. But her positive drug test after the 100 means both medals could be at risk.
Adding to the doping test, one of the more controversial elements of the competition was the new false start rule, which struck out competitors from false start one. Introduced to the games in an attempt to speed up track events and prevent long delays, on one too many occasions it did exactly the opposite.
While the false start ruling brought in much tension, and the fact that no world records were broken for the second consecutive year did put a damper on the fun, the event somehow continued to bubble -- amongst the juniors.
The juniors in the competition effervesced with action.
Last Saturday, an 18-year-old Ethiopian became the youngest-ever individual gold medalists in the history of the IAAF World outdoor championships, when she defeated the rest of the competitors -- some more than a decade older than her -- in the final of the 5,000 metres.
Tirunesh Dibaba took advantage of the very slow pace of the race and proved that despite her young age she had tactics in her blood when sprinting for the line in the last 20 metres.
Winner of this winter's junior race at the IAAF World Cross Country Championships, Dibaba also set a new 5,000m World Junior record of 14:39.94 when finishing third in this year's Oslo's Golden League.
A little earlier in the championships, another teenager -- Darrel Brown -- set a new World Junior record when clocking 10.01 to win his 100m quarter final. Most impressively, Brown won the silver medal the day after with a 10.08 seconds clocking in the final.
Brown's international career started in Hungary, two years ago when he won the 100m gold at the second World Youth Championships. He went on to win gold at the World Junior Championships last year in Kingston and surprisingly missed the title in these championships by a mere 100th of a second.
The new World Junior record of 10.01 set by Brown erased Dwain Chambers' precedent mark of 10.06 from the history books. Incidentally, Brown also took Chambers' record as the youngest ever 100m medals in the World Championships. (Chambers won bronze in Seville 99 when aged 21).
The world records were rolling, and the juniors did much to make themselves felt.
Another 18-year-old Kenyan -- Eliud Kipchoge's -- made a big bang, depriving Hicham Al-Guerrouj -- who is 10 years older than him -- of a historical 1500m / 5000m double. Kipchoge who also won this winter's World Cross Country Championships Junior title, defeated Al-Guerrouj by 300ths of a second.
The Closing Ceremony paid was just as spectacular. In the first act of the show, a stream of actors arranged themselves in stars against a musical backdrop, before spelling out 'PARIS'.
The colourful spectacle was brought to an end by the IAAF anthem, before the closing address and acknowledgements from Jean Dussourd, president of the Local Organising Committee of Paris 2003 Saint-Denis, and Lamine Diack, president of the IAAF (International Association of Athletics Federations).
The festivities resumed after the ceremony, as 'PARIS' quickly became 'HELSINKI', host city for the next World Championships in 2005. A short film introduced the Finnish capital, where the European championships were held in 1994.
Then it was the turn of the athletes who lit up the Stade de France over the nine days of the competition to take to the track for the traditional lap of honour. The 'stars' dispersed before the French delegation finally drew proceedings to a close beneath a beautiful shower of confetti.