Seven years on from the legendary Beijing Olympic Games, the landscape of world athletics is now very different. The 2015 IAAF World Athletics Championships faced drama before any athletes had even thrown, jumped or run.

The use of illegal performance enhancement measures in the sport dominated the headlines, with its reputation being tainted even further by information that appeared to show widespread drug-use among a number of top-class athletes in recent years. These championships were a chance to prove to the world that athletics was above drug-cheats striking gold. The sport needed its heroes now, more than ever before.

 The USA’s Justin Gatlin played the part of primary antagonist, having served two drug-related bans; he presented a very real threat to Bolt, who has been christened the saviour of world athletics

The men’s 100m final was presented as the struggle between good and evil within the sport. The USA’s Justin Gatlin played the part of primary antagonist, having served two drug-related bans; he presented a very real threat to Bolt, who has been christened the saviour of world athletics. Bolt had looked far from convincing in the preliminary rounds, whereas Gatlin had been utterly dominant. The race itself, though, saw Bolt edge the win over Gatlin by a hundredth of a second, in a moderate time of 9.79s, and had all fans breathing a sigh of relief.

Bolt versus Gatlin part two came in the form of Bolt’s favoured 200metres. Both competitors eased through the heats and set up the second part of their own personal face-off. This race, however, was more of a one-sided affair, with Bolt striding away to victory in a time of 19.55s.

 British success came in the form of the ‘Super Saturday’ heroes from London 2012

The women’s 200 metres was shaping up to be the most competitive race of the entire championships with a world-class field in the final. All eight finalists looked to be in with a chance of a medal, including Britain’s own 19-year-old Dina Asher-Smith, however two clear favourites had emerged for gold: Elaine Thompson of Jamaica and Dafne Schippers of the Netherlands. This pair appeared to match one another stride for stride until the closing stages, with Thompson in the lead until the final couple of steps where Schippers powered through to a championship record time of 21.63s: the fourth fastest in history. Asher-Smith broke a 30-year-old national record to finish with a time of 22.07s.

British success came in the form of the ‘Super Saturday’ heroes from London 2012. Jessica Ennis-Hill, only 13 months after giving birth to baby Reggie, defied the odds to bring home gold in the women’s heptathlon, beating the likes of GB’s very own Katarina Johnson-Thompson, whose own medal challenge evaporated after failing to register a valid jump in the long jump. Ennis-Hill proved her championship experience with consistent performances across all disciplines, mirroring her achievements from three years ago with a total of 6669 points.

Greg Rutherford became one of only five Brits in history to hold the honour of being a Grand Slam Champion

The long jump was an undeniable success story for both the British specialists. Greg Rutherford leaped a winning distance of 8.41 metres, his second-longest jump ever, to become one of only five Brits in history to hold the honour of being a Grand Slam Champion (holding the Olympic, World, European and Commonwealth golds). The real surprise came from the women’s long jump, where Shara Proctor jumped a national record of 7.07 metres to earn a world silver medal. Proctor was only narrowly beaten to gold by the USA’s Tianna Bartoletta’s final jump of 7.14 metres.

Mo Farah didn’t have the smoothest build up to the championships, with his coach Alberto Salazar facing doping allegations that tarnished Farah’s reputation, even though no allegations were made against him. In spite of this, Farah won both the 5000m and 10,000m comfortably, securing his seventh global title and cementing his status as one of the greatest distance runners of all time.

Sadly, University of Nottingham graduate Isobel Pooley missed out on qualification for the high jump final

With just one notable exception, the relays were a success story for British Athletics. The women’s 4x100m team broke the British Record in finishing fourth, whilst both the women’s and men’s 4x400m teams finished with bronze medals, the latter after a heroic last leg from captain Martyn Rooney to finish third by 4/1000ths of a second.

Elsewhere, there were some other notable British successes: Sophie Hitchon was the first British woman to make a world final in the Hammer and threw two British records. On the track, Shelayna Oskan Clarke ran a PB to make the final of the 800m and Laura Muir finished a very creditable fifth in the 1500m. Sadly, University of Nottingham graduate Isobel Pooley missed out on qualification for the high jump final, as did London 2012 bronze medallist Robbie Grabarz.

If London can mix the best of these championships with the best of 2012, we’re in for something very special

Finally, a special mention to Christian Taylor, who recorded the second longest triple jump ever of 18.21m; Ashton Eaton, who broke the decathlon world record with 9,045 points, and Wayde van Niekerk, whose unexpected 400m victory left him hospitalised with exhaustion.  Allyson Felix ran a 400m PB for her ninth world gold while Aries Merritt, who was diagnosed with kidney disease, won a bronze medal in the women’s 110m hurdles, before travelling home for a transplant 4 days later.  David Rudisha came back from injury problems following his epic world record at London 2012 to win the 800m.

By common consent, this was by far the best World Championships since Berlin 2009, and a brilliant exhibition of athletics at its best. The next edition of these championships will be in London in 2017. If London can mix the best of these championships with the best of 2012, we’re in for something very special.

Nick Lawrence

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