World Athletics 2013 review: Bolt, Farah, Isinbayeva and empty seats

 

When sprint superstar Usain Bolt rates an event as "a seven out of 10" and "not the best" it is fair to say it is not considered an overwhelming success.

The 2013 World Athletics Championships may be remembered as much for the empty seats and rows over Russia's gay propaganda laws as the stunning performances of Mo Farah, Usain Bolt and Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce.

While Christine Ohuruogu was digging deep to win 400m gold, Russian darling Yelena Isinbayeva caused controversy with her comments on homosexuality.

Here, with the help of 1983 1500m champion Steve Cram, BBC Sport looks back and assesses the action at Moscow's Luzhniki Stadium, including how Britain got on.

How did the world's top stars do?

'Greatest high jump final in history'

The Lightning Bolt struck in Moscow, Usain Bolt once again confirming his dominance over the men's sprints, particularly with the suspended Asafa Powell and Tyson Gay absent.

He was joined in sprinting supremacy by Jamaican compatriot Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce, who completed her own 100m-200m double as 200m queen Alyson Felix had to be carried from the track.

Ukraine's Bohdan Bondarenko won a sensational high jump final, Kenyan Edna Kiplagat became the first woman to retain a marathon world title and Yelena Isinbayeva delighted her home fans in the pole vault.

Cram: "On the track, there were outstanding moments and great races and when the atmosphere finally got going there were some great nights.

"It was important that someone set the championships alight and Yelena Isinbayeva did that when she won pole vault gold on the fourth day.

"There were quite a few athletes who weren't here, there were quite a few athletes who were but didn't perform well, such as Allyson Felix. In Ukraine's Bohdan Bondarenko we probably witnessed the start of his domination of the high jump."

Russian row

Isinbayeva may have given Moscow its 'Super Saturday' moment, but it was her comments on homosexuality that produced more headlines.

Pundits critical of Isinbayeva comments

Isinbayeva criticised athletes competing at the World Championships in Moscow for supporting gay rights and defended a controversial Russian law that makes it illegal to promote homosexuality to under-18s.

She later claimed that her comments had been "misunderstood".

Denise Lewis, 2000 Olympic heptathlon champion: "She's clearly not in touch with rest of the world.

"I'm surprised she was not advised against throwing her views out there. It's clearly very damaging for her as a global figure."

Eight-time world champion Michael Johnson: "She's very popular here with a group of very powerful people that probably support that political position.

"She's playing to her own interests. She knows that she can go back to a very powerful, very wealthy group of people that will support her in future. It's very flawed judgement."

Some big-name Britons delivered...

Farah victorious in 5,000m final

As the Olympic 10,000m and 5,000m champion, Mo Farah arrived in Moscow wanting to achieve the double that eluded him in Daegu two years earlier.

A dominant Farah did just that, becoming only the second man in history to achieve the 'double-double' to win both long-distance crowns at the Olympics and the World Championships.

But it was the characteristically gritty performance of Christine Ohuruogu that was perhaps more impressive. Fourth around the final bend in the 400m final, the GB team captain came through in a photo finish to become the first British female to win two World Championship titles.

Cram: "In normal circumstances, I would pick Mo Farah's twin success as the week's highlight but, as a commentator and a British athletics fan, that was a fantastic last 20 metres of drama from Christine Ohuruogu in the 400m final. Gold for Christine seemed impossible.

"Christine is a fantastic example to other athletes in the team and I'm not sure she gets the praise, or has the status within British sport, she deserves and, therefore, becoming world champion might help that process of recognition.

"You won't find a more popular or respected team captain than Christine. She's done brilliantly well and I'm so pleased the season has gone the way it has done for her. "

..and some didn't...

Final medals table

Gold Silver Bronze Total

Russia

7

4

6

17

United States

6

14

5

25

Jamaica

6

2

1

9

Kenya

5

4

3

12

Germany

4

2

1

7

Ethiopia

3

3

4

10

Great Britain

3

0

3

6

Czech Rep.

2

0

1

3

Ukraine

2

0

1

3

France

1

2

1

4

Robbed of the services of Olympic heptathlon champion Jessica Ennis-Hill, Team GB looked to the likes of Greg Rutherford and Perri Shakes-Drayton for further medal success.

But Olympic long jump gold medal winner Rutherford, his preparations hampered by a hamstring injury, failed to qualify for the final, while Shakes-Drayton was seventh in the 400m hurdles final.

Injury-hit Dai Greene was not expected to defend his 400m hurdles title and failed to reach the final, while Robbie Grabarz, the Olympic high jump bronze medallist, said fitness problems left him happy just to have made the final.

Cram: "We had disappointments with Shakes-Drayton failing to win a medal in the 400m hurdles, Shara Proctor not finishing in the top three in the long jump and Greg Rutherford not being fit enough to contest in the men's long jump, but you always have ups and downs in championships.

"One of the issues I'm more concerned about is the lack of British presence in quite a few races, particularly from 800m through to the marathon. I don't see any reason why we can't produce, as we have done in the past, athletes to compete in those events.

"Not to be too nostalgic, but 30 years ago we had 23 top-eight performances, of which two were relays. We don't have anything like that number coming in the top eight anymore.

"Have we moved on? The answer is probably no. I'm concerned over the endurance side because if you took Mo Farah out of the equation it would look sparse."

...but the future is bright

The 2013 World Championships may well be remembered as the breakthrough moment for a number of exciting British prospects.

Baton blunder cost Brits bronze

Adam Gemili, Katrina Johnson-Thompson and Chris O'Hare all made a first mark on the world stage, with Gemili and O'Hare making their finals and Johnson-Thompson taking fifth place.

Gemili became only the second Briton in history to dip under 20 seconds in the 200m with a time of 19.98s. Johnson-Thompson finished fifth in the heptathlon, setting four personal bests in the seven events. O'Hare qualified fourth fastest for the 1500m final after a storming run.

UK Athletics performance director Neil Black: "We can see where the future medals are coming from.

"That enormous potential development in a post-Olympic year demonstrates that we're in a good place. We feel like there's work to do, but we're in a good place."

Target met. Just.

The 4x100m relay bronze medal hokey cokey had Britain hitting, missing, then finally hitting their minimum target of six medals.

With the men disqualified, the promotion of the women to bronze added to the third places taken by the women's 4x400m relay team and Tiffany Porter in the women's 110m hurdles.

Six medals was also the athletics haul at London 2012, while at the last World Championships in 2011, Great Britain got seven.

Black: "It's been a transitional year following a home Olympics. We're happy with six medals, that target was something we were comfortable with.

"The absence of Jessica Ennis-Hill and the injury to Greg Rutherford are relevant and significant to the final medal tally.

"The achievements of Christine Ohuruogu and Mo Farah were incredible, but we're really positive about the work being done by our relay squads and Tiffany Porter finally getting into the medal zone."

How good was it?

The World Championships were largely contested in a sparsely populated Luzhniki Stadium, the silence a world away from the carnival atmosphere of the London 2012 Olympics.

According to Bolt, the championships were "a seven out of 10", with athletics' biggest star going on to say that a lack of capacity crowds led him to believe that the event had "not been the best".

Bolt said: "It's been a different championships. It's not the best. But I think over the days, it got better.

"There were much more people in the stands, so for me it is really picked up in the end, but the start wasn't that good. So I have to say a seven."

Cram: "The final weekend, which was sold out, was good, as was Tuesday night when Isinbayeva became world champion but, generally, if you're going to hold an athletics event in a big stadium like the Luzhniki you want it to be full most of the time.

"When the International Association of Athletic Federations (IAAF) award the World Championships to a city then, yes, you want to break new ground, but they also need to bear in mind that the World Championships is their showcase event and lots of empty seats don't look good on television."