in a day
Nick Davies previews the Weltklasse in Zürich
16 August 2001 - Less than a week after the dust settled over the Edmonton closing ceremony, top class athletics returns to Europe with the 2001 edition of the Weltklasse in Zürich.
What better way to return to the old country than with the Golden League meeting that in terms of tradition, and budget, is well ahead of the chasing field? No fewer than 26 World champions from Edmonton and 21 Olympic champions from Sydney will be thrilling the crowds in the Letzigrund Stadium. And there will be no controversy about ticket sales here … the meeting was sold out long ago with just 500 tickets kept available on the day for the standing tribunes. Of course, being Switzerland, and the German speaking part to boot, the biggest attraction will be the return of the home hero Andre Bücher, who memorably became Switzerland’s first ever track world champion when he won the 800m in Edmonton. Bücher will not only be taking on those he beat in Canada, but the young Russian Yuriy Borzakovskiy, who should be fresh having skipped the World Championships altogether.
Jet-lag permitting, the Weltklasse is likely to throw up some marvellous contests, with the only major absentees being Maurice Greene, 100m world champion, and Dmitriy Markov, pole vault world champion, who are both injured.
As for the rest, look out for a great re-match between Marion Jones and Zhanna Pintusevich Block over 100m. The Ukrainian ended Jones’ win-streak in that event dating back an amazing four years, and Jones, who won the 200m in Edmonton, will be itching for revenge.
All eyes will on another great runner Hicham El Guerrouj, the Moroccan who produced one of the performances of the World Champs when he cruised to victory – devastating the opposition – in the 1500m. And although El Guerrouj has long claimed that Edmonton would be his last race at this distance, the latest news is that he is now considering taking on Ali-Saidi Sief and the Olympic champion Noah Ngeny at 1500m in Zürich. If he does, or if he runs his first 5000m in anger, both races will be worth the price of admission.
But this is the Golden League, and a Jackpot of 50kg of gold is still up for grabs. One athlete can already secure a share in Zürich, Violeta Szekely Beclea, the Romanian who has already won 4 out of the necessary five victories, but lost surprisingly to Gabriela Szabo at 1500m in Edmonton. Other athletes who have 3 GL wins and can also close in on the Jackpot are Marion Jones, Andre Bucher, Wilson Boit Kipketer (steeplechase), Allen Johnson (110m hurdles) and Stephanie Graf, who will be trying to turn the tables on Maria Mutola, the woman who so narrowly beat her in Edmonton.
Live report and full results from the Weltklasse will be available on www.iaaf.org