News10 Oct 2012

With another World Cross edition, rich athletics legacy continues to grow – Bydgoszcz 2013


Mercy Cherono (second from right) on her way to winning World Junior cross country gold in Bydgoszcz (© Getty Images)

As the world’s top Cross Country runners prepare for the beginning of upcoming season, so too is the northwestern Polish city of Bydgoszcz as it prepares to host the 2013 IAAF World Cross Country Championships.

The 40th edition of the Championships on 24 March 2013 will be a historic occasion for his city of 400,000 as it becomes the only city to host the event for the second time. Bydgoszcz, which sits 270 kilometres west of Warsaw, hosted the world’s finest middle and long distance runners in 2010, a competition that was just the most recent in a string of major events which have made Bydgoszcz synonymous with high level competitions at both the continental and global levels.

2010 witnessed an historic sweep as Kenya became the first nation to win all gold medals at stake, four individual and four team titles. The individual highlight for the east African powerhouse was delivered by Joseph Ebuya whose victory ended an 11-year individual gold medal drought for Kenyan men.

Two years earlier, Bydgoszcz hosted the 12th IAAF World Junior Championships, a successful and memorable competition which witnessed one World junior record, six Area junior records, 10 championships records, and 74 national junior records.

But the city’s relationship with the IAAF dates back well over a decade now as the host of the first edition of the first IAAF World Youth Championships held in 1999. Those inaugural championships brought the spotlight for the first time on athletes who are now some of the sport’s biggest names, including two-time Olympic champions Yelena Isinbayeva and Veronica Campbell. It was also a springboard for, among others, former World champions Jana Pittman and Ladji Doucouré. That year, the late IAAF President Primo Nebiolo was named an honourary citizen of Bydgoszcz.

On the continental level, its CV goes back even further as the host of the European Junior Championships in 1979. Teenagers who won or showed well thirty years ago included a then-unknown British middle distance runner Steve Cram and West German high jumper Dietmar Mogenburg who would later become, respectively, World and Olympic champions as well as World record holders. Decathlon winner Siegfried Wentz of the former West Germany later went on to capture World silver and Olympic bronze. The women’s Javelin Throw champion that year, Fatima Whitbread of Great Britain, claimed the World title eight years later. The winner in the Pentathlon, West German Sabine Everts, just three years later won the European Long Jump title before taking 1984 Olympic bronze in the Heptathlon in Los Angeles.

In 2004, the city hosted the 25th Anniversary edition of the European Cup, less than two months after Poland joined the European Union. Among the highlights were wins by Swedes Stefan Holm and Christian Olsson in the High Jump and Triple Jump respectively, serving as a prelude to their Olympic victories in Athens less than two months later. Likewise Russian Yelena Slesarenko took the High Jump crown in the build-up to her Olympic triumph. There was also a sensational 14:29.11 solo run by Briton Paula Radcliffe in the 5000m.

The city also hosted the fourth edition of the 4th European U23 Championships in 2003 in which Isinbayeva won one of her many titles and where Swede Carolina Kluft warmed up for her World triumph in Paris with a victory in the Long Jump.

Located on the Brda and Vistula rivers, Bydgoszcz’s history dates back nearly seven centuries. A northern Polish provincial capital, it’s an important centre for industry, commerce and culture, and is the eighth largest city in Poland.

Bob Ramsak for the IAAF