The recent 11th IAAF World Championships in Athletics, Osaka, Japan were generally an upbeat competition for Germany, two titles and total of seven medals. Yet one victory can arguably be said to have slipped the net. While two minor podium positions achieved in the Nagai stadium after the end of the women’s Javelin Throw was a splendid achievement, pre-meet expectations had foreseen the glint of gold.
This coming Sunday (16) at the DKB-ISTAF Berlin meeting which is the finale of the IAAF Golden League 2007, the three main players in the Osaka final – Barbora Špotáková (CZE), Christina Obergföll (GER) and Steffi Nerius (GER) - are back into competition together for the first time since their battle on 31 August.
There is no hiding from the fact that Obergföll, having improved her European record to 70.20m when winning the European Cup on 23 June this year was the favourite to win the World crown. As one of only two women in the history of the current specification spear to have thrown over 70m, Obergföll, in the absence of Cuba’s World record holder and reigning World champion Osleidys Menendez, looked to have the Osaka medal already around her neck.
That’s always a dangerous assumption to make in any sport but you can understand the German team’s optimism. Of the ten furthest throws in 2007 coming into Osaka, the first seven were owned by the 2005 World silver medallist. Also, the athletics world held clear memories of Obergföll’s continental record breaking 70.03m at the 2005 World Championships. The then 23-year-old’s performance marked one of the greatest breakthroughs in athletics, let alone throwing event history.
Yet once in Japan nothing seemed to go well. Obergföll was forced to wait for an anxious couple of hours after her best effort in Group ‘A’ fell short of automatic qualifying mark for the final, at 60.77. Then once in the final, though her series was strong - 64.01, 65.26, 60.90, 61.87, 61.12, 66.46 - suffering from cramps to her calf muscles Obergföll was always playing catch-up after Špotáková’s first round hit of 66.40m set the scene for the night and her third round national record of 67.07m put the gold out of reach. Obergföll’s last effort of 66.46 was a good response but no where near the required mark.
Of the three medallists only European champion Steffi Nerius has competed since Osaka (63.35m – 5 Sep), so the DKB-ISTAF Berlin meeting will be the first re-match for Obergföll and her Czech conqueror. Should she manage to live-up to the task then 60,000 fans in the 1936 Olympic stadium will willingly applaud but one gets the feeling that it will only increase the feeling of what might have been for Obergföll herself.
Chris Turner for the IAAF