Our World Championships analysis series continues with a look at the 100m hurdles

Many of the inaugural world champions were famous household names or became big stars, but although Bettine Jahn produced one of the best performances in Helsinki, she is one of the least known winners.

The East German was inside the world record time of 12.36 but was denied by the 2.4m/sec tailwind. Only third in the previous year’s Europeans, she was curiously in lane one despite being a semi-final winner. Shirley Strong was fifth in 12.78, which no Briton would better in the World Championships for 28 years.

Ginka Zagorcheva was third and by Rome in 1987, was world record-holder, winning by a clear metre in 12.34. East Germany’s Gloria Uibel and Cornelia Oschkenat took the other medals. Yordanka Donkova, who had set three world records the year before, ran 12.49 and finished fourth. This was the only time in the 30-plus years of the championships a sub-12.50 was not enough to win a medal.

In Tokyo in 1991, world indoor champion Lyudmila Narozhilenko was a big favourite and dominated the rounds. She won the final too, though a strong headwind kept the winning time down to 12.59. The runner-up was Gail Devers-Roberts, who had been unable to compete for the previous two years because of Graves Disease, which left her close to having her feet amputated.

Devers, who fell when expected to win at the 1992 Olympics, won in Stuttgart in 1993, having already won the 100m title. Her clear win in 12.46 was an American record.

Though seemingly not in her best form, Devers retained her title with ease in Gothenburg in 1995, recording 12.68. A distant second in 12.80 was Kazakhstan’s Olga Shishigina, who was expected to provide a stiffer challenge based on her 12.44 season’s best and 10-race unbeaten run going into the championships.

Russia’s Ludmila Engquist, who had won gold in Tokyo as Narozhilenko, took her second title in Athens in 1997 but Sweden’s first in a quality 12.50. Jamaican Michelle Freeman, who had set Commonwealth records of 12.53 and 12.52 in qualifying, held a clear lead during the first half of the race but eventually faded to third behind Bulgarian Svetla Dimitrova.

Devers returned for Seville in 1999 and showed her best form yet and, despite losing momentum by hitting a couple of hurdles, she won her fifth world gold medal with an American record of 12.37, which was the quickest time in the world for seven years. In second, Glory Alozie set an African record of 12.44 while Engquist was a delighted third in a Swedish record 12.47. A breast cancer sufferer, she had a further course of chemotherapy planned after the event. Shishigina was again the pre-championships favourite but a 12.51 was only good enough for fourth.

Devers was the favourite though for Edmonton in 2001, especially after she set a world-leading 12.56 in qualifying. Her fellow American Anjanette Kirkland had run just 12.80 in her semi-final, and was drawn in lane one. In the final world indoor champion Kirkland was a different athlete, winning in 12.42, with Devers, having hit a hurdle badly, second in 12.54 and Shishigina third.

Devers was seemingly in good form for Paris in 2003 but again hit a hurdle badly, this time in her semi-final and was a non-qualifying third. The surprise winner was Perdita Felicien, who won Canada’s first women’s title in 12.53.

In Helsinki in 2005, former heptathlete Michelle Perry won clearly in 12.66 into a strong headwind to win by a metre from the Jamaican pairing of Delloreen Ennis-London and Brigitte Foster-Hylton. Olympic champion Joanna Hayes was in medal contention until messing up the final two hurdles and falling and was disqualified.

Conditions were better in Osaka in 2007 and it was a quality race won by defending champion Perry in 12.46 from former champion Felicien. Ennis-London narrowly took third ahead of Sweden’s Susanna Kallur, who had been leading until being slightly impeded by Perry, who had drifted into her lane. Perry escaped disqualification as there was no footage available to the Swedes at the time of protest. Further, her reaction time was just 0.105, and therefore 0.005 of a second within the legal limit. Kallur nevertheless ran a PB 12.51 and the times for fifth to eighth were the fastest in any hurdles race.

Berlin in 2009 was the battle of the double-barrelled names as Foster-Hylton won from Canadian Priscilla Lopes-Schliep as Ennis-London won her third successive medal. World indoor champion Derval O’Rourke was fourth in an Irish record 12.67 ahead of Australia’s Sally McLellan.

The latter returned in Daegu in 2011 under her married name of Pearson and was a huge favourite. She won her semi-final in 12.36, two tenths of a second faster than anyone else, and dominated the final by a similar margin. The time of 12.28 was the fastest for 29 years and her dominance contributed to her winning the IAAF athlete of the year in 2011.

Americans Danielle Carruthers and Olympic champion Dawn Harper both ran 12.47 for second place with just three thousandths of a second between them. Tiffany Porter, a former American running in British colours, had been battling for second until clipping the ninth hurdle and finished fourth in 12.63.

For Moscow in 2013, Pearson wasn’t in the same shape but nevertheless won her semi-final in 12.50. In the final, she put up a good defence but Brianna Rollins, who had moved past Pearson on the all-time list with a 12.26 earlier in the year, edged ahead to win in 12.44.

Porter came close to the British record with 12.55 in third to narrowly edge Harper and win Britain’s first medal in the event.

100m hurdles

Year | Winner | Time | GB position and mark
1983 Bettine Jahn (GDR) 12.35w 5 Shirley Strong 12.78
1987 Ginka Zagorcheva (BUL) 12.34 6sf Sally Gunnell 13.06 (13.02 ht)
1991 Lyudmila Narozhilenko (RUS) 12.59 (12.52sf) 7sf Kay Morley-Brown 13.24 (13.24 ht)
1993 Gail Devers (USA) 12.46 4sf Jackie Agyepong 13.03
1995 Gail Devers (USA) 12.68 (12.67sf) 7sf Jackie Agyepong 13.14 (13.06 ht)
1997 Ludmila Engquist (SWE) 12.50 8sf Diane Allahgreen 13.25 (13.03 ht)
1999 Gail Devers (USA) 12.37 6qf Diane Allahgreen 12.99
2001 Anjanette Kirkland (USA) 12.42 No competitor
2003 Perdita Felicien (CAN) 12.53 6 ht Rachel King 13.37
2005 Michelle Perry (USA) 12.66 5 ht Sarah Claxton 13.17
2007 Michelle Parry (USA) 12.46 No competitor
2009 Brigitte Foster-Hylton (JAM) 12.51 8sf Sarah Claxton 13.21 (12.86 ht)
2011 Sally Pearson (AUS) 12.28 4 Tiffany Porter 12.63 (12.56sf)
2013 Brianna Rollins (USA) 12.44 3 Tiffany Porter 12.55

Points table (8 for 1st etc)
1. USA 128
2. JAM 69
3. GER 38
4= BUL 35
4= RUS 35
4= CAN 35
7. FRA 23
8. SWE 22
9. URS 22
10. AUS 19
11. KAZ 18
12. GBR 15

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