Athletics: Good times now set to run for Graf

There was no scare for Steffi Graf in the National Indoor Arena yesterday. The muscular Austrian enjoyed the smoothest of passages through to the final of the women's 800m, easing to victory in her semi-final ahead of Britain's Jo Fenn.

It was rather different last summer. In June the namesake of the German tennis great discovered a lump behind her right hip. It proved to be a tumour. "There were three weeks when I was not sure if it was cancerous or benign," she recalled. "It was a very worrying period."

Fortunately, the tumour was not malignant, but Graf still feared she might not return to competitive running. "Even after the operation I didn't know if I would recover," she said. "For three months I could hardly move my leg. I began to think that my career was finished."

It wasn't. Slowly, steadily, Graf regained fitness. And now, after belatedly entering the indoor season, she is regaining form. In her heat and semi-final, which she won in 1min 59.75sec, she has looked like the competitor who made a habit of battling her way on to international medal rostrums, albeit in the shadow of Maria Mutola.

Silber Steffi, the Austrian press called her. She has still not struck gold in a global championship, though given her circumstances these past 12 months, another silver lining in Birmingham would qualify as a more-than-precious achievement.

A medal of any colour would mean all the more to Graf if it were to be claimed ahead of Jolanda Ceplak. Her enmity with the Slovenian runner dates back to the main event of the 2002 indoor season, the European Championships in Vienna. Graf was billed as the golden girl of the meeting. She whipped herself into world- record-breaking shape for the women's 800m – only for Ceplak, the bottled-blonde bombshell, to explode on to the scene.

Graf did indeed break Christine Wachtel's 14-year-old world record, crossing the line in 1min 55.85sec. Ceplak, though, finished 0.02sec before her. "She must be making an improvement my coach has not thought about," Graf said at her combustible post-race press conference. The inference was obvious, an implication Kelly Holmes was to echo last summer after finishing in Ceplak's wake at the outdoor European championships in Munich.

Graf was so outraged she announced she would be splitting from her manager, Robert Wagner, who had developed a close relationship with Ceplak. These days, the Austrian's running career is plotted by Jos Hermens, the Dutchman who has been a guiding light to Haile Gebrselassie. Hermens has evidently had a mellowing influence, though the same could be said of last summer's scare.

"Sport is not the most important thing in my life now," Graf reflected. "I don't lose as much nervous energy about it as I did before. I am just happy being back in the sport and being able to compete."

Suggested Topics
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Tottenham legend Jimmy Greaves has defended fans use of the word 'Yid'
Life and Style
Arts and Entertainment
Kanye West, performing in New York last week, has been the subject of controversy as rock's traditional headline slot at Glastonbury is lost once again
Arts and Entertainment
The Ridiculous Six has been produced by Adam Sandler, who also stars in it
filmNew controversy after nine Native American actors walked off set
Life and Style
Google celebrates Bartolomeo Cristofori's 360th birthday
techGoogle Doodle to the rescue
Caption competition
Caption competition
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Senior Digital Marketing Consultant

£28000 - £45000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Senior Digital Marketing Cons...

Recruitment Genius: Assistant Stores Keeper

£16640 - £18500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An Assistant Stores Keeper is r...

Recruitment Genius: Claims Administrator

£16000 - £18500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an excellent opportunit...

Recruitment Genius: Software Developer - C# / ASP.NET / SQL

£17000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Developer required to join a bu...

Day In a Page

Fishing for votes with Nigel Farage: The Ukip leader shows how he can work an audience as he casts his line to the disaffected of Grimsby

Fishing is on Nigel Farage's mind

Ukip leader casts a line to the disaffected
Who is bombing whom in the Middle East? It's amazing they don't all hit each other

Who is bombing whom in the Middle East?

Robert Fisk untangles the countries and factions
China's influence on fashion: At the top of the game both creatively and commercially

China's influence on fashion

At the top of the game both creatively and commercially
Lord O’Donnell: Former cabinet secretary on the election and life away from the levers of power

The man known as GOD has a reputation for getting the job done

Lord O'Donnell's three principles of rule
Rainbow shades: It's all bright on the night

Rainbow shades

It's all bright on the night
'It was first time I had ever tasted chocolate. I kept a piece, and when Amsterdam was liberated, I gave it to the first Allied soldier I saw'

Bread from heaven

Dutch survivors thank RAF for World War II drop that saved millions
Britain will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power - Labour

How 'the Axe' helped Labour

UK will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power
Rare and exclusive video shows the horrific price paid by activists for challenging the rule of jihadist extremists in Syria

The price to be paid for challenging the rule of extremists

A revolution now 'consuming its own children'
Welcome to the world of Megagames

Welcome to the world of Megagames

300 players take part in Watch the Skies! board game in London
'Nymphomaniac' actress reveals what it was really like to star in one of the most explicit films ever

Charlotte Gainsbourg on 'Nymphomaniac'

Starring in one of the most explicit films ever
Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi: The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers

Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi

The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers
Vince Cable interview: Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'

Vince Cable exclusive interview

Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'
Iwan Rheon interview: Game of Thrones star returns to his Welsh roots to record debut album

Iwan Rheon is returning to his Welsh roots

Rheon is best known for his role as the Bastard of Bolton. It's gruelling playing a sadistic torturer, he tells Craig McLean, but it hasn't stopped him recording an album of Welsh psychedelia
Russell Brand's interview with Ed Miliband has got everyone talking about The Trews

Everyone is talking about The Trews

Russell Brand's 'true news' videos attract millions of viewers. But today's 'Milibrand' interview introduced his resolutely amateurish style to a whole new crowd
Morne Hardenberg interview: Cameraman for BBC's upcoming show Shark on filming the ocean's most dangerous predator

It's time for my close-up

Meet the man who films great whites for a living