It was one of the great comebacks of all-time. One of the finest since Lazarus – since Queen’s Park Rangers overcame a 2-0 deficit to win the 1967 League Cup final with a Mark Lazarus goal, certainly.
Coming into the home straight here last night, the World Championship women’s 400m final looked not so much a lost cause to Christine Ohuruogu as a dead and buried one. Back in fourth and some 10m down on defending champion Amantle Montsho of Botswana, the British team captain was praying for resurrection.
It came in the most stunning fashion. Even after the Londoner had launched into overdrive, she was still three metres adrift of Montsho with only 15m to go. Thankfully, her rival did not see her coming. As the line approached and Montsho leaned back in anticipation of victory, Ohuruogu nipped through on her inside to claim the gold by just 0.004sec.
It was a fightback deserving of a place in posterity and Ohuruogu duly claimed one, breaking Kathy Cook’s ancient British record and becoming the first British woman to win two World Championship titles – and only the third of either sex to accomplish the feat, following Colin Jackson and Jonathan Edwards. In one respect at least, it was almost a carbon copy of her first success, in Osaka six years ago. On that occasion, she was fourth coming into the home straight and won with a dip on the line, pipping her British team-mate Nicola Sanders by 0.04sec.
In other respects, it was entirely different. Back in 2007, Ohuruogu had emerged straight from a 12-month ban imposed for missing three drugs tests, with just two races behind her. In the aftermath, her golden credibility was questioned. One newspaper said her medal should not be counted in the British team tally. Victoria Derbyshire had her in tears in a radio interview.
Six years on Ohuruogu is the British team captain and the author of two children’s books. The unfortunate fact of having been punished for thrice being in the wrong place at the wrong time no longer defines her public image.
Ever since her emergence on the international scene, back in 2004, she has been threatening to crack the British record, the 49.43sec clocked by Cook en route to Olympic bronze at the 1984 Olympics in Los Angeles. It is more than a pity that the ageing world record is out of Ohuruogu’s range.
Marita Koch of the GDR clocked her untouchable 47.80sec at the World Cup in Canberra in October 1985. Although she has consistently denied being involved in doping, after the fall of the Berlin Wall Stasi files were uncovered that included logged dosages of the anabolic steroid Oral-Turinabol administered to her – and also a letter Koch had written to Jenapharm, the GDR state pharmaceutical company, complaining that she had been given weaker doses than Barbel Wockel, who won the European 200m title ahead of Cook in Athens in 1982. Sadly, there is one fight that even a scrapper of Ohuruogu’s class cannot hope to win.