Christine Ohuruogu’s dramatic last gasp 400m victory in the World Athletics Championships on Monday night finally saw the multi medalled Londoner overcome the British record mark set by Kathy Cook at the 1984 Olympic Games.
The 49.43 that Cook ran that day earned her a bronze medal in the Los Angeles games, and despite all of Ohuruogu’s global titles (three and counting) she had never gone as fast as Cook before.
Only now could Ohuruogu realistically claim to be the UK’s best female sprinter, despite already being a World and Olympic champion.
Cook’s talent saw her achieve world class from 100m up to 400m, but missing out on the top individual prizes through sheer unfortunate timing.
Her 1984 bronze medal aside, she missed out on gold medals several occasions thanks to the state doping of the East German regime in the late 70s and 80s.
The same doesn’t apply in 1984 of course thanks to the Eastern bloc boycott, but at the 1982 European Championships in particular, Cook was essentially cheated out of gold.
Along with the truly world class marks she set in all of the sprints, it can easily be argued she therefore missed her place as one of British Athletics’ most high profile stars in an era when British Athletics enjoyed a high profile in the public’s consciousness.
Cook still holds the British record at 200m, and at the rarely run 300m, but now the current generations sprint queen has finally eclipsed her one-lap mark.
It has been some time coming. It was six years ago after all when Ohuruogu claimed her first World title in Osaka 2007, followed a year later by Olympic gold.
And yet all of that was done with times slower than those of Cook in the early 80s.
The luck of being born at the right time perhaps, but it is fitting that Ohuruogu is the one to take her record and even more so in such dramatic circumstances.
In an era where so many of the women’s sprint records could be best described as “iffy”, the UK records of Cook have survived through their sheer quality rather than any dubious dealings.
Her 400m mark may now be gone, but her sprint legacy is as strong as ever.
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