Club: Jarrow & Hepburn
Coached by: Jimmy Hedley
World At His Feet
In 1983, at the first World Championships in Helsinki, Steve Cram won the 1500m, a glorious moment for an athlete whose career was textbook: a brilliant junior, an excellent grounding, a rise to the top and a fulfilment of a marvellous talent.
But it was two years later when he produced something remarkable. In the space of 19 days, Cram broke world records at 1500m, the Mile and 2000m.
Tall, and with a long stride and powerful, precise arm movement, Cram became the third leg of an amazing trio of British middle-distance athletes.
It had been led by Steve Ovett and Sebastian Coe, before the boy from Gateshead achieved his own status as a world record holder and spectacular champion, right from the start of his career.
The North East’s greatest athlete, Brendan Foster, had returned home from the Olympic Games in Montreal with a bronze from the 10,000m, the only Briton to win a track and field medal from the team's worst Games.
Two years earlier, he had broken the 3000m world record on the track in Gateshead, home of a youngster who had dreams of emulating one of his heroes and who showed amazing ability as a teenager.
Cram was only 12 when he joined Jarrow & Hebburn AC and two years later he was fourth in the 1500m at the English Schools Championship.
But by 1978, he was raising eyebrows when set a world age-17 mile best and started his international career that same summer for England at the Commonwealth Games in Edmonton.
The following year he was a champion, winning gold in the 3000m at the European Juniors in Bydgoszcz in 8:05.18.
At the age of 19, and as the world’s fastest teenager having run 3:35.6 for the 1500m, the Olympic Games in Moscow beckoned and he made the team - and the famous final too.
In one of the great races in Olympic history, Coe came back from losing the 800m earlier that week to beat Ovett to gold, and when film is watched of the race, it is hard to believe that Cram was there competing.
With frizzy hair, and doing his best to maintain the pace with two of the icons of the sport at the time, Cram used the occasion as fabulous grounding despite finishing last in 3:41.98 as Coe won in 3:38.40. It was not long before that position was corrected.
Two years later, he was the dominant force of the Championships when he won the 1500m at the Commonwealth Games in Brisbane and the European Championships in Athens.
With Coe and Ovett both missing through health problems, Cram seized on their absence to win the European title in 3:36.49, before beating Olympic champion John Walker at the Commonwealths.
Cram won in 3:42.37, as legend Walker was second in 3:43.11, with Mike Boit, of Kenya, third in 3:43.33.
It was some year for Cram who had another taste of the future when he broke his first world record as part of the British team which ran 7:03.89 for the 4 x 800m at Crystal Palace; he was on the third leg, following on from Peter Elliott, Garry Cook and handing over to Coe.
The first World Championships were in Helsinki in 1983 and Cram’s preparations were affected by injury. He returned to win the AAA title and though Coe was once again absent, Cram was sensational to lift gold.
It was a great race. When Moroccan Said Aouita made a break with 500m to go, Cram responded, taking control with 180m left and eventually striding away to win in 3:41.59 with Steve Scott, of America, second in 3:41.87 and Aouita third in 3:42.02.
Ovett was fourth and it had been a stunning performance from Cram, whose triumph led to him being named as the BBC’s Sports Personality Of The Year.
He was in the rare position of holding three of the four major 1500m titles, with the Olympics in Los Angeles the golden target of the following summer season.
An injury as he won the AAA 800m put a question mark over just how well he could perform at the Games, where he had been pre-selected for the 1500m.
Such was the power of Coe, himself returning from injury and illness problems, that Cram, not at his fittest, could not react as his fellow Briton defended the 1500m title in memorable fashion.
Ovett had dropped out on the final lap with the chest trouble that had affected him throughout the Games as Coe won in 3:32.53 from Cram, second in 3:33.40, with Jose Manuel Gomez, of Spain, third in 3:34.30. Olympic gold proved elusive, but ahead were two more amazing seasons.
Nineteen Days Of Glory
Coe had broken three world records in 41 days in 1981, but Cram repeated that achievement in just 19 when he reached his peak in the summer of 1985.
The first came in a wonderful race at Nice on July16, when he beat Aouita as both men became the first to break 3:30 for 1500m, Cram winning in a brilliant, mesmerising finish in 3:29.67 with the Moroccan clocking 3:29.71
Eleven days later, at the Bislett Games in Oslo, Cram took the Mile record in 3:46.32, a mark which would stand for eight years, before, on August 4, he added the 2000m landmark in 4:51.39.
But then 12 months later, he emulated two of the sport’s greatest middle-distance men, Australian Herb Elliott and New Zealander Peter Snell, to win the Commonwealth Games 800m and 1500m double in awesome style in Edinburgh, prior to the European Championships in Stuttgart.
The 800m final in Germany was some race. Three Britons entered the home straight and it was Coe who proved to be the quickest, winning in 1:44.50, from Tom McKean, second in 1:44.61, with Cram third in 1:44.88.
But on the final afternoon of the Championships, Cram retained his 1500m crown in 3:41.09, and at last beat Coe, who was second in 3:41.67, at one of the majors.
Cram against Coe was such a big issue that the result was even announced on mid-afternoon flights back from Stuttgart
He was undefeated at 1000m or further on the track from falling at the IAC meeting in 1984 to dropping out in a mile race in Perth on January 24, 1987. Although he had good wins in Oslo (twice) and Zurich in 1987 and at Oslo and Brussels in 1988 he was much troubled by calf injuries, and he was only fourth in the Olympic final in Seoul.
His injury problems came to a head in 1989, when his season was terminated in July. With a fine run he justified his controversial selection for the European Championships in Split in 1990 after a season ruined by injury and finished fifth in the 1500m final, but although he continued for several years, he was not able to regain his superb best form.
But now he has the job of describing great athletics feats as the BBC’s main athletics commentator, while still running the odd marathon, such as New York in 2006, in between his television duties.