The World Indoor Championships has produced its fair amount of shocks and surprises. Here are some of the unexpected champions of the past 25 years.
Sun Xinmei – Seville 1991
On her international debut Sun Xinmei announced herself as a champion performer by launching the shot out to 20.54m to lead home a Chinese 1-2 from Huang Zhihong. The 26-year-old from Shanghai had been credited with two marks in excess of 21m in Beijing the previous year, but her victory in Spain was the moment she genuinely arrived on the global scene. To add further gloss to her achievements in Seville, Sun also claimed the scalp of world record holder and then Olympic champion Natalya Lisovskaya, who had to settle for bronze. Sun later went on to win Olympic silver at the 1996 Atlanta Games.
Pierre Camara – Toronto 1993
To call the French athlete a complete nobody coming into the men’s triple jump final would be a tad unfair. Yet it would have taken a brave person to have picked the 27-year-old as a gold medallist in Toronto’s SkyDome in a field comprising the likes of Great Britain’s Jonathan Edwards and Cuban Yoelbi Quesada. For years a journeyman athlete, Camara had fleetingly hop, step and jumped his way into the mind of athletics stattos by leading the qualifiers with a PB of 17.34m at the 1992 Barcelona Olympic before disintegrating in the final and placing 11th. Yet in Toronto one monster PB of 17.59m in round six earned him an unexpected gold. It was to prove the best jump of his career by 24 centimetres.
Clive Terrelonge – Barcelona 1995
In a one-man crusade to prove Jamaicans can run middle distance, the willowy Terrelonge athlete caused a major upset to strike 800m gold in the Catalan capital. The 25-year-old athlete came into the championships with a relatively modest reputation. He had reached the Olympic semi-finals in Barcelona three years earlier but with an outdoor best of 1:45.96 few would have viewed him as a major challenger to the strong two-pronged Kenyan challenge led by Benson Koech – a 1:43.17 performer. Yet the Jamaican ripped up the form book in the final to take a narrow victory from the Kenyan in a time of 1:47.30.
Khristina Kalcheva – Maebashi 1999
Credited with a 1.99m leap in her native Bulgaria the previous year, Kalcheva clearly had great ability, but up until her appearance in Maebashi’s Green Dome she had revealed little of this talent outside of her homeland. Yet the largely internationally anonymous Kalcheva was to stun the field to clear 1.99m at the second time of asking and clinch gold. Kalcheva’s glorious moment in Japan was to prove her career highlight as she no-heighted at the 2000 Sydney Olympics.
Paolo Camossi – Lisbon 2001
As Olympic champion and world record-holder, Great Britain’s Jonathan Edwards was expected to add the world indoor crown to his cache of titles. But again, he did not reckon upon Italian Paolo Camossi, who despite winning only one of his five pre-event indoor competitions that year, sailed out to an Italian indoor record of 17.32m to secure gold with his fourth-round jump. Edwards responded with a 17.26m effort in round six but had to settle for silver. For the Italian it was undoubtedly the highlight of his career and he had added 27 centimetres to his lifetime best indoors and Edwards still remained without a global indoor title.
Derval O’Rourke – Moscow 2006
Ireland has long had an affinity with indoor athletics led by their marvellous milers Eamonn Coghlan and Marcus O’Sullivan. Yet Derval O’Rourke was to create her own piece of history to blitz a world-class 60m hurdles field – including the likes of Olympic silver medallist Glory Alozie and super Swede Susanna Kallur – at the Olympiyski Sports Arena. O’Rourke had set three national records that season in the countdown to Moscow, but few would have banked on her trimming a further 0.06 from that during the event as she first ran 7.87 to win her semi-final and then 7.84 in the final to claim a narrow 0.02 win from Alozie. The Guinness tasted sweet in Moscow’s Irish bars that night.
Tamsyn Lewis – Valencia 2008
Aged 29 at the time and with little prior international success, the Australian (main picture) was not expected to pose much of a danger to the seven-time champion Maria Mutola. Yet Lewis grew wings inside the Luis Puig Palace to unleash the run of her life. Setting a national record of 2:01.85 in the heats and only scraping through to the final as the slowest qualifier, the Aussie was clearly in decent nick before she seemed to surprise herself by bombing past Ukraine’s Tetyana Petlyuk down the home straight to win gold in 2:02.57. The mighty Mutola had to settle for bronze. Now known by her married name of Tamsyn Manou, the 37-year-old is still running and has recorded a handy 2:03.5 clocking for 800m this year.
Great Britain (4x400m) – Istanbul 2012
With women’s 4x400m heavyweights the USA and Russia expected to dominate, few would have viewed GB as a potential gold medal threat. Yet the quartet of Shana Cox, Nicola Sanders, Christine Ohuruogu and Perri Shakes-Drayton executed a brilliant eight-lap performance to sneak a thrilling win from the all-star US team anchored by Sanya Richards-Ross. The British challenge strengthened after a stunning third leg from Ohuruogu advanced GB up from a relatively distant third to a clear lead. Shakes-Drayton then produced a courageous anchor leg to repel the looming threat of Richards-Ross with a desperate lunge for the line. The Brits won gold by 0.03.
Richard Kilty – Sopot 2014
A 66-1 shot with the bookmakers to win men’s 60m gold, the Briton said afterwards: “not one person expected me to win it. Not one person except for myself.” Living in a homeless hostel for a spell growing up and having only one year earlier lost all sponsorship and funding, Kilty shocked the world to take men’s 60m gold in Poland. He had equalled his PB of 6.53 in the heats only then to twice lower his lifetime best for the distance with 6.52 in the semi-final and 6.49 to edge USA's Marvin Bracy by 0.02 in the final.