It has been 20 years since the pinnacle of One Day Meetings was held in the Oceania Region. The 2001 IAAF Grand Prix Final was held in Melbourne, at Olympic Park on the 9th of September.
The Grand Prix Final is still one of the biggest Athletics Meets ever to hit the shores of Oceania, with 3 million Dollars up for Grabs on the Day. The 17th edition of the Grand Prix Final was the first time it had been held in the Southern Hemisphere. It attracted the best athletes to Melbourne, after series that spanned 8 Months, 39 Meetings, including 7 Golden League Meets, 21 Grand Prix Meetings and 12 IAAF Permit Meets. It was a truly Global Series, with meets held in every Area of World Athletics. A truly Global Series, with a truly global array of stars in attendance.
For Australian and Oceania Athletics Fans, the 2001 season was a changing of the guard, with so many athletes retiring or taking a break after Sydney, the main draw cards were international stars, both on the rise and nearing the ends of their Careers.
With 19 events on the programme, and the overall jackpot of $100,000 still up for grabs for both the Men and the Women. The overall prizes would be taken out by Romanian 1500m runner Violeta Szekely and Switzerland’s 800m runner Andre Bucher.
It would be a thrilling meet, with Shawn Crawford taking on of his first big wins over 200m in the professional ranks. The Men’s 1500m was once again a race between Hicham El Guerrouj and Bernand Lagat, taken out by El Guerrouj. Jan Zelenzy won the Javelin, whilst Virgilijus Alekna won the Discus. Anier Garcia upset Allen Johnson to help Bucher take the overall title over Allen Johnson by 1 point.
In the Women’s events, Maria Mutola beat Kelly Holmes and Stephanie Graf. Stacy Dragila won the Women’s Pole Vault, with Australian Tatiana Grigorieva no heighting along with future World Record Holder Yelena Isinbayeva. Hestrie Cloete won the Women’s High Jump, jumping 1.98m, with the South African now living in New Zealand after retiring in 2008.
For a lot of the travelling athletes, coaches, and officials the highlight of the Meet was the boisterous local Announcer. For the local athletics aficionados who attended meets at Melbourne’s Olympic Park regularly, would have been all too familiar with the loud and booming Voice of the Announcer, the late and great Maurie Plant. Maurie was not only the announcer on that day, but instrumental in the organisation of the Grand Prix Final, with no job too big or small for Plant, always wanting to put on a good show.