07 April, 2020

Gateshead Greats - Steve Cram

With a glittering career in middle-distance running behind him and a voice synonymous with his sport, Steve Cram has been an icon of athletics since the 1980s.

 

 

Having growing up in the glow of Brendan Foster, the 59-year-old would go on to become one of the world’s most dominant athletes during a glittering period for Great Britain on the track.

With medals at each of the major championships, Cram is the next to be celebrated in our series of #GatesheadGreats, as we continue the countdown to the return of top-class athletics to the area for the first time in ten years.

Rapid rise to stardom

Born in Gateshead in 1960, Cram joined local club Jarrow & Hebburn AC aged 12, where his blistering performances spawned the nickname the ‘Jarrow Arrow’.

Tall, and with a loping stride and powerful arm movement, Cram quickly made an impression and by 1978 set a world age 17-mile best and forced his way into the international ranks. 

His first appearance on the global stage came at the Commonwealth Games in Edmonton, where he finished 16th. 

Having won European junior gold in the 3000m a year later, and having become the world’s fastest teenager over 1500m, Cram claimed a seat on the plane to the Moscow 1980 Olympics, alongside gold-medal-chasing duo Steve Ovett and Sebastian Coe.

After earning a spot in the 1500m final, Cram finished eighth on his Olympic bow, and his presence among the global elite two months shy of his 20th birthday was a sign of things to come.

World beater

Cram continued to progress and, two years later, made his major breakthrough by winning gold at both the European Championships in Athens and Commonwealth Games in Brisbane.

While Coe and Ovett were absent from both races due to health problems, Cram overcame the challenge of Montreal 1976 champion John Walker in Australia, and battled back from injury to clinch top spot at the inaugural World Championships in Helsinki in 1983.

Still just 22 years old, Cram now held three of the four major 1500m titles, and was duly named the 1983 BBC Sports Personality of the Year. 

Although injury again hampered much of his 1984 season, Cram recovered to claim 1500m Olympic silver behind Coe, and would bounce back stronger a year later when he broke the 1500m, mile and 2000m world records all within a 19-day span.

In 1986, Cram added two Commonwealth titles to his tally with victories in both the 800m and 1500m, and having picked up 800m bronze at the Europeans, recovered to beat Coe to 1500m gold in Stuttgart, with what would turn out to be his last major medal.

Cram would go on to compete at the 1988 Seoul Olympics, and although injury dogged much of the remainder of his career up until his retirement in 1994, he remains the UK record holder over the mile and 2000m to this day.

Post-athletics success

Having hung up his spikes, Cram is now a distinctive voice in the commentary box and formed a successful partnership with childhood hero Brendan Foster until the 1976 Olympic bronze medallist’s retirement in 2017.

Cram is still involved on the track as the coach of a small selection of athletes including Laura Weightman, and is also a motivational speaker.

In 2000 he co-founded international children’s charity Comrades of Children Overseas, while he was appointed Chancellor of the University of Sunderland in 2008, a post he held until 2019.

Cram was elected President of Jarrow & Hebburn AC in 2009, where he continues to promote the sport in his local area and inspire the next generation to follow in his footsteps.