DOHA, Qatar, October 6—A World Championships packed with, mostly pleasant, surprises and marked by intensely high competitive levels despite its unusually late in the year scheduling signed off on its 10th and final evening with a slate of events that kept the thrills coming till the very end.
Team USA finished the meet with a haul of 29 medals, 14 gold, 11 silver, 4 bronze.
Timothy Cheruiyot simply ran away from the field. The Kenyan favorite didn’t hesitate to emulate Sifan Hassan and lay down a pace that would destroy the field. He hit 400 in 54.94, with Ronald Kwemoi staying close. Sensing this was a move that needed to be covered, Matthew Centrowitz emerged from the chase pack and tried to bridge the gap to the two Kenyans. However, as Cheruiyot approached 800, Centrowitz started slipping back, realizing that perhaps this wasn’t a safe pace. The leader hit 800 in 1:51.74. Over the next circuit both Centrowitz and Kwemoi faded into the pack, now being led by ’12 Olympic champ Taoufik Makhloufi. At the bell, it was Cheruiyot with 20m lead. The chase pack, tightly bunched, set off after him, frantically trying to find their kicks. At 1200, Cheruiyot (2:48.22) had a 2.66-second lead on Makhloufi. Could he hold on? With a final 300 of 41.22, the Kenyan was never threatened. Makhloufi grabbed silver in 3:31.38, Marcin Lewandowski bronze in a Polish record 3:31.46. Centrowitz finished 8th in 3:32.81, with Craig Engels 10th at 3:34.24.
The Ugandans did the early leading, taking a bunched pack of 21 through kilos of 2:43.67/5:27.22. At 2700, 19-year-old Rhonex Kipruto shot to the lead; he led past 3K in 8:08.19. Uganda’s Joshua Cheptegei soon passed him back. Kipruto came back to the front, leading at 4K in 10:52.35. On the next lap he was passed by teammate Rogers Kwemoi. At 5K (13:33.20), 11 were left in the pack. The Kenyans, who had been boosting the pace steadily, threw in another surge. Cheptegei fought back to the lead at 6K (16:16.12), but just briefly, as Kipruto passed him again with another surge. At 8K (21:40.14), eight remained in contention, with Lopez Lomong at the back of the pack. The fast pace thinned contenders fast. Cheptegei led four into the final lap, but by the backstretch there were only two that mattered: Cheptegei and Yomif Kejelcha. The UIgandan refused to yield to the Ethiopian’s big move, struggling to hold him off and keep him on the outside on the turn. By the time they hit the straight, Kejelcha had been beaten. Cheptegei finished off his 26:48.36 with a 55.39 last lap for gold. Kejelcha for silver, 26:49.34, as Kipruto managed bronze in 26:50.32. Lomong ended up 7th in 27:04.72 to become the No. 3 American ever.
WOMEN’S LONG JUMP
For the first two rounds, Malaika Mihambo looked like anything but the strong favorite that she was. The 25-year-old German had terrible foul problems, being about a foot behind the board on her first and way over on her second. But the latter attempt gave a hint of what was to come, from takeoff to landing looking like a 24-footer. And that was confirmed on her third try, when she the board well and arched out to a world-leading 23-11½ (7.30). That moved her to =No. 12 on the all-time list and the competition was effectively over. She passed her fourth, then put up good-enough-to-win performances in the last two rounds, hitting 23-3¼ (7.09) and 23-6 (7.16). Silver and bronze went to Ukraine’s Maryna Bekh-Romachuk (22-8½/6.92) and Nigeria’s Ese Brume (22-8/6.91). American Tori Bowie surprised in 4th, producing her best jump since ’14, 22-4¼ (6.81).
“The third attempt had to work,” Mihambo said. “I told myself, ‘You have to make this one fair, no matter what.’”
WOMEN’S 100 HURDLES
The semis produced a PR for Nia Ali, who cranked a 12.44 in pushing favored Danielle Williams (12.41) all the way to the line in semi I. In the second, Keni Harrison hurdled 12.58 to stay ahead of Jamaican Megan Tapper’s 12.61 PR. Tobi Amusan blitzed semi II in 12.48, topping Janeek Brown’s 12.62.
The final showed that that PR for Ali was foreshadowing. Williams got a great start but Ali matched her, and by the second hurdle was slowly pulling away. By hurdle 6 she had a clear lead, streaking to the finish in 12.34, becoming the No. =4 American ever. Ken Harrison kept the pressure on Williams and made it to the line ahead of her in 12.46, with the Jamaican bronze in 12.47. Tobi Amusan took 4th in 12.49.
You can now add Anderson Peters to the relatively short list of athletes who have followed up an NCAA individual crown with a World Championships gold. The collegiate champ for Mississippi State the last two years, the 21-year-old Grenadian grabbed the lead in the first round and never let go. On his opening toss he released his spear far behind an optimal distance from the line but it nonetheless came down 285-1 (86.89) away. Said the winner, I didn’t think 86m would be enough to win gold. I was up against 90m men throwing high 88’s all season.”
The closest anybody would come to that was the second-round 282-10 (86.21) by favored Magnus Kirt. Kirt, the list-leading Estonian with the aggressive dive-at-the-line style, paid the price for being daring in the fifth round, coming down hard on his throwing shoulder and being carried off after some ice-bag treatment. The second round also produced the bronze-medal number, 280-1 (85.37) for Germany’s Johannes Vetter.
WOMEN’S 4 x 400
One of the most popular online topics of the week was what the composition of Team USA should be, with popular opinion being that hurdle aces Dalilah Muhammad and Sydney McLaughlin should displace some flat-400 runners. And that’s just what happened, leading to a runaway 3:18.92, the year’s fastest time. Open 400 bronze medalist Phyllis Francis was given the duty of getting the Americans out clear from the get-go, and that’s just what she did with her 50.6. McLaughlin was next and she busted the race wide open, having a 10-15m lead down the backstretch. Her carry would be the fastest of the race, 48.8. She handed off to fellow hurdler Muhammad, who was carrying the stick for the first time since ’10. She remembered how to do it quite well, executing a smooth 49.43. The anchor duty was awarded to flat-400 silver medalist Wadeline Jonathas, who finished off with an unpressed 50.20. The strong Polish team was 2nd almost all the way, with Jamaica briefly taking over on the backstretch of the anchor leg before the Poles rebounded in the stretch. Jamaica was originally DQed for a lining-up-wrong violation, giving bronze to Great Britain, but that was reversed upon appeal.
“It really is nice to come together and have a common goal in the relay,” said hurdles WR-setter Muhammad. “And I guess we can have a common goal now of breaking that 4×4 record.”
MEN’S 4 x 400
Hopes for a hyper-fast U.S. time went out the window when Michael Norman had to withdraw from the team after his problems in the 400. But the American foursome remained the favorite, and like the women, never trailed. An early lead was pretty much guaranteed when open bronze medalist Fred Kerley—as he often did in his collegiate days at Texas A&M—assumed the leadoff duty. His 44.5 provided plenty of daylight and Michael Cherry created plenty more of it with his 43.8. But was it enough? As third leg Wil London raced the backstretch, the crowd roared as Jamaica’s Terry Thomas amazingly brought the contest back to London’s heels. London gained a little more breathing room as he finished in 44.43 and Rai Benjamin—not looking 100% healthy—finished things off with a 44.19. Their final time of 2:56.69 was the No. 11 performance in history and the first sub-2:57 since ’08. Jamaica (2:57.90) and Belgium (2:58.78) followed in line for silver and bronze.
“I don’t think it was easy for any of us<” Benjamin said. “We all had pressure to win gold and we came in wtih that mindset.… “These guys from Jamaica are great runners so we knew it wouldn’t be easy. But I think we all did a great job as a collective.” ◻︎