World Champs XVII — Day 5 In Review

Our rundown on a fantastic night in Doha—for Team USA, especially…

Kendricks Defends In Nailbiter

“When you respect your competition, you can’t ever take for granted that it might not happen,” Sam Kendricks told NBC’s Lewis Johnson after all was said and done. “It’s certainly a gift every time, and my goodness, it’s a memorable night.” ’Twas a memorable vault competition indeed, even if it didn’t live up to pre-meet fantasies about multiple 6-meter performances. It didn’t start out in memorable fashion, with it requiring only three heights to whittle the field down from 12 to the 3 favorites, Kendricks, Mondo Duplantis & Piotr Lisek.

They were the only ones left when the bar moved up to 19-3 (5.87), each without a miss. At that height, each missed once, then Mondo was over cleanly on his second. Lisek did likewise, but while Kendricks had plenty of height he came down on the bar. On third, Kendricks had comethrough clean clearance. On to 19-5 (5.92), where Kendricks made the most of new new life by being the only one to clear on initial attempt, thereby retaking the lead. Mondo missed again and the chess game began as Lisek passed to the next height. Some expected Mondo to pass his final try, but the teenager with the nerves of steel instead produced another clean clearance. The bar was now at 19-7 (5.97), with nobody close on the first set of attempts. Ditto on the second, with the Pole thus retired and settling for bronze. On the third, Mondo jiggled the bar with his chest but it stuck and he was back in the lead, earning a hug from Kendricks. So now the favorite was once again in dire need of a third-try clearance or he would lose. He didn’t lose, producing another clean clearance, earning a reciprocal hug from Mondo. The clearances ended there, with Mondo not being close on his three attempts at 19-9 (6.02) and Kendricks faring no better. After Mondo’s miss, Kendricks called it a day, jumping into the pit, where they sat and chatted a minute, taking off their shoes. They were soon joined by third medalist Lisek and they stood up and did simultaneous back flips. The judges give it a 10.0.

Barber Surprises On Final Throw

On a night with so much exciting racing, and with an uber-compelling vault competition sucking up so much attention, the women’s spear kind of got lost in the shuffle. For much of the night, favored Huihui Lu was in the driver’s seat, but the Chinese star got ambushed late in the going and only ended up with bronze. Meanwhile, No. 2 seed Kelsey-Lee Barber of Australia was out of the medals until the final round, where she suddenly erupted to capture the gold.

Lu took the lead with a 213-0 (64.93) in the first round, then improved that marginally to 213-5 (65.06) in the second. As the next thrower, Germany’s Christin Hussong gave that a scare with ha 213-0 of her own, that one a centimeter shorter at 65.05. The third stanza found the second Chinese, Shiying Liu, tightening things by reaching 212-8 (64.82). At this point, Barber was 4th at 206-6 (62.95). Liu (not to be confused with Lu) grabbed the lead in round 5 with a seasonal best of 216-2 (65.88). Lu (not to be confused with Liu) responded with her best of the day, 214-10 (65.49), but it wasn’t enough. In the final round Barber unleashed her biggie, 218-4 (66.56), and was suddenly in the lead, now having to wait out 3 more throws. Hussong followed with her best of the day, 213-11 (65.21), but that changed nothing and she ended up 4th. Neither of the Chinese could improve and Barber was the last-ditch winner. AR holder Kara Winger reached a best 207-5 (63.23) for 5th, the highest place ever for an American in this meet.

Brazier Takes Down AR

It couldn’t have gone better for Donavan Brazier. Puerto Rico’s Wesley Vásquez took it out hard, passing 200 in 23.53 with the 22-year-old favorite close behind (23.84). That started stretching the pack out, and Vásquez hit 400 in 48.99 with Brazier at 49.21. In 3rd sat Amel Tuka (49.89). After that turn, whether everyone knew it or not, it was over. Brazier lengthened his stride and started pumping his arms. At 600 (1:15.18), he had a 4m lead over Vásquez with Tuka closing fast on the Puerto Rican. Also coming in fast was Kenya’s Ferguson Cheruiyot. On the final turn, Brazier continued to pull away, and even surged on the final stretch. He crossed in 1:42.34, crushing Johnny Gray’s 34-year-old American Record, as well as the meet record of 1:43.06 set by Kenyan Billy Konchellah 32 years ago.

Tuka held on for silver in 1:43.47, Cheruiyot bronze in 1:43.82. Bryce Hoppel finished fast to grab a surprising 4th in a PR 1:44.25 ahead of Vásquez (1:44.48). Clayton Murphy, 5th at halfway in 50.09, faded to last in 1:47.84.
Said the champion, “The plan was always to take it on with 300 to go and go from there, no matter what the pace was. I really had to dig deep for it. To be the first from the U.S. to win a World 800m title feels wonderful. I hope I get some love for it back home.”

Lyles, The New Overlord

Noah Lyles came through. Perhaps one of the strongest favorites at the championships—and still just 22—the world leader in the furlong ran the first half of the race behind the superior start and drive of Britain’s Adam Gemili. When they entered the homestretch, everything changed. Canada’s Andre De Grasse edged past Gemili, as Lyles started lifting for his powerful drive to the finish. Stride-by-stride, Lyles pulled away. He stopped the clock at 19.83. De Grasse claimed silver with his 19.95, and Ecuador’s Alex Quiñónez slipped past the flailing Gemili to grab bronze, 19.98-20.03.

“I just knew no matter what position I found myself in I can always find a way to come through,” said Lyles. “And when I crossed the line I just felt relief. This time last year I’d only just started running [after an injury]. Think of that…. Don’t say I’m the new Bolt. I’m me. If you like me, I’ll happily entertain you. It’s my time.”

Qualifying Action

MEN’S 400: Comebacking Kirani James of Grenada led the rounds with his 44.94. Michael Norman (45.00), Fred Kerley (45.19) and Vernon Norwood (45.59) all made it easily. With his surprise failure to make the 800 final, Kenya’s Emmanuel Korir showed up here, qualifying in 45.08. He has a 44.21 PR at altitude. The only notable non-qualifier was our No. 10 pick, Britain’s Matthew Hudson-Smith.

MEN’S STEEPLE: The heats promise an interesting final race. In the first, Ethiopia Getna Wale won with a zippy 8:12.96 just ahead of France’s Djilali Bedrani (8:13.02). All three Americans qualified: Andy Bayer (8:18.66), Stanley Kebenei (8:19.02) and Hillary Bor (8:20.67). All of the men in our T&FN formchart advanced, so we’re feeling brilliant for once.

MEN’S HIGH JUMP: In what has so far been a down year in men’s high jumping, the proceedings didn’t even make it to the auto-Q height of 7-7 (2.31). As it turned out, only 10 even made 7-6 (2.29). They were joined in the final by a pair from 7-5 (2.26), including favored Maksim Nedasekau of Belarus, who looked anything but sharp. Looking like he might be returning to form, having a perfect chart, was local hero Mutaz Barshim. Top American Jeron Robinson advanced, but teammates Shelby McEwen and Keenon Laine did not.

MEN’S HAMMER: Paweł Fajdek and Wojciech Nowicki came in favored to go 1–2 and the two Poles kept that projection well in play by each topping a section. Fajdek led the way with his 260-0 (79.24). The event’s big surprise came in the form of Rudy Winkler, who qualified in the No. 4 position with a PR 252-10 (77.06) that made him the No. 12 American ever. He was one of only 7 to make the auto-Q of 251-0 (76.50). Teammates Conor McCullough and Daniel Haugh failed to advance.

WOMEN’S 200: Between attrition of some of the favorites (our 2-3-4-5 picks are no longer in the game) and some nifty performances, suddenly the U.S. women have a hope of a medal or two here. Anglerne Annelus won semi I in 22.49. Brittany Brown—despite a horrible start in which she left the blocks a full tenth behind her competition—won semi II in 22.46. In the third, Dina Asher-Smith won in 22.16, with Dezerea Bryant following in 22.56. Olympic champ Elaine Thompson did not start; otherwise the only top casualty was Canada’s Crystal Emmanuel.

WOMEN’S 400: The semis served up the usual suspects, albeit with a few surprises. Semi I saw Salwa Eid Naser power out fast and finish unpressed at 49.79. Behind her, defending champ Phyllis Francis ran a controlled 50.22. In Semi II, Olympic champ Shaunae Miller-Uibo strode to an easy 49.66. Wadeline Jonathas PRed in 2nd at 50.07, catching Jamaica’s Shericka Jackson (50.10) at the line. In the third, Jamaica’s Stephanie Ann McPherson went out hard and slowed to a 50.70. Behind her, Shakima Wimbley ran in 2nd then hit a wall with 100 left, literally stopping before jogging in. Kendall Ellis’s 51.58 did not qualify.

WOMEN’S 400H: The biggest story from the first round was Kori Carter. The defending champion has struggled all year, and halfway through the race she simply stopped and walked out the marathon gate. Otherwise, the Americans looked promising, Sydney McLaughlin (54.45) & Dalilah Muhammad (54.87) winning their heats and Ashley Spencer (55.28) qualifying in 4th. Jamaican Janieve Russell had been replaced on the team, and Sara Slott Petersen of Denmark was DQed after an apparent trail leg violation at the first hurdle. ◻︎