World Champs XVII — Day 6 In Review

Our precís on a the sixth session of the 2019 Worlds in Doha…

Asher-Smith Blitzes 21.88

Finally it was Dina Asher-Smith’s time to step atop the world podium. The 23-year-old Briton started well—the fastest reaction time in the field at 0.138. Her lead was clear around the turn, and once on the straight she continued to pull away, hitting the line in a 21.88 NR, just nipping the 21.89 mark she set in winning the Euro title last year.
While Asher-Smith’s victory was a dominating performance, the battle for the other medals was fierce. Slow-starting Brittany Brown—the slowest reaction time at 0.228—played catchup around the turn and finished fast for a PR 22.22. Switzerland’s Mujinga Kambundji, in 3rd, strained to make it to the line before fast-closing Anglerne Annelus, and was overcome with emotion to see she had won bronze in 22.51. Annelus (22.59) and Dezerea Bryant (22.63) took places 4 & 5.

Holloway Crushes Hurdles

Grant Holloway won the hurdles by rising to the occasion when so many others didn’t. Great hurdlers lined up in the final against the Florida alum—now pro—21-year-old. Hurdlers with impeccable credentials: World champions, Olympic champions, European champions, etc. Yet when the gun went off for the final and Holloway—easily the largest man in the field—bulled ahead to a lead by the first hurdle, it was as if the rest of the field collectively freaked out. Holloway ran a commanding race, never faltering on his way to a gold medal in 13.10. Behind him, nothing but wreckage. Only Sergey Shubenkov ran faster than his time in the semis (and Shane Brathwaite, who only made it to the final on a protest). Olympic champion Omar McLeod (he later said it was a hamstring thing) fell to pieces—the slow-motion replays of his crash are fascinating. In turn, he interfered with Oly silver medalist Orlando Ortega, and so on. Shubenkov kept his nose clean, and got the silver in 13.15. France’s Pascal Martinot-LaGarde bronze in 13.18. This race will go down in history, but not for being a pretty one.

“When you step on the line no-one cares what you’ve done before—it’s all about the here and now,” said Holloway.

Fajdek Rules The Hammer

Q-round marks don’t count for the final, but if they did, Paweł Fajdek was good enough there to win the final. And the favorite got only better in the final, sucking the life out of anybody else’s hopes of mounting the top step of the podium. The 30-year-old Pole actually had to wait a bit to get a chance to win WC gold No. 4 in a row, simply because he was drawn as the last thrower in the order. As it was, he opened with a 260-4 (79.34) and that would be good enough. He improved twice more, though, in rounds 2 and 4, launching the latter right down the middle of the sector to reach 264-1 (80.50). He closed with a pair of fouls, his four measured throws all being good enough to win over France’s Quentin Bigot (256-6/78.19). Hungary’s Bence Halász claimed the bronze just a centimeter behind Bigot.

Warner Leads Decathlon

No. 2 seed Damian Warner set a Deca WR in the 100 in Götzis, blazing to a 10.12, but he could manage only a 10.35 here, perhaps putting a severe crimp in the Canadian’s hopes of upsetting WR holder Kevin Mayer. As for the Frenchman, he had a sparkling start, lowering his PR by 0.05 to 10.50. Mayer followed with a 24-9¾ (7.56) long jump and a 55-2¼ (16.82) put, his farthest ever in a full-on 10-eventer. That gave Mayer a 39-point lead after three events. Mayer and Warner both high jumped 6-7 (2.02) to keep the margin the same going into the 400, where the leader ran 48.99, Warner 48.12. The fastest time, 47.35, went to second Canadian Pierce LePage. As a result, the Day 1 scores came in as Warner 4513, LePage 4486, Mayer 4483. Not far behind in 4th is Grenada’s Lindon Victor (4474). Does Mayer have a niggle? On his final miss at 2.02 replays appeared to show him grabbing his right knee, although he showed no limp on exiting the pit or in running the 400.

KJT Leads Heptathlon

Top seeds Nafi Thiam and Katarina Johnson-Thompson ran side-by-side in the opening hurdles and the Briton signified “It’s on” by lowering her PR from 13.29 all the way to 13.04. The Belgian was well back at 13.36, just 0.02 off her all-time best. Kendell Williams was brilliant, her 12.58 PR missing the Hept WR by just 0.04. KJT had a 40-point margin and that was maintained when she and Thiam each cleared 6-4¾ (1.95) in the HJ. The two Americans, Erica Bougard and Williams, stood 3rd and 4th. KJT had a big PR in the shot, reaching 45-5¾ (13.86), but Thiam led the event at 49-11¼ (15.22) for a 51-point lead. A nice put by third American Annie Kunz moved her into 3rd overall. KJT then led the 200 with her seasonal best 23.08. Thiam managed only 24.06, giving the Briton a solid 96-point lead after Day 1, 4138–4042. They’re followed by the Americans, bunched within 15 points: Williams 3855, Bougard 3853, Kunz 3840.

A heptathlon handicapper on T&FN’s Message Board has KJT 174 points up on projection coming into meet, Thiam 46 points down. His calculations now show the Briton winning by… 5 points (6806-6801)!

Qualifying Action

MEN’S 400: Michael Norman. The world leader was the biggest gamechanger. Norman, in the final semi, ran the entire race at a steady pace, dropping to last place in the second half and finishing in 45.94. “It just wasn’t my day,” he said. “I’m disappointed, but I’m not in shape. During the season, I had the feeling that the training was too much for my body.”

In his absence, the final could be quite competitive. Fred Kerley won the first semi in 44.25 ahead of a fast-finishing Emmanuel Korir (44.37). The second semi gave us Steven Gardiner (44.13) and Kirani James (44.23). Machel Cedenio took the third in 44.41. With 5 under 44.50, the odds of a sub-44 in the final look good. Along with Norman, neither Vernon Norwood (45.00) nor Nathan Strother (45.34) advanced to the final.
Said Kerley, “It’s all about Friday. Now, the first thing before the final is to recover. The spirit always helps when you have USA across your chest.”

WOMEN’S 1500: No surprises here. Sifan Hassan led the fastest heat in 4:03.88, barely ahead of Faith Kipyegon (4:03.93) and Nikki Hiltz (4:04.00). Rabebe Arafi of Morocco led heat II in 4:08.32, with Shelby Houlihan easily qualifying in 4th. Jenny Simpson led heat III in 4:07.27. All of the formchart picks advanced, save for Konstanze Klosterhalfen, who opted to run the 5000.

WOMEN’S 5000: The first heat went fast, Hellen Obiri leading in 14:52.13. A nice surprise on her shoulder was Karissa Schweizer, who set a PR 14:52.41. Tsehay Gemechu led the second heat in 15:01.57. Elle Purrier was the last time qualifier at 15:08.82 while Rachel Schneider missed with her 15:30.00. On the formchart, besides those runners who already chose other events (Hassan) or didn’t come at all (Fantu), Sarah Chalengat of Uganda was the only loss.

WOMEN’S 400H: The big names all got through, with the biggest, WR-holder Dalilah Muhammad (53.81) & Sydney McLaughlin (53.81), the only ones to go into sub-54 territory. Ashley Spencer snagged a time qualifier with her 54.42. Other medal threats look like Rushell Clayton of Jamaica (54.17), Sage Watson of Canada (54.32) and the very experienced Zuzana Hejnová of Czechia (54.41).
WOMEN’S SHOT: For the first time since ’97 the U.S. will have 3 finalists as Maggie Ewen (2nd), Michelle Carter (4th with a seasonal best) and Chase Ealey (10th) all moved on. USATF champ Ealey had to come through on her final throw to advance. The top throw came from Jamaica’s Danniel Thomas-Dodd (63-4 ¾/ 19.32), with Ewen at 63-¼ (19.21). They were the only 63-footers, as favored Lijiao Gong was next at 62-2¼ (18.96).

WOMEN’S DISCUS: The T&FN formchart had the Cuban duo of Yaimé Pérez and Denia Caballero followed by Croatian great Sandra Perković, and that’s just how the Q played out, all three well past the auto-Q of 206-8 (63.00). Pérez hit 222-4 (67.78), Caballero 216-1 (65.86) and the defending champ 213-11 (65.20). Surprising in the No. 5 spot was Iowa’s Laulauga Tausaga, who PRed at 209-9 (63.94). Fellow American Valarie Allman also advanced, but had to sweat out several throws while on the bubble in 12th position. Third American Kelsey Card ended up a non-Q 14th. ◻︎