World Champs XVII — Day 7 In Review

Our precís on the seventh session of the 2019 Worlds in Doha…

Naser Runs Unbelievable 48.14

Salwa Eid Naser could barely believe it herself. Overcome with emotion, she sat on the track, mouth agape in amazement at what she had just done. From the start of the race, both she and Olympic champ Shaunae Miller-Uibo had gotten out aggressively. On the backstretch, both of them ate into the staggers of their competitors. Yet after 200, Naser started chewing up the stagger between herself and Miller-Uibo. The 21-year-old from Bahrain (she moved there as a 16-year-old Nigerian) emerged onto the straight with a huge lead. Miller-Uibo—surely stunned—drove hard to the finish and was able to cut down the margin only a little. Naser crossed in 48.14—the fastest time on earth in 34 years, behind only the PRs of Marita Koch and Jarmila Kratochvilová, Eastern Europeans from an era when drug testing was in its infancy.

Behind her, Miller-Uibo hit the finish in 48.37, becoming the No. 6 woman ever. In 3rd, Jamaica’s Shericka Jackson in 49.47. American Wadeline Jonathas ran a PR 49.60 in 4th. Defending champion Phyllis Francis ran the fastest race of her life—49.61—good for only 5th. There have been deeper races, the ’96 Olympics for one, but this was one for the ages.

“Today I wanted to be chased,” said Naser, “so I wanted to go all out.”

Gong Wins Shot

There were myriad changes in medal positions in the first round, but not so much for gold, as Lijiao Gong reached 62-6¾ (19.07) as the third thrower. At the end of the round silver belonged to Jamaica’s Danniel Thomas-Dodd and bronze to Hungary’s Anita Márton. In the second, the favored Chinese improved to 63-8¾ (19.42). Thomas-Dodd also improved, but stayed 2nd, while Germany’s Christina Schwanitz moved into bronze position. T-D improved yet again in round 3, but the medal order stayed the same. In round 4, Gong boomed 64-1¾ (19.55) to extend her lead—it was her last fair throw of the evening. There was a new claimant to bronze in the fourth stanza as American Maggie Ewen moved up from 5th. Ewen’s medal standing disappeared in round 5 though, even though she improved, because Schwanitz improved more. The biggest put of that penultimate round—somewhere just over the 20m (65-7½) line, but a foul—went to Thomas-Dodd. The Jamaican improved again in the final round, but her 63-10½ (19.47) didn’t improve on her silver. So Ewen ended up 5th, with teammates Chase Ealey and Michelle Carter in 7th and 9th.

KJT Joins The Hept Greats

Day 2 of the 7-eventer kicked off with Briton Katarina Johnson-Thompson enjoying a solid 96-point lead over favored Nafi Thiam, 4138–4042. They were followed by the Americans, bunched within 15 points: Kendell Williams 3855, Erica Bougard 3853, Annie Kunz 3840. KJT promptly upped her margin to 216 points, out-long jumping Thiam, 22-2½ (6.77) to 21-0 (6.40). Thiam owns a javelin PR that far outstrips KJT’s best, but she also has a balky elbow, and that was in full evidence here as she was some 10m off that and had to pass her final throw after reaching only 157-7 (48.04). KJT, on the other hand, PRed at 144-1 (43.93), losing only 79 points off her margin rather than a couple of hundred. The Briton’s margin going into the climactic 800 was 137. She could have easily taken the 800 easy and won. Instead, she gave it everything, moving to the lead at halfway and winning with an overwhelming kick in a lifetime best 2:07.26 for the win. KJT moves to No. 6 in history with her 6981, a new British record that supplants the 6955 that Jessica Ennis-Hill won the ’12 Olympics with. Thiam finished at 6677. Williams, in 4th before the 800, had little hope of moving past Verena Preiner for bronze, given their respective PRs. Preiner got it with her 6560. Bougard passed Williams for 4th, 6470-6415.

Said the winner, “It doesn’t make sense to me. Honestly, these whole two days have been so fast and it’s been at night time it’s actually felt like a dream and the lights and everything. It’s just been unbelievable and I can’t believe this is the result. It’s just been so many attempts to perform at this stage. I’m just so, so happy.”

Kaul Finishes Deca The Best

As expected, favored Damian Warner began Day 2 by extending his lead by running the fastest hurdles 13.56, with favored Kevin Mayer at 13.87, so the Canadian’s margin grew from 30 to 82. The Frenchman did pass Pierce LePage, who checked in at 14.19. Mayer, however, didn’t look 100% and that was confirmed when he received electro-stimulation on his left hamstring before the discus, where he fouled once then hit 158-7 (48.34). Nonetheless, he regained the lead by 56 points, as Warner (who has a better PR than Mayer) could reach only 138-5 (42.19). LePage held down the bronze position by 2 points over Russia’s Ilya Shkurenyov.

In tears, ultimately unable to complete it down the vault runway, Mayer withdrew after two tries, really shaking up the medal picture. Maicel Uibo, in 5th coming in, led the way with a PR 17-8½ (5.40) that pulled him up to =3rd with Warner. A 17-¾ (5.20) clearance by LePage was enough to put him in 1st, with a 2-point lead over Shkurenyov, 7097-7095, just 22 points up on Uibo and Warner’s 7073. Then, well back came American Solomon Simmons (6860) and German Niklas Kaul (6822). And then, suddenly, Kaul jumped into bronze position, PRing in the javelin at a massive 259-4 (79.05). Four men would enter the climactic 1500 with totals over 7800: Uibo 7869, Warner 7854, Kaul 7850, Shkurenyov 7826.

Kaul didn’t leave anything to doubt, taking control of the 1500 and winning in 4:15.70 for a golden total of 8691. Uibo won silver at 8604, Warner bronze with 8529. Simmons finished 8th (8151). The other Americans, Harrison Williams (14th 7892), Devon Williams DNF.

Kaul’s 1500 finish was very significant in another sense. It was the first time in World Championships history that the gold medalist won the final event. And it followed by less than 20 minutes another milestone: the first time a heptathlon winner finished first in the 800 at a World Championships.

Qualifying Action

MEN’S 1500: The heats were close and messy but fun to watch. With the qualifying a generous 6+6, the finishes were crowded and frantic. All of the top picks made it through, with the exception of Kenya’s George Manangoi. All three U.S. runners: Matthew Centrowitz, Ben Blankenship and Craig Engels also advanced. In heat II, Tedesse Lemi tangled with Filip Ingebrigsten and went down hard, failing to qualify. The bright side is that the way the Jury of Appeals is rolling, that probably guarantees him a bronze medal.

MEN’S SHOT: In what has so far been an amazing year in the shot, pundits were projecting that the IAAF had gotten it all wrong, setting the auto-Q too low, at 68-7 (20.90). But that turned out to be spot-on, as exactly the desired 12 exceeded that, including all 3 Americans (Ryan Crouser, Darrell Hill & Joe Kovacs). The farthest put belonged to slight formchart favorite Tom Walsh of New Zealand at 71-11 (21.92). The big surprise of the round came from unheralded Armin Sinančević, who upped his PR all the way from 68-½ (20.74) to a Serbian Record 70-7 (21.51). It was the deepest Q-round ever, as non-advancers 13-14-15 all threw farther than the previous non-qualifier ever had. The last qualifier hit 68-7¾ (20.92) to make it to the final.

WOMEN’S 1500: A tale of two semis… that couldn’t have been more different. In the first, a pedestrian early pace (2:28.25). The next lap took just 63.81 and the final 300, a blistering 42.08. Sifan Hassan kicked to a 4:14.69, with Shelby Houlihan 2nd in 4:14.91. Semi II got a gift of sorts when Ethiopia’s Gudaf Tsegay decided it would get the time qualifiers. She burned a 63.79, 2:10.31, 3:15.06 pace. On the final stretch, Jenny Simpson slipped past on the inside to win in a stunning 4:00.99. (It wasn’t the fastest semi ever—Tatyana Kazankina ran 3:59.12 at the Moscow Olympics in ’80—however, it was the fastest in World Championship history.) Nikki Hiltz earned the last time qualifier with her PR 4:01.52, as all the top picks made it through. Now will the semi II qualifiers be able to recover for the final on Saturday?

WOMEN’S TRIPLE JUMP: Form was followed nicely in the 3-bounce qualifying round, Jamaica’s Shanieka Ricketts led the way at 47-3¾ (14.42) as no major contender was eliminated. The last of 5 to make the auto-Q of 46-11 (14.30) was top American Keturah Orji, right on that mark. AR holder Tori Franklin qualified as the No. 9 performer with her 46-8¼ (14.23). ◻︎