Kenya lies second, questions abound

By sportsnewsarena correspondent
Aug 13, 2017
  • Asha Philip, Deriree Henry, Dina Asher-Smith and Daryll Neita of Great Britain celebrate winning silver in the Women’s 4×400 Metres Final. (Getty Images for IAAF)

Kenya, with a haul of eight medals, three gold, one silver and three bronze was placed second before the final day of the IAAF World Athletics Championships in Londoon.

USA took the podium with 27 medal, nine gold, 10 silver and eight bronze while Poland with seven medals comprising two gold, two silver and three bronze. Ethiopia and hosts Great Britain and Ireland were fourth with two gold and two bronzemedals.

South Africa completed the top six with five medals, two gold, one silver and two bronze.

On the final day, Sunday, Kenya could increase the medal tally with a strong representation in the women’s 5000m and 1500m. Sheila Chepkirui Kiprotich, Margaret Chelimo and Hellen Obiri lined up in the women’s 5000m while Elijah Manangoi, Timothy Cheruiyot and Asbel Kiprop were due to compete in the men’s 1599m.

Mary Wambui was Kenya’s sole representative in the women’s 800m while Samuel Gathumbi and Simon Wachira line up in the men’s 20km race walk.

Questions about team selection, training methods and tactics abound after the USA, for the first time took the two top positions in the women’s 3000m steeplechase and Kenya struggled in the men’s category.

Seven gold medals were decided on the penultimate night of action at the London stadium, with the Great Britain men’s and USA women’s sprint relay teams, Australia’s sprint hurdler Sally Pearson and Germany’s Johannes Vetter in the javelin among the victors.

There was disappointment for Usain Bolt and Mo Farah, as they exited the global stage.

Day nine of the IAAF World Championships was always supposed to deliver a gold for Great Britain, but few people expected it to come in the 4x100m relay, particularly given the identity of Jamaica’s anchor runner.

This was supposed to be Usain Bolt’s final moment of glory, but instead the roof was raised by the British quartet’s European-record-setting, gold medal-winning run.

CJ Ujah, Adam Gemili, Danny Talbot and Nethaneel Mitchell-Blake scorched to 37.47, their world lead enough to beat a US team comprising Mike Rodgers, the individual 100m champion Justin Gatlin, Jaylen Bacon and individual silver medallist Christian Coleman by 0.05.

Bolt, hoping for a fairy-tale ending, pulled up with cramp 70 metres from the line while hoping to improve his Jamaica team’s third place.

Instead, Japan took the bronze on a penultimate night of a championships where the expected script has been repeatedly rewritten.

Shared sentiment

Bolt may have been disappointed to end his career without another title and it was a sentiment shared by Mo Farah in the 5000m earlier in the evening.

The capacity crowd expected him to deliver the second British gold that they had craved since he took the 10,000m crown last Friday.

But it was Ethiopia’s Muktar Edris, the fastest man in the world over the 12-and-a-half lap distance in 2017, who ended up performing Farah’s signature Mobot after crossing the finish line in 13:32.79.

In a tactical race, the 23-year-old 2012 world U20 champion produced a blistering kick over the final 300 metres that the 34-year-old defending champion couldn’t replicate.

So the gold goes to an Ethiopian for the first time since 2009, when Kenenisa Bekele was the victor.

USA’s Olympic silver medallist Paul Chelimo made the podium again, outsprinting Yomif Kejelcha in the final metres.

Vetter wins javelin

Following Thursday’s best ever qualifying competition for a major championships javelin final, in which 13 men exceeded 83 metres and Germany’s Johannes Vetter threw 91.20m, expectations were set to high for more fireworks.

It was always going to be difficult to live up to such a high level of expectation and so it proved, although spectators were still treated to a competition full of drama and quality.

Many of the best marks were achieved in the early rounds and, indeed, the winning throw was Vetter’s first, nobody able to match his 89.89m.

Vetter had hoped to be joined on the podium by his two German teammates, Olympic champion Thomas Rohler and Andreas Hoffman, but instead it was the Czech pair Jakub Vadlejch and Petr Frydrych who took silver and bronze.

These were their first global medals of any sort, achieved in a competition in which 83.98m, Hoffman’s best throw, could only place eighth.

Maria Lasitskene restored a sense of order

In a week where favourites haven’t always found themselves taking home the gold medal, Maria Lasitskene restored a sense of order, retaining the title that she won in Beijing in 2015 with a 2.03m leap.

Competing as a neutral athlete, the 24-year-old failed and then passed at 1.99m, but had an otherwise clean record before her three failures at 2.08m, which would have been a personal best and national record.

Her closest challenger on the night was Yuliia Levchenko of Ukraine, this year’s European U23 champion, who was the only other athlete over 2.00m with a personal best 2.01m, while Poland’s Kamila Licwinko battled through for bronze in 1.99m.

Her first-time clearance at that height followed two failures at 1.97m and a failure each at 1.92m and 1.95m.

Return of Pearson

Australia’s 2012 Olympic champion Sally Pearson returned to the scene of her greatest triumph, defeating a high-class field to take her second world title in 12.59.

The 30-year-old experienced a tough couple of years, first suffering a badly fractured arm in 2015 and then a hamstring tear in 2016, which ruined her attempts to take gold at the World Championships and Rio Olympics.

Yet she scorched to victory here, securing a world crown for the first time since Daegu in 2011.

World record-holder Kendra Harrison got to hurdle one first, but faded under pressure from Pearson and could only manage fourth place in 12.74.

The Oceanian record holder led by a metre from hurdle two onwards and maintained that margin to the finish.

Pearson’s erstwhile rival Dawn Harper Nelson took second in 12.63, the finishing position that she secured at the same venue five years ago, while Germany’s Pamela Dutkiewicz took bronze.

Mayer takes decathlon

Olympic silver medallist Kevin Mayer, the overnight leader, took the decathlon title with a world-leading 8768, having at one stage threatened Ashton Eaton’s world record.

That was after a 13.75 clocking in the 110m hurdles, which was worth 1007 points and meant that if the French record holder could equal his personal bests in the remaining disciplines, 9116 might have been achieved.

In the end, a below par pole vault, where he could only manage 5.10m, 30 centimetres below his best, put paid to any talk of even a personal best, yet his marks of 47.14m in the discus, 66.10m in the javelin and a 4:36.73 1500m run meant he secured his first world title to add to the Olympic silver medal he won last year.

His margin of victory over Germany’s Rico Freimuth was 204 points, while Freimuth’s teammate Kai Kazmirek took bronze with 8488.

They switched positions from the day one standings, in part thanks to the former’s much superior 110m hurdles performance of 13.68 scoring 125 more points than Kazmirek’s 14.66.

Second gold medal

Tori Bowie took her second gold medal of the IAAF World Championships London 2017, anchoring the USA 4x100m team to victory in a world-leading 41.82, as they regained the crown that they last secured in Daegu six years ago.

In second, clocking 42.12, were Great Britain, the Olympic bronze medallists going one better than in Rio in front of an appreciative home crowd, while Jamaica, the champions in 2013 and 2015 but shorn in London of their double Olympic champion Elaine Thompson, took third in 42.19.

The Beijing Olympic Games in 2008 was the last time they didn’t occupy one of the top two spots in a sprint relay at a global championships. World-leading times are expected come 4x400m time at the IAAF World Championships and the USA, Olympic champions last year and six times the world champions, didn’t disappoint.

Running in the first of two semifinals, their quartet of Quanera Hayes, Kendall Ellis, Shakima Wimbley and Natasha Hastings sped to 3:21.66, in part thanks to a sub 50 first leg by Hayes and a 49.20 split by the 22-year-old Wimbley.

Great Britain took second in 3:24.74, a quicker time than they recorded in taking the bronze in Rio, while reigning champions Jamaica won the other semifinal, with their team of Anastasia Le-Roy, Anneisha McLaughlin-Whilby, Chrisann Gordon and Stephanie-Ann McPherson clocking 3:23.64.

Those three look the likely medallists, with the USA strong favourites for the title, although a national record for Botswana and solid qualifications from Nigeria and Germany suggest that challenges could come from elsewhere.

The tale of two semifinals

The men’s 4x400m was the tale of two semifinals, with the second race stacked with the teams most favoured to make the podium.

The top five all qualified, three automatically and two on time, headed by the United states with a world-leading 2:59.23, just ahead of Trinidad and Tobago and Belgium, both of whom also dipped under the three-minute barrier, with 2:59.35 and 2:59.47 respectively.

Great Britain and France joined them thanks to 3:00.10 and 3:00.93 clockings, both of which were quicker than Spain, the winner of the first race could manage.

The Spanish quartet, who ran 3:01.72, was joined by Poland, always a threat in the longer relay, and Cuba. Although on the morning’s evidence, all three will do well to finish ahead of the top five from the other semi when Sunday’s final comes around.

IAAF and SNA Correspondent