Thursday’s action at the 2019 IAAF World Championships in Doha saw four titles decided with the emphasis on the multi-event athletics as both the decathlon and heptathlon gold medals were decided.
The decathlon saw a massive turnaround in the closing events of the second day. World record holder Kevin Mayer was leading prior to the pole vault although it was clear he was nursing an injury. After two unimpressive attempts at his opening height it became clear that he was losing the battle with his body and Mayer retired from the competition. Another medal contender, Linden Victor of Grenada, had already fouled out of the discus. This led to an almost unheard of six-way battle for the gold in the last two disciplines. Young German Niklaus Kaul entered the title picture by throwing the javelin 79.06 metres which was fully seven metres and a hundred points better than any of his rivals. This still left Kaul in third place but only 19 points behind leader Maicel Uibo and the German was known to be a far better 1500m runner than the rest of the field. Kaul finished 16 seconds of Uibo to clinch the title though the Estonian held off Damian Warner to take home the silver. Kaul is the youngest man to win a global decathlon title since 1948.
The heptathlon was always expected to be a contest between Nafti Thiam of Belgium and Katarina Johnston-Thompson of Great Britain with a subplot concerning the Belgian’s recovery from an elbow injury. Thiam never quite seemed the dominant force she had been in previous years and when she could not produce her best in the javelin, Johnson-Thompson had all but secured the world title with one event remaining. The Briton broke Jessica Ennis’ national record but narrowly missed breaking the 7000-point mark.
If the favourites were beaten in the multi-events competitions the same was not true in the women’s shot put. Lijiao Gong came to Doha as favourite and left with the gold medal. The Chinese woman’s winning effort was the shortest gold medal throw in the history of the championships but enough to keep Danniel Thomas-Dodd behind her.
In contrast the women’s 400 metres final will be remembered for a very long time. Bahamian favourite Shauna Miller-Uibo could only match her husband Marcel’s feat of a silver medal though she moved up to sixth on the all-time world rankings list. The reason for Miller-Uibo’s defeat was a truly remarkable performance by Bahrain’s Salwa Eid Nasser. The Nigerian born Eid Nasser ran an astonishing 48.14, the fastest time recorded since 1983, to win gold for the Gulf state.
If Thursday’s star came from Bahrain then Friday belonged to the host nation, Qatar, and specifically high jumper Mutaz Essa Barshim. He survived a scare at 2m 33 cm but then jumped cleared at the next two heights to seal a popular victory. Akimenko and Ivanchuk completed a successful high jump championship for Russia under the guise of approved neutral athletes by taking silver and bronze respectively.
The women’s discus was an internal battle between the Cuban team. Perez beating Cabellero to the title by 30 centimetres. Olympic champion Sandra Perkovic salvaged a bronze medal from a difficult 2019 season.
Dalilah Mohammad saw her world record for the 400m hurdles broken after just 86 days in the world championship final. Fortunately for her, it was broken by Dalilah herself. She took the mark to 52.16 seconds but needed to do that to beat fellow American Sydney McLaughlin who posted the third best time in history only to find Mohammad just a little too good in this instance. Clayton of Jamaica was a second and a half further behind in third.
Then came the men’s steeplechase and one of the most dramatic finishes ever seen in a major championship. Lamecha Girma of Ethiopia led off the final hurdle but a desperate burst of pace from Conselsius Kipruto brought him into contention and a lunge for the line meant that nobody in the stadium which of the two had won. Finally, the scoreboard clicked over with the news that Kipruto had won by a hundredth of a second.
The men’s 400 m final was predicted to be decided between the American duo of Fred Kerley and Michael Norman, but Norman jogged in last in his semi-final then Kerley could only manage third in the final. The winner was the ultra-smooth Stephen Gardiner of the Bahamas who broke his national record with a time of 43.48 seconds. Kerley was narrowly beaten at the finish by Colombia’s Pan-American Games champion Anthony Zambrano.
The final race of the evening took place on the roads where there was another big night for Japanese racewalking. Toshikazu Yamanishi matched the effort of his compatriot Suzuki by winning the 20 km walk. He took the lead before the 8km mark and maintained a steady lead of around 15 seconds from then on. Perseus Kahlstrom of Sweden was the chaser for most of the second half of the race, but he was caught for silver by Russian Vasily Mizunov in the final thousand metres.