Doha Report: Day 6

Today we enter new territory with both the Decathlon and the Heptathlon being held at the same time.

Our Oceania hope in the Decathlon is Cedric Dubler (AUS), familiar to all of those who have taken part in the many Oceania competitions over the years.

By the end of the first day’s competition, which finished late at night with the 400m, we saw familiar faces atop the leader’s board.  With 4513 points, Canada’s Damian Warner was a narrow leader over fellow countryman Pierce Lepage who had amassed 4486 points. France’s Kevin Mayer was a miniscule 3 points adrift on 4483 points.  Damian is hoping to make up for disappointments in major championships in recent years. He has made an excellent start. Damian won the Pan-Am Decathlon in July.

Cedric Dubler was was in 14th position with 4135 points.

In the Heptathlon, overnight leader was Katarina Johnson-Thompson (GBR) on 4138, well clear of Belgium’s Nafissatou Thiam with 4042 points. Currently in third position is Kendell Williams (USA) on 3855 points.

Nafi is the current Olympic, World and European Champion, while Katarina is the current World Indoor and European Indoor Pentathlon Champion and the current Commonwealth Heptathlon Champion. Their clash on Day Two of the Heptathlon is likely to be epic.

In the Women’s Shot Put, from New Zealand we have Madison-Lee Wesche (best so far this year of 18.32m), who is keeping the Kiwi flag flying until we can have both her and Dame Valerie back together in the same competition. A big howdy to Val from Doha. We miss you.

photo credit: Alisha Lovrich

In the qualifying round Madison-Lee threw the shot a distance of 17.22m to finish in 25th position. Leading the qualifiers was Jamaican Danniel Thomas-Dodd with 19.32m. Danniel is yet another Jamaican field event specialist who has started to make a name for herself in a country that seemed for years to just produce sprinters.

Georgia Griffith, Jessica Hull and Linden Hall (all AUS) lined up in the three heats of the Women’s 1500m. Sifan Hassan (NED) chose the 1500m over the 5000m. As expected, Sifan was the fastest qualifier with 4:03.88, marginally ahead of Faith Kipyegon (KEN) with 4:03.93. All three Australians qualified for the next round with their times being Georgia (4:07.73), Linden (4:08.12) and Jessica (4:08.71)

Nicholas Hough (AUS) lined up in semi-final 3 of the Men’s 110m Hurdles, and failed to qualify for the final, with a time of 13.61 seconds. The fastest qualifiers were Omar McLeod (JAM – 13.08), Grant Holloway (USA – 13.10) and Pascal Martinot-Lagarde (FRA – 13.12).

Steven Solomon (AUS) was up against Kirani James (GRN) and Steven Gardiner (BAH) in semi-final 2 of the Men’s 400m. Hard to push those two aside to claim your spot in the final! Steven Gardiner won in 44.13 from Kirani James with a time of 44.23. They were the #1 and #2 fastest in the semi-finals. Steven Solomon finished in 8th position in his semi with a season’s best time of 45.54 seconds.  Five of the eight finalists are Islanders from the Caribbean. Go the islands!

As expected Pawel Fadjek (POL) won the Men’s Hammer Throw with a Round 4 effort of 80.50m. Silver went to Quentin Bigot (FRA – 78.19m) and the bronze to Bence Halasz (HUN – 78.18m). How close can you get for 2nd and 3rd?

Pawel continues to be the dominant figure in the Hammer Throw, winning the gold in Moscow (2013), Beijing (2015), London (2017) and now in Doha. He saves his best for World Championships, and surprisingly has not won at Olympic or European Championship level.

Sarah Carli (AUS) and Lauren Boden (AUS) competed in semi-finals 2 & 3 of the Women’s 400m Hurdles. They ran into too many top quality athletes and found it extremely difficult to qualify for the final. Expect to see a great final with the new world record holder, Dalilah Muhammed (USA – 53.91) and Sydney McLaughlin (USA – 53.81) battling it out down the final straight in their race for global and US supremacy.

Sarah Carli recorded a time of 55.43 seconds for a good personal best, and Lauren Boden clocked 55.94 seconds.

The Women’s 5000m heats saw two Oceania athletes in action. Camille Buscomb (NZL) finished 9th fastest to qualify for the final. Her time of 15:02.19 was a 17 second personal best. Well done. Australia’s Melissa Duncan clocked 15:37.37 and did not qualify for the final. 

As expected Hellen Obiri (KEN) was the fastest qualifier in 14:52.13, marginally ahead of Karissa Schweizer (USA) with 14:52.41 and Ethiopia’s Hawi Feysa with 14:53.85.  No surprise that there are three finalists from both Kenya and Ethiopia. The huge Ethiopian and Kenyan crowds on the back straight will no doubt turn up again for that final. They will have many flags and be producing non-stop noise and cheering trying to outdo each other. The announcer will have no chance to quieten them for the start of any race.

Leading qualifiers for the Women’s Discus were Yaime Perez (CUB – 67.78m), Denia Caballero (CUB – 65.86m) and Sandra Perkovic (CRO – 65.20m). They are currently ranked #1, #2 & #3 in the world. They performed up to expectations.

Sandra is a two-time Olympic Champion (2012 & 2016), two-time World Champion (2013 & 2017) and five-time European Champ (2010, 2012, 2014, 2016 & 2018). Is she about to lose her crown to Cuba? For years she was unbeatable.

Britain has had exceptionally good crowd support in Doha. It is partly due to the large number of people who travelled from the home country and partly because of the very large expatriate community. They turned up in force today because they knew that it was their best chance for a gold medal.  The object of all of their cheering and affection was Dina Asher-Smith, who was about to take on the best of the rest, and was expected to win.

Dina delivered and even more. She won the 200m in a new national record of 21.88 seconds. In second place was the American, Brittany Brown (22.22) and in third, a totally overwhelmed Mujinga Kambundji from Switzerland (22.51).

The last final of the night was full of drama. It was the Men’s 110m Hurdles, with Grant Holloway (USA) having a fast time of 12.98 leading into the championship and Spain’s Orlando Ortega even faster with 12.94 seconds. Add to the mix the expectation that Omar McLeod from Jamaica had the credentials to win – having claimed the gold in Rio (2016) and London (2017).

Grant Holloway got away well from the gun and was in the lead, but Omar McLeod seemed to be gaining – until the eighth hurdle that is. Omar hit it, lost perfect balance and hit the ninth, losing even more equilibrium and then came to total grief at the tenth hurdle. He seemed to interfere with Orlando Ortega in the process forcing him out of his lane. Did that affect the final outcome of the race? I will leave it up to those closer to the action to decide. Certainly it was high drama. Has the Jury of Appeal heard the last of this yet?

There was no doubting Grant Holloway’s delight at the win. Oh, by the way the times in the final were – Grant Holloway (USA -13.10),  Sergey Shubenkov (ANA -13.15) and Pascal Martinot-Lagarde (FRA – 13.18).  Omar McLeod was disqualified. I did not see him make it to the line, but I guess he managed to do so, and avoid a DNF! Have also heard that he did a hamstring in his surge to catch Grant.

Seb Coe has made a spirited defence of the Doha World Championships, saving many of his barbs for some members of the British media who seem obsessed with small crowds and ignore the wonderful, high-level competition that has been seen day after day. I can attest to the quality of the performance and the excitement level in the Khalifa Stadium when the top athletes produce top performances. And there have been many – and it is not over yet. Four more days to go with 24 more gold medals to be decided.