Doha Day 7: Report

The main focus of today has been to conclude the Decathlon and Heptathlon competitions. We expected slight changes in the order as athletes present themselves for their stronger, or weaker events. The leaders at the start of the day were quite clear. Would they be there after midnight when both events were due to finish with the Women’s 800m and the Men’s 1500m?

In the Heptathlon Katarina Johnson-Thompson (GBR) consolidated her lead over Nafi Thiam (BEL) with an excellent, and high scoring, Long Jump of 6.77m. A good start for her on Day Two. By the end of the Discus the leader in the Decathlon had changed from Damian Warner (CAN) to Kevin Mayer (FRA). More changes were to come.

A tearful Kevin Mayer (current World Record holder with 9126 points) was injured in the Pole Vault and withdrew from the event. Sad, seeing he had only just taken over the lead. Would it be good times ahead for Canada? It is hard to predict as with two events to go the points at the top of the field had “closed-up”, with the leading four having points of 7097 (Pierce Lepage – CAN), 7095 (Ilya Shkurenyov – ANA), 7073 (Maicel Uibo – EST) and 7073 (Damian Warner – CAN). At this stage Cedric Dubler was in 11th position, in a large cluster of athletes within 20 points of each other.

The lead continued to change and the unexpected winner was Niklas Kaul (GER) with a personal best 8691 points, well clear of Maicel Uibo (EST) on 8604 points and Damian Warner (CAN) on 8529 points. Niklas’s win was due partly from his fantastic Javelin throw of 79.05m, which was worth 1028 points.  Cedric Dubler maintained his 11th position with 8108 points. Observers felt with his normally good pole vault he would have finished in 8th position – but that is the nature of the sport, especially in the Decathlon.

The Women’s Triple Jump qualifying took place in the late afternoon. The leading contenders were Yulimar Rojas (VEN), Caterine Ibarguen (COL) and Sanieka Ricketts (JAM). Situation normal.

Caterine has been a major force in this event for the past decade and has won the World Championships twice (Moscow 2013 and Beijing 2015), and the Olympic Games in Rio in 2016. She has done it all. Yulimar has won the World Indoor Title twice, the World Championships in London in 2017, this year’s Pan Am Games Title, and a silver in Rio (2016).  I would guess that Yulimar is set to take over the mantle as #1 in the Women’s Triple Jump, after Caterine has held it for so long. How good is my guess work? (Hey, no crystal ball needed here. That is the general consensus of most who follow the sport).

All of the usual suspects had automatic qualifiers for the final. The 12th qualifier jumped 14.12 for her little “q”, and those with a big “Q” went over 14.30m.

Tomas Walsh and Jacko Gill, both of New Zealand, have a top field of Shot Put specialists to tackle tonight. Tom is ranked 3rd in this field with his year’s best of 22.44m, and Jacko Gill is ranked 15th with his distance of 21.47, Top guns are the USA’s Ryan Crouser (22.74m) and Darian Romani (BRA – 22.61m).

Photo credit: Alisha Lovrich

Tom has big-time credentials being the defending champ, having won in London (2017). He also has gold from two World Indoor Championships (2016 & 2018) and the Gold Coast Commonwealth Games in 2018. In the Rio Olympics he won the bronze medal.

Jacko won the World Juniors in Moncton in 2010 at the tender age of 15 years and 213 days – even younger than Usain Bolt, who was 119 days older when he won his first World Junior gold. Jacko successfully defended his U20 title in Barcelona in 2012. He has won two Oceania Area Championships in 2014 on Rarotonga in the Cook Islands and this year in Townsville.

With the Shot Put qualifying being 20.90m, Tom Walsh easily threw more than a metre over that distance. There were eight automatic qualifiers from Group A. Did they make it too easy?  No, they did not, and in the end only 12 qualified. From Group B Jacko Gill qualified with his first throw of 21.12m. Two from Oceania through to the final – in 1st and 7thplace at this stage.

In Beijing in 2015, Tomas came 4th (21.58m) and Jacko came 8th (20.11m). Two years later Tomas won the gold in London with a throw of 22.03m and Jacko came 9th with 20.82m.  What is it about Kiwis and the Shot Put? Is it the Manuka honey? Whatever it is, it is good to see them keeping it alive and thriving. More than just thriving.

Eight of the contestants have thrown over 22 metres this year. Whoever wins will well and truly deserve the gold.

Have just watched the medal ceremony for the Men’s Hammer Throw. There were two bronze medals. I am still trying to get my head around the reason for that, but it seems to involve an officiating problem and the IAAF trying for justice for the athlete concerned.  If so, what about a bronze medal for Orlando Ortega (ESP) in the 110m Hurdles Final as he seemed to be heading for the bronze, or possibly silver, before Omar McLeod’s spectacular finish to the event, forced him out of his lane.  This one is being debated far and wide around Doha – and possibly in more remote jurisdictions.

The medal ceremony for the Men’s 100m Hurdles is now underway. Good on the IAAF, they finally decided to award Orlando Ortega (ESP) a bronze medal. Justice is being seen to be done. Pleasing outcome, although one feels sorry for Omar McLeod, and also Orlando, who might have got the silver had he not been fouled.

The Men’s 1500m heats have 45 runners in the three heats. Hope that the track is not too overcrowded. The leading contenders, according to the form guide, are Timothy Cheruyiot (KEN – 3:28.77), Jakob Ingebrigtsen (NOR – 3:30.16) and Roland Musagala (UGA – 3:30.58).  The Oceania athletes competing are Ryan Gregson (AUS), Matthew Ramsden (AUS) and Stewart McSweyn (AUS). 

The second heat had plenty of drama with first Matthew Ramsden, and then Tedesse Lemi (ETH) being tripped and hitting the deck. 

Stewart McSweyn, realising that he could easily be passed by the speed-merchants in the field took to the front of the pack in his heat, but sadly he did not put enough distance between him and those chasing. They passed him en-masse coming down the home straight, but in the end this heat was quite fast, and Stewart ended up being the 10th fastest of the 24 who progress to the semi-finals. His fast early pace paid off, even though he finished only in 9th position in his heat with a time of 3:36.88 – he was faster than the winner in the first heat (Jakob Ingebrigtsen – NOR) and nearly as fast the winner of the second heat (Timothy Cheruiyot – KEN).

The results of heats 2 and 3 of the Men’s 1500m took some time to be released, and eventually they decided to add Matthew Ramsden and Tedesse Lemi to the semi-final fields. Another fair, and pleasing decision.

The Final of the Women’s Shot Put was set up for a big night as Jamaica tried to become the first Caribbean nation to win this event. Danniel Thomas-Dodd (JAM) finished in 4th position in London two years ago, and was now the leading qualifier. She is only third on the ranking list, but who can tell with late season form deserting many athletes. The favourite was still Gong Lijao (CHN) who won in London in 2017, silver in Beijing in 2015, bronze in Moscow 2013, Daegu 2011 and Berlin 2009 and a mere 6th in Osaka 2007. Those are serious credentials that are not to be overlooked.

Gong Lijiao (CHN) won the final with a throw of 19.55m, marginally ahead of Danniel Thomas-Dodd (JAM) with 19.47m and Christina Schwanitz (GER) with a throw of 19.17m. Incredibly there were only three women over 19 metres! That is the shortest gold medal throw in the history of the IAAF World Championships. All four of Valerie Adams’ gold medal performances were with throws of over 20m or 21m.

With three athletes in the semi-finals of the Women’s 1500m, there was a lot of Oceania interest. Georgia Griffith (AUS), Jessica Hull (AUS) and Linden Hall (AUS) were trying to get in the top five in their heats, and it was potentially an exciting time for Team Australia. Sifan Hassan (NED), Laura Muir (GBR) and Faith Kipyegon (KEN) look very good on paper – and on the track too.

In the first semi-final Georgia Griffith finished in 10th with the time of 4:17.15. In the second semi Jessica Hull ran a great race, and while she was 8th, and did not qualify for the final, she was rewarded with a personal best time of 4:01.80. Linden Hall ran 4:06.34 to come 10th in the same semi. Disappointingly no Aussies in the final.

Fastest qualifier was Jenny Simpson (USA) with 4:00.99, marginally ahead of Gabriela Debues-Stafford (CAN) and Laura Muir. The real favourites for the final, Sifan Hassan (NED – 4:14.69) and Faith Kipyegon (KEN – 4:14.98) were lucky enough to be in a very, very slow semi-final and could progress to the final with their leisurely run.

Tonight we saw the Shaunae Miller-Uibo (BAH) and Salwa Eid Nasser (BAH) rivalry front-and-centre in the Khalifa Stadium. Everyone was hoping for a sub-49 second result from whichever athlete won – or from two or more! I was not quite ready for the result that emerged. 

Such a huge win for the young Bahraini athlete. Salwa had a huge lead over Shaunae coming into the final straight, and while Shaunae did greatly reduce the gap, it was never going to be enough to get the gold. The winning time was 48.14 seconds with 2nd being 48.37 for an Area Record. Stunning times. In third place was Shericka Jackson (JAM – 49.47 for a PB).

Salwa recorded the 3rd fastest ever, being beaten only by the impossible 47.60 seconds WR by Marita Koch (East Germany – 1985) and the 47.99 by Jarmila Kratochvilova (Czechoslovakia – 1983 in the First IAAF World Championships in Helsinki). Out of competition drug testing came after the 1988 Olympics, and nobody has run as fast ever since.  Interesting to note that the countries of the two athletes mentioned no longer exist since the collapse of the Eastern Bloc of Communist countries and the Iron Curtain rusted away.

The fastest time for the 400m since 2000 had been 48.70 by Sanya Richards-Ross of the USA in 2006.

Still stunned by the transformation that Salwa has undertaken in recent years. When I first saw her run, she was competing in extremely modest Islamic sporting clothes – including the hijab. Her modern Western-style nowadays, is in marked contrast. Her name, when she was born in Nigeria in 1998 was Ebelechukwu Agbapuonwu.  It would be wonderful if she could eventually get down to, and beat, that WR of 47.60 seconds. I would love to see a current athlete do that. Either Salwa or Shaunae probably have the ability to do so.

Today we had the Oceania Area Lunch at a local restaurant. It was a good opportunity for the Island representatives (officials and athletes) who are still in Doha to meet informally and mix with the officials from Australia and New Zealand. Adrine Monagi (PNG), who is due to compete on Saturday in the 100m Hurdles, had the opportunity to meet her idol, World, Olympic and Commonwealth Champion, Sally Pearson, who is in Doha working with Team Australia. Good to see so many IAAF staff joining us to enjoy a period of relaxation before the long night programme commenced.

Prior to the lunch we had a short speech of welcome by outgoing Oceania President (and newly elected Vice-President of the IAAF), Geoff Gardner, and a few words from the IAAF President Seb Coe.