Written by Bob Snow – Oceania Athletics Life Member

The first of a 3 part review of the World Championships. Today, we bring you Days 1 through 4.

Day One

 The first Pacific Islanders in action were those participating in the Men’s 100m Preliminary Round. This round is for those athletes who have not achieved the automatic qualifying time of 10.12 seconds. To qualify for the First Round, runners had to come in the first 3 of each heat and then being joined by those with the next two fastest times. The slowest to qualify for advancement ran the time of 10.71 seconds.

Heat #1

Dysard Dageago (NRU)  7th position in the time of 11.60 (+1.4)

Heat #2

Jeki Lanki (MHL) 5th position in 11.91 (+1.1)

Mobera Tonana (KIR) 6th in 11.91 seconds

Ielu Tamoa (TUV) 7th in 12.12 seconds

Heat #3

Paul Ma’unikeni (SOL) 7th position with a time of 11.31 (+0.90)

Heat #4

Scott James Fiji (FSM) 6th position in the time of 11.23 (+0.7)

Gwynn Uehara (PLW) 7th position in 11.47 seconds.

While the 100m Preliminary Round was underway, on the field Alex Rose (SAM) was competing in the Discus Qualifying Round.  He finished in 19th position overall with a distance of 61.62m. The top 12 progressed to the final with 63.23m being the cut-off mark.

Fellow Samoan competitor, Jeremy Dodson gained automatic entry to the First Round of the 100m, courtesy of his Oceania Championship win in June.  In the 4th Heat he ran the time of 10.52 seconds (-0.2) to finish in 7th position – 42nd position overall. The slowest time to proceed to the semi-final was 10.24 seconds.

In front of a full house, the home crowd roared home their favourite, Sir Mohamed Farah, in the 10000m final in the very quick time of 26:49.51. It was a classic race and one of the best fields ever. With just the 5000m still to be run, Mo Farah is close to his retirement from track racing. He will next take to the lucrative road running circuit.

Those who were there to join the long and joyous farewell of Usain Bolt saw him win his heat in the slow time (for him that is) of 10.07 seconds. Once he gets used to the new blocks he expects to run faster – and he will have to. How is his back injury?

Australia’s Fabrice Lapierre made it to the Long Jump final with his second jump of 7.91m. In the final on the following day, Fabrice finished in 11th position with a leap of 7.93m.

Zoe Buckman (AUS) qualified for the semi-finals of the 1500m with a time of  4:05.44, coming up against Genzebe Diaba (ETH) and Caster Semenya (RSA) in her heat. In the W PV, New Zealand’s Eliza McCartney qualified for the final with her jump of 4.50m.

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Day Two

In the Men’s 400m heats only one Islander participated. Running in Heat 5 in Lane 4, Sailosi Tubuilagi finished the race in the time of 48.98 second in 9th position.  He had to contend with (among others) LaShawn Merritt (USA) and Isaac Makwala (BOT) – both with pb’s under 44 seconds.. A very tough ask with only the first three and the next six fastest progressing to the semi-finals.

In the Women’s 100m Heats we saw the Pacific Games, and current Oceania Champion, Toea Wisil (PNG) up against a very tough field with five runners having a faster seasonal best than Toea. Her time in Heat 1 was 11.41 (+1.3) and she finished in 5th position.

Patricia Taea (COK) competed in Heat 3 and established a new National Record when she finished in 7th position with a time of 12.18 seconds (-0.3mps).

In Heat 4 was Hereiti Bernardino (PYF) who finished 8th in the time of 12.88 (0.0)

Zarinae Sapong (NMI) was in the 6th and final heat where she ran 13.29 (+0.6) for a new personal best.

To qualify for the next round, athletes had to finish in the top three in their heat and were then joined by those with the next six fastest times. The slowest qualifier ran 11.32 seconds. There was no preliminary round for the Women’s 100m event.

New Zealand did well in the Men’s Shot Put Qualifying with Tomas Walsh leading the pack with a season’s best throw of 22.14m.  Jacko Gill also goes on to the final with a throw of 20.96m.

With the USA having four qualifiers for the semi-finals in the Men’s 400m they look to have a lock on the 4 x 400m Relay, closely followed by Jamaica and Botswana. A fantastic event to finish the London 2017 World Championships. That will come on Day Ten.

South Africa won gold and bronze in the Men’s Long Jump – Luvo Manyonga (8.48m) and Ruswahl Samaai (8.32m). Looks as though RSA could be in for a good meet with some strong prospects for gold yet to come.

Lithuania is no stranger to gold in the Men’s Discus. This time the honours went to Andrius Gudzius with a throw of 69.21m.

What can one say about Almaz Ayana (ETH) that has not already been said. She tore apart the Women’s 10000m field, just as she did in Rio, and in her first race over this distance this season, she won by 45 seconds in the time of  30:16.32 – for a 2017 World Leading Performance.

The day ended with high drama. Usain Bolt won his first senior international bronze medal. He was beaten by his long-time nemesis, Justin Gatlin. After Usain congratulated Justin, he set out on a “victory lap” of the stadium to soak up the adulation of the adoring crowd. Very little was seen of the winner as the entire media focus was on the third-place getter.

Our sport will sorely miss Usain Bolt. He has helped Athletics through very difficult times in recent years. His talent, charisma, and fantastic ability with public relations, has made our sport the centre of world attention. We hope that some of these talents can be utilized by the IAAF in the years ahead.

Can he be replaced by an equally towering figure – only time will tell. Many will try, but the tall Jamaican is a once in a lifetime athlete. Having said that, there are many fantastic athletes on the world stage, and we look forward to see them weave their magic in the months and years ahead.  New heroes will emerge and world records will be broken – but comparisons will always be made. Jesse Owen’s special charm and talent is still acknowledged today more than 80-years after the Berlin Olympics. The legend of Usain Bolt will last as long.

How can one disagree with Sebastian Coe that life bans will eventually be introduced for drug-cheats? The policy will have to be a nuanced to take into account athletes who inadvertently take a ‘dodgy” cough syrup, contaminated food, or ill-advised weight-loss medicine, but genuine drug-cheats who are only taking chemicals to artificially improve performance – well they are a blight on every sport. Let us hope that all will be resolved in 2019.

While we are at it, it would be sensible to look at some of the world records that have stood the test of time (again and again) and are currently well beyond the reach of today’s athletes. The process is afoot, but is far from being clear-cut and universally accepted. One hopes that when the policy is announced it will not be overturned by an appeals’ system that looks only at the individual, and not the overall health and viability of the sport.

Day Three

The only Pacific Islander in action today was Ephraim Lerkin (PNG) in the 400m Hurdles. Ephraim finished in 7th position in Heat 2 in the time of 52.36 seconds.

In the M PV, Australia’s Kurtis Marschall qualified for the final with a height of 5.60m.

Tomas Walsh (NZL) won the SP with a throw of 22.03m. His 3rd, 4th and 6th attempts were all good enough to get the gold. I am sure that Dame Valerie is very proud of her compatriot. Jacko Gill (NZL) came 9th with 20.82m.

The Men’s Marathon was won by Geoffrey Kirui of Kenya (2:08:27), and the Women’s Marathon by Rose Chelimo of Bahrain (2:27:11). Australia’s Jess Trengove finished in 9th position (2:28:59). Five of the top seven in the Women’s Marathon, were Kenyans, representing Kenya and Bahrain – another of the issues that the IAAF is taking seriously.

Olympic Champion, Ekaterini Stefanidi (GRE) won the W PV with a leap of 4.91m, with NZL’s Eliza McCartney jumping 4.55m to finish in 9th position. The Heptathlon also won by the current Olympic Champion, Nafissatou Thiam (BEL) with 6784 points.

The Women’s 100m Final saw another Olympic Champion defeated. Tori Bowie (USA – 10.85) narrowly defeated Marie-Josée Ta-Lou (CIV) by 1/100th of a second, with Jamaica’s gold medal winner from Rio, Elaine Thompson finishing in 5th position. Marie-Josée lost the race because she did not dip at the end. She was clearly in front with a couple of metres to go. Tori’s spectacular dip and fall won her the gold, just like happened in the Women’s 400m Final last year in Rio.

This came on the day that Australia’s “Golden Girl”, Betty Cuthbert passed away at the age of 79 years. Betty is the only athlete (male or female) to ever have won Olympic Gold in the 100m, 200m and 400m.

Tomas Walsh

Day Four

The Men’s 200m Heats saw Paul Nalau (VAN) and Jeremy Dodson (SAM) in action. In Heat 4 Paul Nalau was disqualified, and in the following heat Jeremy Dodson finished in 6th position with a time of 20.81 (-0.6).

Venezuela won its first ever gold medal in an IAAF World Championship when Yulimar Rojas won the W TJ with a jump of 14.91m (-0.4) to defeat the reigning Olympic Champion, Caterine Ibarguen (COL) by 2cm. Good results for these South American neighbours.

Anita Wlodarczyk (POL) continued her domination of the W HT with a convincing win with a distance of 77.90m. Omar Mcleod (JAM), also a Rio Olympic Champion, won the M 110mH in 13.04 (0.0).

In the most sensational race of the day, the W 1500m Final, Kenya’s Faith Kipyegon won a fiercely competitive race from Jennifer Simpson (USA) and Caster Semenya (RSA) in the time of 4:02.59 – with only 3/10th of a second covering all of the medal winners. Faith has won gold in the IAAF U18, U20 and now the Senior World Championships, as well as the gold in Rio.

At the start of the day’s competition there was a minute’s silence to acknowledge the passing of the Australian great Betty Cuthbert.  Athletics Australia tweeted  – ”A fitting tribute to one of the greatest who ever competed”.  R.I.P. Betty – the nation and the sporting world mourn you.

 

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