Doha Days Nine & Ten: Report by Bob Snow

Day Nine

Second last day, with most of the preliminary rounds having been already held, and only a few more to go.

Then last Pacific Islander to compete was Adrine Monagi in heat 1 of the 100m Hurdles event. There were also 3 competitors from Australia Brianna Beahan (the current Pacific Games Champion), Celeste Mucci and Michele Jenneke. With World and Olympic Champion having recently retired from the sport, Australia is looking for a new hurdling star. Do they have one in Doha?

The fastest qualifiers were Tobi Amusan (NGR – 12.48), Danielle Williams (JAM – 12.51) and Kendra Harrison (USA – 12.55).  The Australians finished with the 20th fastest time – Michelle Jenneke 12.98q,  23 fastest Brianna Beahan – 13.11 Q and 25th fastest Celeste Mucci – 13.14 seconds.  Adrine Monagi (PNG – 14.00) came within 1/100th of her season’s best, which was done in Apia in July.

The big news was the disqualification of Brianna McNeal (USA) for a false start. She is the current Olympic Champion and won the World Championships in 2013 in Moscow. Her personal best time is 12.26 seconds. It was sad to see her leave the field in tears.

In the Women’s Long Jump Qualifying, Brooke Stratton (AUS) was trying to find her early season form when she was top-ten ranked. She is competing with 31 athletes to be one of the 12 favoured ones to progress to tomorrow’s final. She managed 6.58m in Group A, and then had to wait to see if it was enough to progress. She was fifth in that group, so her chances were quite good of making the final.

Leading qualifiers were the German Malaika Mihambo (6.98m), Nigeria’s Ese Brume (6.89m) and the USA’s Tori Bowie (6.77m). They were the only jumpers over the 6.75m qualifying distance.

Shocked to see Brittney Reese (USA) seven times world champion (indoors and outdoors) and Olympic Champion, fail to qualify. Many of the “oldies” are reaching their retirement as the “newbies” emerge to take centre stage. Brittney, however, seemed to be eternal, and she is still a young 33-years old. Her pb is 7.31m done in 2016. That is serious jumping.

With both Groups’ results now in, Brooke Stratton can breathe easily again – well for now. Her 6.58m was 9th best and she is in tomorrow’s final.  Brittney Reese failed to progress by only 1cm. Cruel. Brittney has jumped 7.00m this year and was ranked #3.

The Men’s Javelin qualifying has now been completed, with 82.26m being the 12th position distance. The leader was Johannes Vetter (GER – 89.35m) from Magnus Girt (EST – 88.36m) and Anderson Peters (GRN – 85.34m) My favourites from the Caribbean and African Commonwealth countries have all progressed.

The Australian Women were in the first heat of the 4 x 400m Relay – with Bendere Oboya giving the team a great start. In the end we finished in 5th position in the time of 3:28.64 for a season’ best. The top qualifiers were the USA (3:22.96 WL), Jamaica (3:23.64) and Great Britain & NI (3:24.99). Overall Australia was in 10th position, just a little over 1 second away from progressing.

DOHA, QATAR – OCTOBER 05: Ian Halpin of Australia competes in the Men’s 4×400 metres relay heats during day nine of 17th IAAF World Athletics Championships Doha 2019 at Khalifa International Stadium on October 05, 2019 in Doha, Qatar. (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)

In the Men’s 4 x 400m heats, the top teams were the USA (2:59.89), Jamaica (3:00.16) and Belgium (3:00.87). The slowest to advance was Botswana (3:01.63).  Australia came 8th in its heat in 3:05.49. 

Tomas Walsh made a very strong statement with his first throw of the final – 22.90m, which was a very big personal best (NR & AR). It was the best throw in 29 years. He looked extremely happy, which probably made his opponents less than overjoyed. I was totally convinced that Oceania had its second gold in Doha.  Nothing is certain in this sport when super fit and highly trained athletes compete in such an arena.

The last three throws in the competition turned the medals upside down. Joe Kovacs (USA) threw 22.91m, and then he was followed by Brian Crouser (USA) who threw 22.90m. Tom lost the gold, and then the silver on a count back. High drama, but Tom at least came away from the competition knowing he had the bronze and another Area Record. Jacko Gill (NZL) came 7th with 21.45m. Tom had only one legal throw – his first. His last one was thought to be well over 23 metres, but he was unable to stay in the circle, and it was a foul. Pity it could not have been measured.

It has been called the best-ever Men’s Shot Put competition. Hard to disagree with that. It had long throws and much drama at the tail end of the sixth round.

The Women’s Triple jump is another event where the changing of the guard was confirmed. After dominating the event for so long, Caterine Ibarguen (COL) relinquished her crown to Venezuela’s Yulimar Rojas by 2cm in 2017. In Doha the gap has lengthened to become significant. Caterine looked to be in poor form early in the competition, and Yulimar was on top of her game. One of Yulimar’s jumps was beyond the World Record mark, but the red flag spoiled the party and thoughts of a seriously large cheque. (Caterine has been suffering from injuries this year).

In the end Caterine came back to win the bronze (14.73m), but could not beat the Jamaican Shanieka Ricketts for the silver (14.92), and of course Yulimar Rojas for the gold (15.37m). With the fourth best jump of all times, Yulimar has consolidated her place at the top. Caterine won a medal for the fifth championship in a row.

The Women’s 1500m Final was always going to be won by Siffan Hassan (NED). She took the lead after 280m and stayed a few metres ahead of the field until the bell, and then she took off. Many tried to catch her, and all failed. Her time was a Championship Record of 3:51.95. Faith Kipyegon (KEN) was second in 3:54.22 for a NR, and in third was Gudaf Tsegay (ETH) who ran a personal best of 3:54.38.

The Women’s 5000m, minus Siffan Hassan was much more open, but Hellen Obiri (KEN) certainly had the credentials to win. Camille Buscomb (NZL) was looking for a sub-15 minute time, after getting a big breakthrough in the heats.

Once Hellen Obiri took the lead in the race, you knew that she was going to be the likely winner. Hellen does not relinquish the lead easily. Her last lap, full of determination, ensured the win for Kenya (14:26.72 for a Championship Record), with team-mate, Margaret Kipkemboi coming in second (14:27.49). Surprise German athlete, Konstanze Klosterhalfen, ran a superb race (14:28.43), and managed to beat the Ethiopians in the field to get the bronze.

Camille Buscomb (NZL) got another personal best when she ran 14:58.59 for 12th position. Two personal bests in recent days. Camille can go home very pleased about her Doha experience.

The huge crowd was treated to the two 4 x 100m Relays to finish the second last night of competition.

There was an emphatic win by the Jamaican Women who were clear winners (41.44 WL) over Great Britain & NI (41.85), and then the USA (42.10). Switzerland finished in 4th place (42.18 for a NR). There was a tragi-comedy going on with the unfortunate Chinese runners who badly botched their last change and in their complete confusion they came home in over 69 seconds, but were subsequently disqualified.

The USA went into an early lead in the Men’s 4 x 100m, and then were never headed. Their time of  37.10 was a 2019 World leading performance. In second was Great Britain & NI (37.36 for an Area Record), Japan were third (37.43 for an Area Record) and in fourth Brazil (37.72 for yet another Area Record).

At a minute to midnight the Men’s Marathon started, with the 73 competitors running along the Corniche under the lights. It was a good early morning for Team Ethiopia, with a one-two finish. The gold went to Lelisa Desisa (2:10:40 – SB), and the silver to Mosinet Geremew (2:10:44). Kenya came third in 2:10:51 to make it quite a close finish for the medals.

In fourth position was Great Britain’s Callum Hawkins, 6 seconds behind the bronze medallist.  So near, yet so far, just as it was in London in 2017 when he also finished in fourth position.  We wish him better luck for Eugene 2021. Surely he deserves a medal of some description.

Malcolm Hicks from NZL came in 27th position (2:17:45), and his fellow countryman Caden Shields was 30th (2:18:08). The lone Australian, Julian Spence was 39th in 2:19:40.  By all accounts the temperatures last night on the Cornish were slightly down on the previous nights, but still quite trying. Fifty five athletes completed the course and there were eighteen athletes who did not finish.

Hope the world media appreciates the large crowds and the superb performances that have been produced day after day. Those of us in Doha know how good the competition has been, and it is a pity that the rest of the world does not seem to have the same information as those on the ground in Qatar. All media outlets seem to have their own agenda.  Dare I say it  –  Fake news!  (Yes, I did say it).

Day Ten

We began the final day of competition with the semi-finals of the Women’s 100m Hurdles. No clear favourite at this stage although the qualifiers in order are Danielle Williams (JAM), Nia Ali (USA), Tobi Amusan (NGR) and Kendra Harrison (USA).

Michelle Jenneke (AUS) clocked 13.09 seconds, and Brianna Beahan (AUS) ran 13.38 seconds. Neither progressed to the final.

The winner of the final in the time of 12.34 PB was Nia Ali (USA) from fellow American Kendra Harrison (12.46) and Danielle Williams from Jamaica (12.47 seconds).

DOHA, QATAR – OCTOBER 06: Nia Ali of the United States celebrates winning gold in the Women’s 100 metres hurdles final during day ten of 17th IAAF World Athletics Championships Doha 2019 at Khalifa International Stadium on October 06, 2019 in Doha, Qatar. (Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images for IAAF)

Malaika Mihambo (GER) started the Women’s Long Jump as a very strong favourite. She has dominated the event in 2019, and was the leading qualifier. She is the current European Champion, but 2019 has seen her reach new heights.

After a slow start to her campaign, Malaika soon hit her stride and with her third jump posted an unbeatable 7.30m – for a World Leading mark. She also had jumps of 7.09m and 7.16m. In second place was Maryna Bekh-Romanchuk (UKR – 6.92m) and in the bronze position, Ese Brume (NGR – 6.91m). Brooke Stratton (AUS) jumped 6.46m to finish in 10thposition.

In the Men’s 1500m if there is a favourite it would have to be Timothy Cheruiyot  (KEN), who has the world’s fastest time this year (3:28.77). Hot on his heels would be Jakob Ingebrigtsen (NOR – 3:30.16) and then Taoufik Makhloufi (MAR – 3:31.77). Who has the best late-season form, however, is more important. 

What a race it turned out to be. Stunning front running by the Kenyan duo of Timothy Cheruiyot and his pacemaker (?) Ronald Kwemoi. When Kwemoi came back to the pack, Cheruiyot had already built up an impossible lead. There was no way they could catch him. Julius Yego (KEN) was on the infield getting ready for his Javelin throw and he gave a big shout of encouragement to Timothy who continued to destroy this world class field. The winning time was 3:29.26, and more than 2 seconds back was silver medal winner, Taoufik Makhloufi (MAR – 3:31.38) and in the bronze medal position was Poland’s Marcin Lewandowski (3:31.46 for a new NR). 

Tanzania’s Filbert Bayi, one of the most famous front runners would have been proud of Timothy Cheruiyot. He won the 1500m at the 1974 Commonwealth Games in Christchurch – in world record time. (Check it out on YouTube).

In the Men’s Javelin there were only a small handful of automatic qualifiers. It was a very open competition with a whole host of throwers in the high 80 metre range.

The event was won by Grenada’s Anderson Peters with his Round 4 throw of 86.89m. In second place was Estonia’s Magnus Kirt, (who left the field of play on a stretcher), with his Round 2 throw of 86.21m. Bronze went to Johannes Vetter (GER – 85.37m).  The cheering Julius Yego (KEN) had three fouls! So glad an Islander won. I have been to Grenada in 1978 to watch cricket. Lovely place, about the size of the Kingdom of Tonga with only 110,000 people but good athletes.

In the Men’s 10000m Final, looking at the historical record, Kenya has won this event 3 times, but Ethiopia has won the gold on nine occasions. Will it be slow and tactical, or like in London (2017) fast and spectacular. I hope for a fast race with courageous front-running. Expect a large African spectator group to focus on this event – especially the Ethiopians and Kenyans. There are plenty of them around Doha with 88% of the Qatar population being foreign workers.

The race was fast from the start and the pack was soon reduced to 15, then 11 and then 8 for a large part of the race. They were all Africans representing five different countries.  The fans in the stand were in full voice and with much flag waving – especially those from Kenya and Ethiopia.

And the winner was – Uganda. The medals went to Joshua Cheptegei (UGA – 26:48.36 – WL), from Yomif Kejelcha (ETH – 26:49.34 PB) and Rhonex Kipruto (KEN – 26:50.32). Six athletes went sub-27 minutes. True class.

In the 4 x 400m Relays, always a fitting finale to any major (or minor) Athletics meet, the USA looks like taking home two more gold medals. The USA qualified fastest in both the Men’s and the Women’s events.

In the Women’s race the gold was decided within seconds as the US lead runner took off and built up a substantial lead. With the quality of their team it was a foregone conclusion that they would win the gold – barring a baton change mishap. It didn’t happen and they won clearly in the time of 3:18.92 for a 2019 World Leading performance. In second came Poland (3:21.89 – NR) and the bronze went to Jamaica (3:22.37 – SB).

The Men’s 4 x 400m Relay, being the last event of the 2019 IAAF World Athletics Championships, was expected to boost the US medal tally even more. Only a disaster could deny them the gold. The real interest will be for the minor medals.

There was no disaster and the USA won in the World Leading time of 2:56.69 from Jamaica (2:57.90 – SB), Belgium (2:58.78 SB) and in fourth was Colombia in 2:59.50 for a new National Record.

Can’t believe that it is over, and we now return to a much more “normal life” back in our home countries. Thanks Doha for the hospitality and the unique World Championships that you provided. I can vouch for all of those in the air-conditioned Khalifa Stadium that the temperatures there were pleasant and not at all difficult.  The outdoor events on the floodlit Corniche, will also remain in the memory of those who competed or were there as spectators, for a very long time!

DOHA, QATAR – OCTOBER 06: IAAF President Lord Sebastian Coe and President of Asian Athletics Association Dahlan al-Hamad attend a press conference on day ten of 17th IAAF World Athletics Championships Doha 2019 at Khalifa International Stadium on October 06, 2019 in Doha, Qatar. (Photo by Alexander Hassenstein/Getty Images for IAAF)

I would like to thank the IAAF for granting me accreditation to attend the championships. I also would like to thank my Oceania Athletics’ colleagues for their friendship, advice and company.  It has been a blast. Can’t wait for my next exciting Oceania or World Athletics event. I have several planned for 2020. 

Long live World Athletics.  – well at least from now onwards, and goodbye to the IAAF.  

Ma’a al-salamah (Goodbye and may peace be with you).