Doha – Day Two

acific Island Report – Bob Snow

Our only Islander in action today on the track was Zarinae Sapong (NMI) who ran in Heat 3 of the Women’s 100m, coming up against (among others) Elaine Thompson (JAM – who has run 10.73 this year) and Kelly-Anne Baptiste (TTO). Great privilege to be up against such significant runners.

Zarinae finished in 8th position in her heat in 13.14 seconds, with the winner being Elaine Thompson (JAM) in 11.14 seconds. We will not see the true form until tomorrow, when all of the best line-up in the semi-finals. I have a feeling that Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce (JAM), with her bright yellow flowing hair, might be in the mood to add yet another 100m title to her collection. The other runners will be trying as hard to deny her that ambition.

Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce and fellow Jamaican Elaine Thompson jointly have the year’s fastest time of 10.73 seconds set in Kingston in their national championships in June. Game on!  Who else do they have for their relay?

On the field, Alex Rose from Samoa finished in 21st position in the Men’s Discus Qualifying with a throw of 61.80m. Australia’s Matthew Denny finished with the 3rd best throw in the 32-strong field with his third, and final, throw of 65.08m. Is it too much to hope for a medal in the final?  Never – he looked good.

There were many heats and semi-finals throughout the day, but the highlights were the medal winning performances.

DeAnna Price from the USA won her country’s first ever medal in the Women’s Hammer Throw. She was ahead of the other 11 finalists from the first round onwards and her third round throw of 77.54m clinched the gold. Her celebrations were great to see as she slowly worked her way around the stadium proudly carrying the Stars and the Stripes. (As a footnote to this event we should remind readers that she was not the first American to win a W HT medal – that privilege goes to American Samoa’s Lisa Misipeka – bronze in 1999. Lisa was born in the USA, and has a US passport. That makes her American).

After a lacklustre qualifying series, we were not that hopeful of having good performances in the final of the Men’s Long Jump. How wrong we were. Tajay Gayle (JAM) popped-out a good first round jump of 8.46m and then we watched as the other competitors managed to close in on him. In round four he jumped 8.69m, the 10th  best jump ever, for a new Jamaican national record. Tajay then passed his 5th and 6th jumps, confident that they would not catch him now. His confidence was not misplaced. His epic Round 4 jump was a personal best by 37 cms.

The Women’s 10000m saw a group of seven break-away from the large field of 22 athletes. It included three Kenyans, three Ethiopians and one from the Netherlands – Sifan Hassan. Sifan was a refugee from Ethiopia, who went to the Netherlands as a 15-year-old. She has repaid her adopted country “big-time” over the years, but mainly in the shorter distances – 1500m and 5000m. Her finishing speed over the last lap saw Sifan win gold in the World Leading time (for 2019) of 30:17.62 – 4 seconds ahead of Ethiopia’s Letesenbet Gidey, and then Kenya’s Agnes Tirop. It was a great drama-filled race.

Sifan ran the final 1500m of the race in under 4 minutes. Such stamina and speed.

I came away from the semi-finals of the Men’s 100m with the strong conviction that Christian Coleman (USA) was the favourite. He was the only runner to go sub-10 seconds in both the heats and semi-finals (9.98 and 9.88) and had been in top form all year. Prior to Doha he had the 2019 world leading time of 9.81 seconds. Pity Divine Oduduru (NGR) withdrew from the 100m. His time of 9.86 seconds and would have “spiced-up” the field somewhat. Hope we see him in the 200m event.

All of the stops were out for the Men’s 100m Final.  The meet organisers had arranged a spectacular/theatrical light and sound show to highlight the finalists – but this show was soon put in its proper perspective by the eight men on the track. They were the main event – not the “bells and whistles” of the side show – as impressive as it was.

From shortly after the gun, it looked as though Christian had the event won. By the 20m mark, the race looked to be all over. And so it was – 9.76 seconds after the starter’s gun sent them on their way. The big surprises came behind him as the “old man” of the sprints – Justin Gatlin (USA – aged 37 years) came second in 9.89 seconds and Andre de Grasse (CAN) third in 9.90 seconds to record a personal best. The 9.76 seconds is the fastest in the world this year.

At 11.30pm 46 Men and 24 Women lined up for the start of the 50km Walk. We all felt very sorry for them as they set out along the Corniche, without the benefit of the air-conditioning that we had in the Khalifa Stadium. The temperature at starting time was predicted to be a mere 31 degrees (feels like 40 degrees) with 77% humidity. We were not expecting any world records, and that is how it played out.

The walkers had obviously learned valuable lessons from the previous night’s Women’s Marathon. Looking at the times they recorded, that confirms that they did not go all out, wanting to finish in good condition, rather than come all of the way to Doha for a DNF.

The winner of the Women’s 50km Walk was Rui Liang of China in 4:23:26, only marginally slower than her year’s best of 4:19:34, but way down on 2019’s global best of 3:57:08 by the Russian Klavdiya Afanasyeva. Only 6, out of the total field of 23 did not finish.

The Men’s 50km Walk was won by Yusuke Suzuki (JPN) in the time of 4:04:20. He had a yearly best of 3:39:07 coming into this meet. There were 24 finishers, 4 who were DQ’d, and 14 who did not finish.

Before the late afternoon competition got underway, the IAAF had several ceremonies to present medals to athletes who had been elevated to medal status because those above them in the finishing order had been found to have drugs in their system. The drugs were discovered in re-tests, and the offending athletes were subsequently disqualified. 

Jared Tallent (AUS) had medal upgrades from bronze to silver in two World Championship 50km Walks – in 2011 and 2013.  Much earlier he had a London Olympic up-grade from silver to gold in the 50km Walk after the walker who finished ahead of him in the race subsequently failed a drug re-test. Pity he could not have been awarded the gold in the ceremony in the packed stadium in London in 2012. At least he did not get the medals in the mail as some athletes have!

The moral of the story is that if you are a drug cheat, you might be ahead of the testers now, but they will catch-up with you as technology improves. The spate of Russian disqualifications proves it, and justifies why Russia is not yet ready to return to the fold of our sport.  The IAAF is emphatic about that. I admire such strong resolve.