Sunday, August 27, 2023

Bols for Bol - Dutch Relays+Femke Bol Bookend Worlds

 "If you ain't Dutch, you ain't much" is a saying well-known among Dutch expatriates like my late mother. Sunday the Dutch 4x400m relay team featuring Femke Bol on anchor was too much for the rest of the world.

Bol, the World 400m hurdles champion, ran one of the most scintillating anchor legs in World Championship history. The Dutch brought themselves back from the depths of their first day to redemption on their last. 

The schedule of the opening day was designed to have the 4x400 mixed relay as the closing event - something that would engage the audience and keep them coming back for more.

What wasn't expected was that the Dutch, in the incarnation of Femke Bol, would do a face plant mere meters from the finish while in the lead - much as teammate Sifan Hassan had just done in the final of the women's 10,000m. Instead of gold, the Dutch mixed relay team came away with no medals at all. 

Today Bol, on anchor in the 4x400, got the baton at least 20 meters behind leader Jamaica. Inexorably, Bol narrowed the gap, and with 150 meters to go, it appeared she would move from 4th to 3rd and a position on the podium. 

She did more than that, and with 10 meters left was in 2nd. In a truly remarkable close, Bol surged by Jamaica's Stacey Ann Williams, leaned, and won by .16 of a second. Another .16 back was the Great Britain and Northern Ireland team, and in 4th was Canada.

"It was one of my most important runs ever, but it is the first time we became world champions so it applies for all of us," said Holland's selfless star. "Every tenth and hundredth of a second was needed. We had good exchanges and still barely won it."

From the last event on the first day to the last event on the last, the Dutch relay teams embodied the heartbreak and triumph that defined the intervening days.

These Dutch Are Much
World 4x400m Relay Champions
Femke Bol, Cathelijn Peeters, Lieke Klaver, Eveline Sandberg
photo by Stephen Pond/ Getty Images for World Athletics

In the men's 4x400m, the United States team of Quincy Hall, Vernon Norwood, Justin Robinson, and Rai Benjamin took the lead early and the outcome was not in doubt, barring faceplants or dropped batons. 

The US ran a world leading time of 2:57.31, while France set a national record in 2nd at 2:58.45. Great Britain and Northern Ireland, Jamaica, and India followed.

Said anchor Rai Benjamin (3rd in the intermediate hurdles), "After the 400m hurdles I wanted to come back and anchor this relay. It means a lot that the guys have faith in me and trust me. It is amazing." 

For India to have made the 4x400m final was historic in itself as India has now qualified for the semis at the Paris Olympic Games. It will be India's first long relay appearance in the Olympics.

India's Javelin Sensation
World Champion Neeraj Chopra
Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images for World Athletics

All in all, not a bad day for India, as its javelin contingent finished 1-5-6, with national hero and Olympic champion Neraj Chopra leading the way at 88.17 (289-3) to win India's first ever World Championships track and field gold medal.

"This has been a great championships for India and I am proud to bring another title to my country," said India's track and field superstar.

Somewhat unbelievably, second place of 87.82 (288-1) went to Arshaad Nadim, with Czech veteran Jakub Vadlejch third in 86.67 (284-4).

Why unbelievably? 

Because Nadim is from Pakistan.

That's right, India and Pakistan went 1-2 in the javelin.

And what did Chopra and Nadim do at the end of the competition?

They hugged each other.

India and Pakistan hugging each other on the infield of the World Championships?!

It now, officially, will never ever get better than this.

Unless, of course, it does.

Just weeks after the Russian invasion of her native Ukraine, Yaroslava Mahuchikh won the World Indoor high jump title, much to the delight of the fans in Belgrade. She had had a terrifying escape from her homeland just to get to Belgrade, and hasn't been home since. 

"I have to win this gold for my country and all Ukrainian people who are still fighting for peace in Ukraine and for our independence," she said. 

The 21 year old from Dnipro already had two World silvers and one Olympic bronze. Today she added gold to her remarkable resume. 

She was clutch with first jump clearances at 1.97 (6' 5.5") and 1.99 (6' 6.25"), and her second attempt clearance at 2.01 (6' 7") sealed the deal over two accomplished  Australians. 

2022 World titlist Eleanor Patterson's first jump clearance at 1.99 (6' 6.25") was the difference between silver and bronze. It took teammate and Olympic silver medalist Nicola Olyslagers a second jump to clear at the same height and this sorted the medals. 

Great Britain's Morgan Lake, who won the U-20 high jump and heptathlon titles in Eugene in 2014, was 4th at 1.97 (6' 5.5").

Yaroslava Mahuchikh
Ukraine's High Jump World Champion
photo by Stephen Pond/Getty Images for World Athletics

Who needs redemption at age 22? That would be Jakob Ingebrigsten (Nor) who won silver in the 1500m for the second Worlds in a row. 

Let's hope he is feeling a bit better as he just won his second consecutive 5,000m title. Ingebrigsten ran a scorching last lap 52.45 to win in 13:11.30.

Mohamed Katir (Sp) held the lead until he didn't and succumbed to Ingebrigsten's withering kick by .14 to win silver. Kenya's Jacob Krop was 3rd, and as if to put a finer point on how close this race was, look at Ingebrigsten's wining time and reflect on this: the top 8 were at 13:12.99 or faster, and they all finished within 1.69 seconds of each other.

While defending World and Olympic 800m champion Athing Mu was the favorite of many, it was hard to pick someone to win who had had so few races this year. In one interview this spring, she said she'd rather spend time on her flourishing modeling career than on running. 

All this makes perfect sense for someone so young who already had won the two most important titles our sport has to offer - before she was 21.

It was neither a surprise that she won bronze today, nor that Mary Moraa (Ken) won gold. Moraa moved up from her bronze medal finish in Eugene, while Great Britain's Keely Hodgkinson won her third global silver.

Moraa won the 2022 Diamond League 800m final, raced in 3 Diamond League meets in 2022, and 3 in 2023 before Worlds. 

Coming into the meet, Hodgkinson ran 5 Diamond League races in '22 and '23, and won the 2021 Diamond League final.

How many Diamond League meets did Mu run? One - in 2022.

When it came to being race ready, it was Moraa who swept by Mu on the outside on the final stretch, with Hodgkinson sprinting for her running life on the inside.

 My concern is not with Mu, who I respect enormously. It's her handlers who need to balance giving her the race experience she needs with giving her the space to just be 21.

A note for Oregon fans that graduate Raevyn Rogers finished 4th in 1:57.45. And Nia Akins (US) ran a personal best of 1:57.73 in 6th.

It should be noted that Moraa ran a personal best 1:56.03 to win gold. No better time or place - and few achievements are as notable - as a personal best the single day of your life you need it most.

"I am pleased to get the gold this time and become the world champion," said Moraa in the understatement of the day.

"After bronze last year I wanted to improve and I have. Everyone in the final was so fast I knew I would have to have a fast finish. I came from a long way behind but I managed to do it."

"Beatrice Chepkoech has just finished second in the steeplechase," she continued,  "and I am so happy for her too. We are very good friends. I just want to get back to the track and celebrate together with her."

Speaking of PBs when you need them most, how about 1st and 3rd in the women's steeplechase? Winfrid Mutile Yavi led a group of four over the last three laps. Four dropped to three dropped to two, and no one could stay with the delighted Yavi on the last lap. 

Yavi won in 8:54.29 - which, not incidentally, makes her the 4th fastest performer all-time.

Ethiopia's Zerfe Wondemagegn hung onto the pack valiantly, but finally had to let go and finished 4th as the remaining medals went to Kenyans Beatrice Chepkoech in 8:58.98 and Faith Cherotich in 9:00.69, who ascended to #12 on the all-time performers list. Keep an eye on Cherotich, who turned 19 six weeks ago.

So why no props for Chepkoech's 8:58.98? She is already on the all-time perfomers list, thank you - at #1! Today's silver medalist is the world record holder, an achievement from the Monaco Diamond League meet in 2018.

"This silver feels like gold to me," said Chepkoech. "The last few years have been tough due to my injury. Coming back is something special for me."

"I knew I would have the power on the last lap," said Yavi. "It was perfect. I have never felt like this before. I worked hard and I am grateful for this amazing achievement." 

Winfred Mutile Yavi
Kenya's Steeplechase World Champion
photo by Stephen Pond/Getty Images for World Athletics

Uganda's Marathon Champion Victor Kiplangat, left
Photo by Sanjeev Surati

As in the women's marathon the day before, the conditions for the men's marathon can only be described - in spite of the 7:00 am start - as brutal. And they got worse the longer the athletes were on the course.

It was a run of attrition, and Uganda's Victor Kiplangat emerged the victor by applying relentless, sustained pressure, especially over the last three kilometers. His 2:08:53 is stellar for these conditions. Israel's Maru Teferi hung close and finished strongly to win silver in 2:09:02, while Ethiopia's Leul Gebresilase  finished 3rd in 2:09:19.

Quite oddly, there were two falls during the race... and defending champion Tamirat Tola was a contender until stomach problems sidelined him.

Kiplangat joined his more famous teammate, 10,000m winner Joseph Cheptegai, as World Champion. And he won this race ten years after countryman Stephen Kiprotich won in Moscow.

"This has been my dream and it has come true at last," said the newly crowned champion. 

"Last year I was Commonwealth Games champion and that made me think this year I must become world champion," said Kiplangat. "Now my prayers have been answered and hopefully next year in Paris I will become Olympic champion too." 

Meanwhile, just one question to close out this championship: if you're not much if you're not Dutch, what if I'm half Dutch - where, exactly, does that leave me? 

In the absence of an answer to such ethereal questions, many Dutch today no doubt will lift a glass of Bols - an aptly named Dutch gin - and salute Bol and her teammates. 

They will, as I do, count ourselves richly privileged to have witnessed such an extraordinary World Championships - even if 8793 kilometers from afar!

~Mark Cullen, writing from Seattle

Saturday, August 26, 2023

It Takes Two! Budapest Worlds Day 8

Faith Kipyegon Completes Historic Double
US Wins Men's and Women's Sprint Relays
US Women 41.03, #3 Time All-Time
US Sprint Relay Teams Celebrate Golds Together
Christian Petersen/Getty Images for World Athletics

If you thought the dominance the US sprint relay teams once had were a thing of the past, check out today's 4x100m races.

The men were up first - and in spite of somewhat shaky passes - gave Noah Lyles a small lead on anchor and that was all he needed. He won going away, and the team recorded a 37.38 world leading time. 

Lyles made history of his own by winning his third gold medal of these championships. 100, 200, 4x100 - that's the ultimate achievement for a sprinter.

As announcer Ato Boldon pointed out, there were three world 100m champions on this relay team. Christian Coleman led off to Fred Kerley who passed to the only non-individual champion on the team, Brandon Carnes, and he passed to anchor Noah Lyles. 

As the baton crossed the finish line without having touched the ground, all was well. Italy scored another major meet medal - silver this time, and of note was Olympic 100m champion Marcel Jacobs running the second leg and displaying great team spirit in doing so. 

Filippo Tortu ran another brilliant anchor leg for Italy. And all of you who picked Italy to finish ahead of bronze medalists Jamaica, please step forward.

Ahhhh, you must be Tortu's grandmother.

The women did the men one better and recorded the Championship Record of 41.03. Only twice have women's teams run faster, making this the #3 time all-time. Only Jamaica (41.02 in 2021) and the United States (20.82 in 2012) have run faster, both in Olympic finals.

The first two passes were shaky, but Gabby Thomas ran a brilliant third leg and had a great handoff to Sha'Carry Richardson on anchor. Anchoring for Jamaica was Shericka Jackson, so this was one and done, correct?

Nope! Richardson established an early lead and sustained it all the way down the track to the finish line where she was mobbed by a jubilant US men's team that had just won gold itself. It was one of the more affecting moments of these championships.

The US team of Tamari Davis, Twanisha Terry, Gabby Thomas, and Sha'Carri Richardson was up against a Jamaican team that included Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce and Shericka Jackson. The US win today, and in the #3 time ever, was truly a remarkable performance.

Earlier, the US had failed to complete a pass within the zone in the 4x400m relay semis and was disqualified. 

This plus the uncertain passes in the 4x100 speak to the continuing need for the US to have a focused relay program that goes beyond the time between US nationals and Worlds. Tellingly, one of the 4x400 meter runners cited lack of practice as one of the reasons for the failed pass.

Nonetheless, US 4x100 leadoff Tamari Davis got to the heart of what succeeded when she said, "We needed to do our job and we all did that and trusted each other."

After concluding a week in which she won two golds and a bronze, Sha'Carri Richardson said, "Dreams like this come true." 

If two wins for the US sprinters wasn't dramatic enough, try two for Faith Kipyegon. The seemingly unbeatable middle distance sensation made history by becoming the first ever to win both the 1500m and 5000m at Worlds. 

With 1500m gold already in her pocket, today in the 5000m, the pack ran together for a surprisingly long time - that is, until the last lap, and then it was Kipyegon's sustained drive and sprint vs that of Siffan Hassan of the Netherlands. 

The finish of the 5000 looked a lot like that of the 1500, with Kipyegon sustaining a lead that others could not dent. Today, Hassan was second and Kenya's Beatrice Chebet third.

"This has been an amazing year for me," said Kipyegon. "Making history today, winning two gold medals in a championships is what I was dreaming for this season. I have been patient waiting to be able to break world records and win double golds... I believed in myself. I have been consistent, focused on the finish line, and on writing history."

Chris Petersen/Getty Images for World Athletics

Faith Kipyegon Running into History
L>R: Beatrice Chebet - 3rd, Gudaf Tsegay- 13th
Sifan Hassan - 2nd, Faith Kipyegon - 1st

If you're fortunate enough to be at the World Championships this week, surely you've heard one anthem more often than you expected: Canada's.

With four more medals today - gold and silver in the decathlon, gold in the men's 800m, and silver in the women's shot put - Canada has emerged as the surprise country of the meet.

Marco Arop, Canada's bronze medalist in the 800m in 2022, won today by running the second lap faster than the first - a rare negative split in this event. This had the desired effect of burning off the stellar field as he powered his way down the stretch to win in 1:44.24. 

Second was Kenya's 19-year-old sensation Emmanuel Wanyonyi, in 1:44.53. There was a spirited rush for bronze, won by England's 21-year-old Ben Pattison in 1:44.83; only 12 one-hundredths of a second separated 3rd from 5th.

Note, too, that Arop was 7th in the 2019 Doha final; rare is the 800m runner who qualifies for three World finals in a row.

Canada's Pierce Lepage scored a robust 8909 points in the decathlon to place him #6 on the all-time world list. The new champion moved up a place from silver in Eugene and turned back none other than teammate Damien Warner, the 2021 Tokyo Olympic champion, who scored a season's best 8804 and gave Canada a 1-2 finish in the event. 

Bronze went to Lindon Viktor of Grenada in 8756, a national record and the first World or Olympic medal for the 30-year old in nine years of competing on the international circuit.

On the other end of the medal spectrum is pole vaulter Mondo Duplantis who at last count has 739 gold medals. Or so it seems. He won once again; he not only has multiple titles, but he has broken indoor and outdoor world records 11 times. 

Duplantis won at 6.10 today, and in the spirit of sharing medals, this time there was an actual tie for third between Chris Nielsen of the United States and Kurtis Marschall of Australia at 5.95, which equalled Marschall's personal best.

An even better kind of best was recorded by the Philippines' Ernest John Obien, who tied the Area Best of 6.00m for silver.

The women's shot put final was closely contested and may well have been the deepest ever. Chase Ealey (US) won her second consecutive World title; she opened at 20.35 and exceeded that in the fifth round with an effort of 20.43. Teammate Maggie Ewen started well and was second after the first round, but she gradually slipped to 6th. 

Canada's (I told you!) Sarah Mitton leaped into silver medal position in the fifth round at 20.08. China's venerable veteran Lijiao Gong and Portugal's Auriol Dongmo tied in the 4th round at 19.69; Gong won her 8th World medal by virtue of having the better second throw, 19.67 to 19.63.

Finally, the women's marathon was held at 7:00am Budapest time. Kara Goucher, NBC announcer, described herself as having become soaked with sweat by walking only two blocks just before the race began.

The results, all things considered, were fairly astonishing, as Amane Beriso Shankule (Eth) ran 2:24:23 in oppressive conditions to win. Second was teammate Gotytom Gebreslace, just 9 seconds behind.

There was joy in Morocco over Fatima Ezzahra Gardadi's bronze in 2:25:17, the first medal won in the marathon by a Moroccan woman.

Lindsay Flanagan (US and late of the University of Washington) finished 9th in 2:27:47.

Let's give the last word to shot put gold medalist, Chase Ealey, who is one of the best interviews in the sport, and one of the most direct and engaging athletes. Said she after winning gold:

"I started crying with my mum. I ran to her and she started crying so I started crying, and now my face is a mess."

I think it's written somewhere in the Olympic Creed that if you win gold and start crying tears of joy, it's OK for your makeup to run!

Stephen Pond/Getty Images for World Athletics

Two-Time World Shot Put Champion Chase Ealey

~Mark Cullen, writing from Seattle

Friday, August 25, 2023

Jackson and Lyles Strike 200m Gold - Budapest Day 7

With thunder on the track and bolts of lightning in the field, the 7th day of the Budapest World Championships will long be remembered.

Nothing says it better than this photo taken moments after the end of the 200m. Gabby Thomas' (US) look of wonder at Champion Shericka Jackson's (Jam) time on the scoreboard - 21.41, the second fastest ever run - as well as her own silver medal performance - says it all. To the left is a wistful Sha'Carri Richardson (US), who finished 3rd, and hugging Jackson on the right is Cote D'Ivoire's Marie-Josee Ta Lou.

Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images for World Athletics

Let's start in the field.

One of track and field's greatest performers - not only in terms of ability but of  engagement with her massive following - almost had her worst performance in a World or Oympic Championship in Budapest - and still she won.

The better part of the competition felt like a wake as Venezuela's Julimar Rojas scratched jump after jump, and through 5 rounds, those she did not scratch were pedestrian by her lofty standards. 

She scratched in rounds 1, 4, and 5, and her jumps in rounds 2 and 3 were 14.33 (47-1/4) and 14.26 (46 9.25) - this from someone who can jump well over 15.00m (49-2.5) on even her worst days.

Her 14.33 barely got her into the top 8 and three more jumps; she bumped Kenturah Orji (US) from 8th to a non-qualifying 9th and out of the competition.

How close was Rojas to missing the opportunity for three more jumps? 

She and Orji were tied at 14.33; Orji's other two jumps were fouls, and quite oddly, Rojas' 14.26 was almost her most important jump of the day - it qualified her for finals. 

That she had two legal jumps in the first three and Orji only one made all the difference in breaking the 14.33 tie. 

Rojas seemed off-kilter today, her usual buoyant, joyous, engaging self missing. She was hesitant and tentative on her 4th and 5th jumps, with ever-increasing pressure not to miss.

With three World titles and Olympic gold and silver in her pocket, her failure to medal would have been one of the most colossal upsets in a Championship defined by upsets.

Ukraine's Maryna Bekh-Romanchuk was certainly a sentimental favorite to win; she has not been home since the Russian invasion of her homeland. 

She had jumped 15.00 to open the competition, and the longer she led - through 5 rounds - the more she looked like a champion.

Then Rojas took her last jump. 

15.08 (49 5.75)

The lead by 8 centimeters. (3 inches)

And yes, she jumped over 15.00 on even her worst day.

Bekh-Romanchuk had one more chance but fouled her last jump.

The crown stayed where it had been at the start of the day.

Cuba's Leyanis Perez Hernandez, who jumped her farthest - 14.96 (49-1) - in the opening round, held on for bronze.

The competition was unusually and extraordinarily close, as only 25 cm (9.75 inches) separated 1st from 6th.

"After I won the Olympic Games in Tokyo, I said the next day that people in Venezuela would not work because everybody in the country would be celebrating," Rojas said. 

"Well, now it will be more or less the same. I'm going to appear on the front pages everywhere. But more important, I'm going to be in the hearts of all the Venezuelan people."

 "My last attempt was proof of the hard work I have done, my mental state and my self confidence. I didn't care about the distance, the only thing I had in mind was to win the gold."

Venezuela's Triple Jump Legend Comes Through in the Clutch

Christian Petersen/Getty Images for World Athletics
Julimar Rojas wins the triple jump on her final attempt.

Last jump madness in the triple jump was matched by last throw madness in the women's javelin.

The javelin played out much as the women's triple jump had - and these two events were just minutes short of being run concurrently - a real treat for the fans. 

Haruka Kitaguchi, Japan's first woman to win a World Championship throwing medal with her bronze in Eugene, came to Budapest in quest of something more.

"This time, coming to Hungary, my goal was a medal and even higher - I wanted the gold," she said.

Colombia's Flor Denis Ruiz Hurtado opened at 65.47 (214-9), an auspicious beginning and an Area Record. This would prove to be the leading mark through five of the six rounds. 

As much as Ruiz Hurtado tried to put even more distance on the field, her last three throws of 59.73 195-11), foul, and 60.97 (200-0) were not what the occasion required. Especially on her last two throws, she appeared to be throwing only with her arm and not her full body.

Meanwhile, Latvia's Annette Kocina stood third ever since her 3rd round 63.18 (207-3) put her in the medal mix. 

And then came the last round.

Not one but two podium places were determined with last-round throws. 

First, Australia's Mackenzie Little threw 20 cm (7.75 inches) past Kocina to win bronze, and then the dazzling throw of the night came from Kitaguchi, a dramatic 66.73 (218-11) final throw winner.

Defending champion Kelsey Lee Barber, herself master of final throw heroics in previous championships, threw with a heavily taped elbow; the two-time World champion finished 7th. 

"I think everything just came together in the last attempt and it was great," said Kitaguchi, Japan's newest World champion. 

"At the beginning, I thought that I would be crying, but now, I just feel the happiness." 

Japan's Kitaguchi Comes Through in the ClutchHaruka Kitaguchi wins the javelin on her final attempt. 

Stephen Pond/Getty Images for World Athletics

Then there were a couple of 200s.

The first featured an all-star women's sprinting lineup, and the much-anticipated showdown did not disappoint. 

Favorite Shericka Jackson (Jam) won by an astonishing four-tenths of a second, a championship record and a huge margin at this level. 

Her 21.41 has been exceeded only once in history, and she becomes the #2 performer with the #2 performance all-time.

Gabby Thomas (US) won silver in 21.81, and 100m champion Sha'Carri Richardson (US) won bronze in a personal best 21.92. 

After a terrific start, Jackson led off the curve and at that point her win was not in doubt. She remained clearly focused through the finish, as the photo below attests.

The two 200s combined featured textbook finishes by US athletes in second and third. 

First, Gabby Thomas and Sha'Carri Richardson, not in medal places coming off the turn, surged to their silver and bronze finishes, with Richardson passing almost the entire field in the process. 

Lyles, too, led at the top of the curve and was never headed. Erriyon Knighton, 19, finished as well as his female US counterparts and stormed to a silver medal finish. 

Star in the making Letsile Tebogo of Botswana followed in third; the 20 year old added bronze in this race to the silver he won in the 100.

Lyles had hyped a faster time, but 19.52 has a certain ring to it. 

For the sake of perspective of the enormity of Jackson's achievement, Gabby Thomas' personal best of 21.60 is 4th all-time and Richardson's 21.92 is #30.

Stephen Pond/Getty Images for World Athletics

"Even if I was pretty close to the world record it was not the thing on my mind when I ran," said Jackson. "I will continue to work and I hope I can maintain at least this level and we will see if the world record will come."

Perhaps in Eugene in the Diamond League final?

Christian Petersen/Getty Images for World Athletics
200m champion Noah Lyles 
leads Erriyon Knighton (2nd) and Letsile Tebogo (3rd)
to the podium

"It is a great feeling to know I did something not a lot of people have done," said Lyles... I wanted to show I am different. Today I came out and showed it. I am double champion."

Usain Bolt's support has meant a lot to Lyles. 

"Usain Bolt has done it, and him saying to me that he sees what I am doing and he respects it, it is amazing."

~Mark Cullen, writing from Seattle

Thursday, August 24, 2023

North America Sweeps the Hammer - Budapest Day #6

Stephen Pond/Getty Images for World Athletics

Joy in Hammersville

Camryn Rogers, Canada, gold (center)
DeAnna Price, US, bronze (left)
Janee Kassanavoid, US, silver (right)

Canada's Camryn Rogers ascended to the World hammer throw throne with a relentless assault that included four throws that would have won. She took the lead with her first throw of 77.22 (253-4) and was never headed.

The Cal graduate and three-time NCAA champion was the only one of the 8 finalists to record six fair throws, and her series of 77.22, 77.07, 76.75, 75.68. 76.72, 74.92 was a statement in itself. 

Rogers, only 24, completed a three-year climb to the top which started with 5th place in the Tokyo Olympics, continued with silver last year in Eugene, and now gold on the banks of the Danube.

There was plenty of tension throughout the competition as it took some time for other throwers to get unwound.

The best of these was Janee Kassanavoid (US), who moved into 2nd place with her second throw of 76.00 (249-4), a place she fiercely defended, especially against DeAnna Price. She improved to 76.36 (250-6) in the 3rd round, a mark which would stand up for silver.

Price got off to a slow start with two fouls to the right - a bit uncharacteristic of her fouls, which tend to drift left. Still, she pulled it together in the 3rd round with a 73.28 (237-2) that qualified her for three more throws. Then, her 5th round 75.41(247-5) vaulted her into bronze medal position and secured her place on the podium. 

Three-time major meet medalist Zheng Wang of China had an uncharacteristic performance. Only her first two throws were legal. Her 2nd round 72.12 (236-7) got her into the final and and three more throws, all of which were fouls. 

In addition, a very disappointed Hanna Skydan of Azerbaijan finished 4th after having set a national record of 77.10 (252-11) in qualifying. She has made the top eight at Worlds three times in her career, but has yet to leave with a medal.

Sharing in her disappointment was Poland's Malwina Kopron, London and Tokyo bronze medalist, who opened with three fouls and was done for the day.

Had defending World Champion Brooke Andersen (US) not failed to advance from qualifying, they might have had to add a 4th step to the podium! Most unfortunately, she has been dealing with serious shoulder pain this season.

Now Rogers, Price, and Kassanavoid each has two World Championship medals: Rogers gold ('23) and silver ('22), Price gold ('19) and bronze ('23), and Kassanavoid bronze ('22) and silver ('23). 

Add Andersen's gold from 2022 and we have a region of the world that dominates women's hammer in a way that Central Europe once did.

And with the emergence of young (21) Canadian gold medalist Ethan Katzberg on the men's side, North Americans won 4 out of the 6 hammer medals on offer - with both golds to Canada.

"I cannot be any happier," said the newly golden Rogers. "Competing in the final with such amazing and talented throwers makes this piece of history even better. It enriches the experience knowing you are among amazing people who are all aiming for the same goal. ... I am excited about what next year will bring. Paris will be huge."

In an extraordinarily busy day of seven finals, here are several additional highlights.

*Femke Bol of The Netherlands won the 400m hurdles in 51.70, cementing her position as #2 in history, while Jamaica's Rushell Clayton, 30, won bronze, her first major medal in a long career. Shamier Little (US) won her second World silver; the first was 8 years ago in Beijing.

* Greece's 2021 Olympic Champion Miltiadis Tentoglou came back from what was for him a disappointing silver in Eugene to win the long jump by a scant 2 centimeters over Jamaica's Wayne Pinnock, 8.52-8.50. Jamaica took places 2-3-4, with 2019 World Champ Tajay Gayle 3rd and Carey McCloud 4th. Gayle and McLeod tied at 8.27 and McCloud won bronze with a longer 2nd-best jump.

*Jamaica's Danielle Williams upset the form charts by winning the 100m hurdles by 1/100th of a second over 2021 Olympic Champion, Puerto Rico's Jasmine Camacho-Quinn. This should not have been as much of a surprise as it may now seem; Williams won World gold in Beijing (2015) and World bronze in Eugene in 2022. Former world record holder Keni Harrison (US) was 3rd.

*21-year-old Antonio Watson of Jamaica unexpectedly took down a stellar 400m field in in 44.22. Four-time European champion Matthew Hudson-Smith moved up from bronze in Eugene to silver today (44.31), while Quincy Hall (US) set a personal best of 44.37 to nab bronze. Multiple relay gold medalist Vernon Norwood (US) missed his first major individual medal by .02.

*The men's and women's 35 kilometer racewalks were staged in conjunction with each other. Spain did well enough, thank you, and walked away with two champions: Maria Perez and Alvaro Martin, with Perez nailing a championship record and Martin a national one.

Second and third for the men were Brian Daniel Pintado of Ecuador in an area record, and Japan's Masatoro Kawano. 

Canada's Evan Dunfee finished 4th in both walks. 

He oughta take up hammer.

Second and third for the women were Kimberly Garcia-Leon (Peru) and Antigoni Ntrismpioti (Greece). 

Considering Ntrismpioti's first name, I'd say this turned out rather well.

~ by Mark Cullen, written in Seattle

Ever Seen This Before?

Christian Petersen/Getty Images for World Athletics

The men's and women's 35 kilometer walk races were held jointly on the same course in Budapest.

Wednesday, August 23, 2023

Day of the Beasts - Budapest Day 5

Stephen Pond/Getty Images for World Athletics

Dominican Republic's 
Marileidy Paulino 
Wins the 400m

Marileidy Paulino made history when she became the first woman from the Dominican Republic to win an Olympic medal - silver at 400m - in 2021. She made history again the next year when she won individual silver and mixed relay World gold in Eugene in '22. 

The third time was indeed the charm, and 250 meters into today's race there seemed little doubt as to who the winner would be. Paulino stormed down the final straightaway, increasing her lead with every powerful stride, and became the first woman from her country to win individual World gold, in a national record 48.76.

A stirring battle was waged over the silver and bronze medals, with Poland's Natalia Kaczmerik edging Sada Williams of Barbados 49.57 to 49.60.

"This national record means a lot to me," said the dominant Dominican. "It is really incredible. But I have been preparing for this for a long time, working hard to achieve a goal like this. The gold medal was my dream, and I had the talent to turn this dream into reality."

Stephen Pond/Getty Images for World Athletics

Josh Kerr
The Brooks Beast Strikes 1500m Gold

The Brooks Running Company world headquarters is located in Seattle, Washington, 4 blocks from where I am writing. Brooks sponsors the Brooks Beasts Track Club, with Danny Mackey its head coach.

The Beasts arrived on the international scene when Drew Windle struck World indoor 800m silver in Birmingham, England, in 2018, and further raised their profile when Josh Kerr won Olympic bronze at 1500m in 2021. 

Kerr knows how to win - he won the 2017 NCAA 1500m title in Eugene for the University of New Mexico Lobos - far away from his native Edinburgh. In addition, he won two NCAA indoor mile titles, in 2017 and '18.

But he had loftier goals. Today he played his hand perfectly as he won the World 1500m title. This race was all about being in the right position at the top of the final curve, and there he was, perfectly placed on Jakob Ingebrigtsen's shoulder one moment and in the lead the next.

Ingebrigtsen showed his hand with 30 meters to go when he looked at the scoreboard, an indication of surrender. 

Look at Kerr in the race video - he is completely dialed in to the finish line, as was none other than Ingebrigtsen's teammate, Narve Gilje, who came storming to the finish and just missed pipping Ingebrigsten for second, 3:29.65 to 3:29.68. Kerr won in 3:29.38. 

And much consolation to Kenya's Abel Kipsang who broke 3:30 and did not medal, in 4th. Imagine running 3:29.89 and not medaling!

Meanwhile, US entrants Yared Nuguse and Cole Hocker finished 5th and 7th, Hocker in a personal best of 3:30.70. 

18-year-old Niels Laros continued his prodigy-ish ways by finishing 10th in 3:31.25 - a Dutch national record.

Said Kerr, "For me this is the be all and end all. You saw about 16 years of emotion at the end there. You just watched a kid achieve a dream that he has been having for a very long time."

Christian Petersen/Getty Images for World Athletics

Karsten Warholm
World 400m Hurdles Champion - Again!

Interesting that meet organizers put the men's 400m hurdles at the end of Wednesday's stupendous program. It's an indicator of the status the event has achieved since Karsten Warholm's stunning world record run in the Tokyo Olympics.

For the Eugene World Championships, Warholm was injured, and his streak of major meet medals came to an end.

Temporarily, as it turns out. Today, Rai Benjamin (US) looked strong coming off the 8th hurdle and it seemed Warholm might be vulnerable. But that did not last for long. 

Warhold powered away from Benjamin just as Benjamin also faded. They finished 1-3, as Kyron McMaster of the British Virgin Islands stormed past Benjamin to win silver. 

Their times were 46.89 - 47.34 - 47.56. This was no consolation to a bitterly disappointed Benjamin, who had thought this might be his golden day. "I expected so much of myself at these championships," he said. "I can run 46 seconds with my eyes closed."

For Warholm, coming off injury, this World gold was particularly satisfying. 

"It feels a bit sweeter this year," he said. "You have to fight and I have a fighting spirit in these moments. It gets the best out of me. I'm still hungry for more and more. You need to have that to chase the gold medals."

Chsitian Petersen/Getty Images for World Athletics
Australia's Nina Kennedy

Same form.
Same effort.
Same number of jumps.
Same number of clearances.
Same number of misses.
Same ultimate height.
Same outcome.

United States' Katie Moon
Christian Petersen/Getty Images for World Athletics

Same quotes? Not quite, but close for the two pole vaulters who shared everything today, including gold.

Nina Kennedy said, "I jumped out of my skin tonight."

And Katie Moon, seemingly for all of us:
"What an amazing night. I hope everyone enjoyed that one. We did."

~ Mark Cullen, writing from Seattle

Tuesday, August 22, 2023

Faith in Faith - Budapest World Championships Day #4

Having faith in Faith is rather easy. That is for the best of reasons: Kenya's Faith Kipyegon is a generational talent.

Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images for World Athletics

Faith Kipyegon wins the 1500m

To be a generational talent in Kenya puts you in high company, indeed, and that is where Faith Kipyegon finds herself today. Not only once in a generation in Kenya, but in the entire world.

She proved it again today in the 1500m final, and turned back the challenges no matter where they came from. She won going away in 3:54.87 to Diribe Weltiji's (Eth) 3:55.69, and Holland's Siffan Hassan won bronze a few blinks back in 3:56.00.

A notable 4th was Ireland's Ciara Mageean in a national record 3:56.61.

In possibly the most succinct race summary I've ever heard, the legend in the making said, "I just got myself in front after 300m and nobody was coming." 

For the next 1200 meters!

Photo by Stephen Pond/Getty Images for World Athletics

It's Selfie Time!

World Steeplechase Champion Soufiane El Bakkali of Morocco

"I came ready and prepared and believed I could win, " said Morocco's Soufiane El Bakkali, who proceeded to do just that. The Tokyo Olympic and Eugene World Champion now adds a third major gold medal to his steeplechase collection, in addition to his Worlds silver from London in 2017.

Many expected Lachme Girma - who set the world steeple record of 7:52.11 this June - to mount a stronger challege to El Bakkali, but El Bakkali took the lead with about 200m to go and was never headed, turning back Girma 8:03.53 to 8:05.44 in sweltering conditions in Budapest.

Remarkably, though, Girma now has three World and one Olympic silver medals in the same event. He must be at least as old as the 27-year old El Bakkali, no? 

No - Girma is 22. He began his silver medal streak in 2019 (Worlds) and continued it in 2021 (Olympics), 2022 (Worlds), and now 2023 (Worlds). 

"I keep fighting and dreaming about World's gold," a somewhat dejected Girma said. He needn't worry - in his bright future, there is gold in them thar waterjumps.

Kenya's Abraham Kibiwott won his first international medal in spite of a fall late in the race. "I came here to finally take a medal home with me... I feel so great, this is even more than happiness."

Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images for World Athletics

Laulaula Tausaga Stuns the Discus World

"More than happiness" best describes the unlikely scenario that played out in the women's discus today. Olympic champion Varalrie Allman was blindsided at Worlds last year in Eugene by China's Bin Feng, who finished third today.

Today the blind side came from US teammate Laulauga Tausaga. 

"No one was expecting me and I just showed up."

Did she ever. 

The competition was slow to unfold. The most dramatic moment of the first three rounds came when Tausaga had fouled her first throw and recorded a legal mark of only 52.28 in her second round. She was nowhere near qualifying for the final 8.

Tausauga came into the meet tied for 9th on the all-time US performers list at 65.46, and she uncorked a personal best of 65.56, which earned her three more crucial throws in the final.

While Allman held a steady lead from the start, the tension in the competition was that any of five throwers might overtake her. She threw 68.57 to open the meet, and then strengthened her lead with 3rd and 4th round throws of 68.79 and 69.23. It had every feeling of an inexorable climb to gold.

Until the 5th round, that is, when Tausaga oncorked the throw of a lifetime - a 69.59 monster that turned the competition upside down.

Suddenly, she was in the lead with Allman second, but Allman had two more throws left. Only her 68.61 final throw came close to toppling Tausaga.

Suddenly, she was World Champion.

Suddenly, the US had a 1-2 finish in the women's discus.

Suddenly, Tausaga found herself the #2 thrower in US history with the #9 performance ever.

Suddenly, she had improved her personal best twice for a total of over 4 meters in one meet.

And to back up her new lofty status, Tausaga closed with a 68.61.

Ever resilient, Allman said, "... most importantly, I am hungry and I am not done with the fight. I am going to work for the victory."

"There was an Olympic champion and a World champion in that final," Tausaga reflected, "so I had to fight for this gold medal. It's going to be hard next year but it's going to be unbelievable."

Actually, it turns out there were three Majors winners in that final. We just didn't know it at the start of the day. 

Photo by Stephen Pond/Getty Images for World Athletics

A Gold of His Own
Gianmarco Tamberi wins the High Jump

The high jump was taking place at the same time as the women's discus, so it's assumed this left many frayed vocal cords.

The final boiled down pretty quickly to the three favorites: Tokyo Olympic twin gold medalists Gianmarco Tamberi of Italy and Mutaz Essa Barshim of Qatar, and the new kid on the block, Ju'Vaughn Harrison of the United States. 

In spite of first jump misses by Tamberi and Barshim, each righted the ship and were even until the bar reached 2.36. This was the point of separation, as Barshim went out with three misses but earned bronze, while Tamberi cleared on his first try at the height. 

This was crucial as Harrison missed his first attempt at 2.36 but cleared it on his second. When both were out at 2.38, Tamberi had first World Championship gold, and Harrison had silver and his first senior international medal.

Looking forward, Tamberi said, "There is no high jumper who won two Olympic golds, so making history in Paris would be amazing. But first the party tonight. I need to celebrate this medal because after one year of sacrifices and diet, I deserve it."

Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images for World Athletics

It's Them Again!

But this time Gianmarco Tamberi (center) has a gold of his own
while Mutaz Essa Barshim wins bronze.

~ Mark Cullen from Seattle

Monday, August 21, 2023

Budapest World Championships Day #3

When this leads to

and in between...

leads to


and this,

perhaps a few words of explanation are in order.

In the semi-finals of the women's 100m today, Sha'Carri Richardson got off to a slow start, finished 3rd, and then spent time in the waiting room to see if she would advance to the final based on time.

While much has been made of her third-place finish in her semi, it should be noted that her 10.84 would not only have won the other two semi-final races, but she found herself in what Ato Boldon called "The Semi-Final of Death." 

Lined up on either side of her were Jamaica's Shericka Jackson and Ivory Coast's Marie-Josee Ta Lou, two of the greatest sprinters in history. In addition, they were the 3 fastest of the year, and #5-7-8 fastest all-time. In a semi!

No woman had ever won the 100m after either qualifying by time or by running in the outermost lane. Today, Richardson did both. In a fantastic display of poise and reserve, Richardson steadied the ship and stole the race with mere meters to go. 

It was Jamaica 2-3, with Shericka Jackson in silver and Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce in bronze. That Fraser-Pryce should even conceive of being on the podium at age 36 is remarkable; this was her 6th 100m Worlds medal - and the other five were gold.

To top it off, Richardson set a Championship record of 10.65, with 10.72 and 10.77 earning the remaining medals. 

She said, "I'm here. I'm the champion. I told you all: I'm not back, I'm better."

Triple jumper Hugues Fabrice Zango already had made history in Burkina Faso by winning his country's first Olympic medal, a bronze in 2021. 

Today he became his country's first World Champion when he bounded out to a 17.64 in the 5th round to finish comfortably ahead of Lazaro Martinez (17.41) and Cristian Napoles (17.40), both from Cuba. 

Zango also completed a set of World Championships medals. With bronze from 2019, silver from 2022, and now gold, he completed the kind of progression that coaches only dream of.

In our 'it ain't over 'til it's over' department, Sweden's Daniel Stahl and Slovenia's Kristjan Ceh gave the thrilled crowd one of the most dramatic finishes in recent Worlds memory. Last year, Ceh won the discus in Eugene and set the championship record while Stahl uncharacteristically finished out of the medals. Many saw this as a changing of the guard, especially with then-19-year-old Mykolas Alekna (Lithuania) second. 

If this was supposed to have been a changing of the guard, the guard has been to slow to change. Today, Ceh and Stahl were the last two up, and it appeared Stahl was poised to win. Until, on his last throw, Ceh sent one into the lead. 

Done? No, Stahl had one throw to go. He sent it sailing past Ceh's championship record of 71.13 from Eugene to a victory and new record of 71.46. Alekna finished 3rd and now has silver and bronze in a throwing event.

Stahl, who is not known for being overly smiley, could not keep the smile off his face during a lengthy celebration. 

Said Stahl, "This was my best performance ever." 

Grant Holloway won his third consecutive gold medal in the men's 110m high hurdles, and is joined on the podium by countryman and bronze medalist, Daniel Roberts. Olympic gold medalist Hansle Parchment was second. Holloway had an explosive start and was leading after the first hurdle.

"I knew they were going to close really quickly," he said, "so my main goal was to keep smooth to the line."

Mission accomplished.

A note for fans in the Pacific Northwest:

All of Washington State's eyes were on women's pole vault qualifying. Hana Moll, the 18-year-old high schooler from Olympia, WA, finished 3rd at USATF to make the World Championships team. 

Until today, when she PRed in qualifying at 4.65, someone else had exactly the same personal best.

Her twin sister, Amanda, at 15' 1.5/4.61! 

Both will be entering the University of Washington this fall.

Watch out Pac-12!

Photo credits: 

All but the photo of Hugues Fabrice Zango are by Christian Petersen for Getty Images for World Athletics

The photo of Zango is by Stephen Pond, Getty Images for World Athletics.

~Mark Cullen, written from Seattle

Sunday, August 20, 2023

Budapest World Championships Day #2

After a dramatic first day of falls and upsets, the track and field world settled in for a more predictable second day of  Budapest's World Championships.

Not so fast.

Well, that's what Fred Kerley might have said. 

The defending world champion looked, if anything, sluggish in his semi-final 100m race and was a shocking non-qualifier for the final. All looked good for Kerley for the first 60m but his strength - sustaining his top end speed - was absent today, and Kerley failed to advance. 

Picked by many (including me) to repeat as World Champion, he missed the final by 1/100th of a second.

In the final, Christian Coleman showed himself to be the greatest male starter in the world for the second race in a row. But it did not last and 2019's champion finshed fifth.

Living up to his own pre-meet prediction that he would win, Noah Lyles did just that. He wasn't in first place until less than 20m to go, and he stormed to victory in 9.83 - short of his much-ballyhooed prediction of 9.65, but a World title nonetheless. And the 200m is his better event. Watch out!

A statistical oddity: 2nd, 3rd, and 4th places were all timed in 9.88, and they had to go to thousandths to determine the remaining medalists. Much history here: Botswana's Letsile Tobogo (silver) became Africa's first men's medalist at 100m, while Zharnel Hughes in bronze won Great Britain's first men's 100m medal at Worlds in 20 years.

Serbia's Ivana Vuleta's 5th round 7.14 secured her long jump victory, while Tara Davis-Woodhall (US) settled for second at 6.91. Roumania's Alina Rotaru-Kottmann spolied Nigeria's Ese Brume's party by jumping onto the podium with her final round 6.88. Until then, Brume had been in 3rd at 6.84.

The women's 20k walk saw an unusually high number of warnings during the early stages of the race, but Spain's Maria Perez put down the hammer over the last 5 kilometers and walked away with the win. Through 15k the fastest kilometer had been 4:19; she put down splits of 4:06, 4:09, 4:05, and 4:06 for kilometers 16-19. She took some risk by walking the last several steps with a flag in her hand. No card was issued, and besides, it would have been her first.

Australia's Jemima Montag acknowledged issues with self-confidence over much of her career, but when she found herself in a position for a breakaway for silver, she asked herself "Why not me?" and set an area record of 1:27:27 while she was at it. "This year," she said, "I really work on my mind."

Olympic champion (2021) Antonella Palmisano (Italy) won bronze in spite of a mid-race fall. While I have great confidence that the course met all technical specifications, might it be time to take a second look at how tight the turns don't need to be?

Women's 20 kilometer walk
photo by Stephen Pond/Getty Images for World Athletics

Katarina John-Thompson (GB) set personal bests in both the heptathlon javelin and 800m to turn back the spirited campaign of Anna Hall (US) by a scant 20 points, 6740-6720. 

Holland's Anouk Vetter won bronze. Fill in your own line about the advantages of remaining standing right here!

Speaking of remaining standing... the men's 10,000m was run in hot and humid conditions. The temperature was upwards of 94F with 43% humidity. It's a wonder anyone remained standing at the finish. 

Uganda's Joseph Cheptegai won his third consecutive World 10,000m title, with Daniel Simiu Ebenyu (Ken) second and Tokyo Olympic champion Selemon Barega (Eth) third. As one announcer pointed out, not only did Cheptegai close in 53 seconds, that's exactly how fast he closed to win his first two World titles!

US runners wilted in the heat as Woody Kincaid, Sean McGorty, and Joe Klecker finished 11-16-20.

Hometown hero Bence Balazs kept the stadium rocking in the men's hammer, and he won a well-deserved bronze; he found himself sandwiched between Poland's dynamic duo of Olympic Champion Wojiech Nowicki and 5-time World champion, Pawel Fajdek. Fajdek's streak of 5 consecutive World titles came to an end.

US throwers Rudy Winkler and Daniel Haugh were 6th and 8th last year in Eugene, and this year they traded places.

21-year-old Canadian phenom Ethan Katzberg came into the meet with a hammer best of 78.73 and set a national record 81.18 in the qualifying round to lead all qualifiers by over 3 meters. That should have gotten people's attention.

Today, he added 7 cm to his national record. His series was remarkable; he had five fair throws and each was farther than his pre-meet personal best.

A 21-year-old hammer gold medalist from Canada? This is why we run the races - and throw the throws. "I felt a little nerves coming in," he said, ...but with the first throw, I gained some confidence and I was very satisfied with how I was progressing during the competition."

Katzberg is coached by shot put World and Olympic medalist, Dylan Armstrong, who of all things, was a subject of my very first post when I launched my website 10 years ago:

Finally, I've decided not to post a prediction of the women's 100m winner. However, I will post a hint:

photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images for World Athletics

~Mark Cullen

(written from Seattle)

Saturday, August 19, 2023

Walkin' in the Rain

Note: I am writing from Seattle. I am deeply grateful to Natalie Uhl at USATF Communications and Tania Evesque at World Athletics Communications Operations for their help in getting me set up for remote coverage of these World Championships.

Saturday, 8/19, AM Session

The first email message from World Athletics this morning said that the men's 20k race walk had been postponed due to lightning in the area. It came complete with a deluge, but the hardiest of track and field's athletes - and often the most obscure - delivered a thrilling race once the storm had passed. 

Spain's Alvaro Martin won gold in 1:17:32, with Sweden's Perseus Karlstrom 7 seconds back in silver and an ecstatic Caio Bonfim of Brazil 8 seconds behind him.

What does it mean to win a medal? Getty Images' Christian Petersen captures that moment beautifully in this image of Brazil's Caio Bonfim at the finish of the men's 20 kilometer walk:

Karlstrom (silver), Martin (gold), and Bonfim (bronze)
celebrate their medals
by Christian Petersen of Getty Images for World Athletics
Note Canada's Evan Dunfee in 4th.

 Interesting 20k walk stat of the day: 5 of the top 6 finishers set national records - and the only one who didn't was the winner!

The men's hammer final is Sunday and qualification was led by Canada's Ethan Katzberg in a national record of 81.18m. Katzberg has been on fire this year. In 9 competitions he has finished first, second, or third in every one. 9 podiums out of 9 is a pretty remarkable record. Will he make it 10/10? 

A note about the 100m - the men's final is Sunday. There are 4 rounds in the course of two days - 4 rounds in less than 30 hours, actually. The winner is not only the swiftest but the strongest. Defending World Champion Fred Kerley brings his stellar 400m background to this race. I think that in the final, his race will be over before anyone else's.

Walla Walla's Kenneth Rooks won his steeplechase opener by a scant 1/1000th of a second over one of the heavy favorites, Morocco's Soufiane El Bakkali. This year's NCAA and US Outdoor national champion knows how to win.

The 2021 Prefontaine Classic featured Sifan Hassan's attempt at a 5,000 meter world record. While she finished and won the race, the world record chase was off early. After multiple races in the Tokyo Olympics, she had become visibly tired, and she acknowledged her fatigue. 

Today she embarked upon another triple as she is attempting to win the 1500 (have you heard of Faith Kipyegon?!), 5,000, and 10,000 meter races. She says she is fresh and ready to go. She began her day's work with a 1500m round which she polished off with a win in a last lap under 60 seconds. She won her heat - and was 9th with one lap to go. Time will tell if this unnecessary expenditure of energy will take its toll.

Saturday, 8/19, PM Session

Perhaps it didn't take much time. This day is not one the Dutch will remember fondly. Both Sifan Hassan and Femke Bol finished their quests for gold in, respectively the 10,000m and 4x400m mixed relay, flat on the track and mere meters from the finish line. 

In their stead, Ethiopia swept the distance medals, while US anchor Alexis Homes scorched a 48.82 and stormed past a falling Bol to bring redemption to a US program that was criticized for not fielding its strongest team at home in Eugene last summer. A world record 3:08.80 ought to put some distance on that issue.

Photo by Stephen Pond - Getty Images for World Athletics

It's a Sweep!
Ethiopia's Gudaf Tsegay leads teammates 
Letesentbet Gidey and Ejgayehu Taye
to a 1-2-3 finish for Ethiopia in the 10,000m

Ryan Crouser continued his definitive year in the men's shot put as he won with the second longest throw in history, a 23.51m monster that scared his own 23.56m.

 As is often the case when an athlete nails a truly superb performance, Crouser sensed that his 6th round mega-throw was a great one - the Great One had his arms in the air before his round of steel hit the grass. After a week in which he had to deal with a blood clot in his leg and questions about whether he could compete or not, Crouser summarized the day succinctly "... it was the best performance of my life."

Painting a masterpiece of his own was Italy's Leonardo Fabbri, who set a personal best of 21.99m in the morning's qualifying. After an opening foul and an inauspicious second round, his third throw changed his standing in the sport. He launched the 22.34m throw of a lifetime to win silver. Once he gets home to Italy, he'll never have to pay for dinner again.

University of Washington's Joe Waskom has had a remarkable year, yet inexperience showed today as he ran in a box for much of his qualifying 1500m and took no decisive action to get out. The new qualifying procedure of top six to the next round produced surprisingly fast times in both the men's and women's heats. Three of the men's four heats were won right at 3:34, except Waskom's, which was won in a pedestrian 3:46.77. Had Waskom positioned himself to take advantage of his prodigious kick, he might well have advanced.

In our "Dudes, What Happened?" category, two Americans failed to advance to finals in the shot put and hammer, respectively. One of the most popular medal wins of the Eugene World Championships was Josh Awatunde's unexpected bronze in the shot put, but he did not crack the top 12 today. And Alex Young failed to advance to the final of the hammer throw with an uncharacteristic 69.10m. My best guess from afar is that the throwers were dealing with wet throwing rings after the morning's downpour.

By this time tomorrow, we'll know who the men's 100m champion is, who wins the sure-to-be epic men's 10,000m, who the heptathlon winner is - the US has three of the top four places after the first four events - and whether or not the US men will score a long-sought medal in the hammer. 

In closing, I've gotta give the Hungarian hosts credit. Widely reported is their intense pride in hosting these championships. This was evidenced this morning when they sent a guide for the 27-minute Opening Ceremony - it was 9 pages long! If there's anything you'd like to know about Hungarian folksongs, I'm now your guy.

Leonardo Fabbri reminded us all of just how meaningful a breakthrough performance is on this stage.

"This silver medal opens up new doors for me as the Olympics are coming. It's strange but this was my first final at a global event. That is how I wanted to start this journey."

~Mark Cullen