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)

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