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

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