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

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