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

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