Dalilah Muhammad needed a world record performance to beat her American rival for the women’s 400m hurdles title at the world championships at the Khalifa Stadium in Doha.
She broke her own record in a time of 52.16 to edge out the 20-year-old Sydney McLaughlin. McLaughlin took the silver in 52.23 – just three hundredths of a second off Dalilah’s original record.
“This means so much,” said Muhammad, the 29-year-old Olympic champion who, at the US Championships in Des Moines, bettered the 2003 world record of 52.34 set by Russia’s Yulia Pechonkina, recording a time of 52.20.
“It’s difficult to describe. I just wanted the world title so much but to break the world record again I fantastic. I just decided to go for it from the start and I felt Sydney coming at me around hurdle nine. Then I just gave it everything I’d got. It hasn’t really sunk in yet but it feels good,” she added.
Ever since McLaughlin set a world age-14 best of 55.63 in this event, adding the world youth title a year later, she has been noted for future stardom. This was another huge step upwards for an athlete who only turned professional last October.
Rushell Clayton claimed bronze in a personal best of 53.74 ahead of Switzerland’s European champion Lea Sprunger, who improved her national record to 54.06.
Double world champion Zuzana Hejnova of the Czech Republic was fifth in 54.23.
Giant leap for Qatari
While Malaysia’s first ever finalists in an world championships event, Lee Hup Wei, finished eighth in the high jump, the day belonged to Qatari Mutaz Barshim.
Capping a stunning comeback from a career-threatening injury, Mutaz successfully defended his world high jump title with a massive first attempt clearance at 2.37m.
Mutaz, the 2017 World Athlete of the Year, was sidelined by a serious ankle injury just 14 months before the start of the championships. Ruptured ligaments and a subsequent surgery in July of last year began what turned out to be a frustrating race against the calendar, and then against the clock.
He sailed clear on his first attempts over the first four bars: 2.19m, 2.24m, 2.27m and 2.30m with authorised neutral athletes Mikhail Akimenko and Ilya Ivanyuk keeping pace.
Akimemko took command with another first attempt clearance at 2.33m to match his lifetime best while both Ivanyuk and Mutaz missed the height twice. Both made the clearance at the third attempt.
All three made the 2.35m height on their first attempt. Mutaz kept the pressure on with another solid first attempt clearance at 2.37m, finally a bar too high for the challengers.
“For me, it was just a dream. At home, it was just amazing. Everybody was there, my family, friends the Emir himself,” said Barshim, who became the first man to win back-to-back world titles in the event.
“I was not one hundred percent ready but when I came here and saw all of those people cheering for me, even if I was dying, if they take me out with a wheelchair or with an ambulance, I would do everything I can,” he added.
Kipruto once again
Defending champion Conseslus Kipruto brushed aside his poor run up to the world championships with the gold in the men’s 3,000m steeplechase.
Having raced just four times this year and failing to to finish two of those races, he was expected to hand over reins to the likes of world silver medallist Soufiane El Bakkali of Morocco, Getnet Wale of Ethiopia or Kenyan champion Benjamin Kigen.
As was the case in the men’s 5000m final a few days prior, the Ethiopian entrants appeared to work together as a team. Chala Beyo lead for the first two laps, then Wale took a turn at the front as he led the field through 1000m in 2:39.55 with Kipruto tucked close behind.
Ethiopian teenager Lamecha Girma led the pack through the second kilometre, the pace dropping only slightly with 5:22.95 on the clock, putting them on course for a finishing time just outside eight minutes. Girma had Wale, Kipruto, Abraham Kibiwot and El Bakkali for company, all of them looking comfortable.
At the bell, with 7:02.65 on the clock, El Bakkali moved past Wale into pole position but his lead only lasted the length of the back straight. Girma kicked to the front with 200 metres remaining as El Bakkali started to grimace. Kipruto then moved past the Moroccan into second place and in pursuit of Girma,with the tile in sight.
The two men flew over the final barrier with Girma still managing to hold a slight advantage over the Olympic champion, but Kipruto quickly gained on the young Ethiopian with every step. They crossed the line almost in unison, both unsure of the outcome as they waited nervously for the times to come up on the screen.
It was Kipruto, who successfully defended his title in 8:01.35, the third-fastest time of his career and the second-fastest winning time in World Championships history. He now joins Moses Kiptanui, Saif Saaeed Shaheen and Ezekiel Kemboi as multiple steeplechase gold medallists at the World Championships.
Girma, who is still an U20 athlete, took the silver medal in an Ethiopian senior record of 8:01.36, just 0.01 behind the winner.
El Bakkali held on for bronze in 8:03.76, finishing comfortably ahead of Wale, who set a PB of 8:05.21, and France’s Djilali Bedrani, whose 8:05.23 PB takes him to fourth on the European all-time list.
“The Ethiopians had a plan before we started the race. I had a plan for us Kenyans to push hard and I wanted to go in front to control the pace but it was not possible. Those guys, Girma and Wale, simply destroyed my tactics.
“But at championships, I always believe that that experience counts for a lot; it’s not about shape. I set my mind and my heart very well. When I got to the start line, I told myself, ‘I’m going to do it’. This strong mentality helped me win the race,” said Kipruto.
Bahamian blows away the field
Steven Gardiner of the Bahamas clinched the men’s 400m gold in a national record time of 43.48.
Gardiner, whose last one-lap defeat when completing a 400m race came when winning world silver at the 2017 World Championships, took the lead with a devastating burst of speed over the last 150 metres.
Pan American champion Anthony Jose Zambrano lowered his personal best of 44.55 set in the heats to record a South American record of 44.15 for silver.
Fred Kerley, who recorded a time of 43.64 to win the US title in July had to settle for bronze in 44.17.
After the elimination of pre-event favourite Michael Norman in the semi-finals, Kerley was installed as a tentative favourite. Gardiner too had looked impressive in the semi-finals with former World and Olympic champion Kirani James of Grenada rolling back the years to advance to the final after several years struggling to control Graves’ disease.
Only five other men in history have run a faster race. He also became the second Bahamian to land this title following Avard Moncur’s success in Edmonton 18 years ago.
“I went through the rounds perfectly, I can’t believe I am a world champion. I was born in the Caribbean and everyone did their best tonight. It feels pretty good. It’s so big to win two medals (the other being Miller-Uibo). We did it for our country.”
Yaime Perez washed away the pain of previous global championship disappointments to seal the women’s discus world title in a compelling battle against her fellow Cuban Denia Caballero.
The 28-year-old Perez finished fourth at the two previous IAAF World Championships and no-marked in the Olympic final having led the qualifiers. She delivered this time with a best of 69.17m.
The performance was particularly impressive as she had suffered an injury just three days before the competition. Cabelerro, the 2015 world champion, secured silver courtesy of a 68.44m throw to ensure the first women’s discus one-two at a World Championships for 32 years.
Sandra Perkovic, the two-time former champion, claimed bronze with 66.72m for a fourth successive World Championship medal.
“I am happy and grateful to my physiotherapist Abdel Murgia,” she said of the man who made it possible for Perez to compete following the injury mishap.
“My life could not be long enough to thank him for the medal. This is my fourth World Championships. I always arrive in top shape but always left without a medal. It shows that you should never give up. But I persevered and earned my medal.”
In the rounds…
Poland’s European indoor champion Marcin Lewandowski found the way to negotiate heavy traffic and become the fastest qualifier for tomorrow’s men’s 1500m final in 3:36.50.
Kenya’s Ronald Kwemoi and Norway’s Jakob Ingebrigtsen keeping him close company in 3:36.53 and 3:36.58 respectively.
Kenya’s world silver medallist Timothy Cheruiyot had won the opening semi-final in a marginally faster version of 3:36.53. In a tight round, just 0.35 separated the 12 qualifiers to the final.
Britain’s men opened the defence of their 4x100m title in commanding fashion as their quartet of Adam Gemili, Zharnel Hughes, Richard Kilty and Nethaneel Mitchell-Blake won the opening heat in 37.56, the fastest time in the world since their gold medal in London in 2017.
Also through are Brazil, who equalled the South American record of 37.90, and the United States, who had individual champion Christian Coleman on lead-off and recorded a season’s best of 38.03.
Italy, anchored by 100m finalist Filippo Tortu, was fourth in a national record of 38.11.
In the second heat South Africa, anchored by Akane Simbine, won in an African record of 37.65, with Japan second in a season’s best of 37.78, and China third in a national record of 37.79.
Britain also qualified for the women’s 4x100m final despite giving a rest to their 100m silver medallist and 200m champion Dina Asher-Smith, with Daryll Neita anchoring them home to a season’s best of 42.25 behind Jamaica, with 100m champion Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce running the second leg, who clocked the fastest qualifying time of 42.12.
The United States won the opening heat in 42.46. Italy qualified by time in a national record of 42.90.