There’s a good reason why gold medals aren’t won on paper, they have to be won on the field.
Upsets were the order of the day on Thursday at the IAAF World Championships in Doha, Qatar, as three heavy favorites all went down.
Let’s start with the women’s 400 m, in which Shaunae Miller-Uibo of the Bahamas, hadn’t lost since the 2017 Worlds final, a streak of 12 wins in a row. She was the world leader at 49.05 and frankly looked invincible.
But the 21-year-old, Nigerian-born Bahrani Salwa Eid Nasser ran 49.08 in 2018 and was undefeated in eight meets – including the Diamond League final – this year. She took off like a rocket off the start, running in lane five, with Miller-Uibo ahead of her in lane seven.
She caught and passed Miller-Uibo just after 200 m, but it was just to wait for the straight away for the positions to be reversed, right?
Didn’t happen and Naser held on to finish in a stunning 48.14, the no. 3 time in history, and the fastest run since East German Marita Koch’s world record of 47.60 back in 1985! Naser has now won 13 finals in a row, dating back to 2018.
Miller-Uibo was hardly goofing off, finishing in a lifetime best 48.37, a huge lifetime best and national record and moving her to five all-time with the ninth-fastest race ever run.
Further back, Americans Wadeline Jonathas and defending champ Phyllis Francis couldn’t catch Jamaica’s Shericka Jackson for third (49.47 lifetime best), but were rewarded with their own PRs at 49.60 and 49.61, respectively, moving to no. 9 and no. 10 all-time U.S.
This was a stunner and followed up on what had been a wild day already.
In the decathlon, France’s Kevin Mayer was injured during the high jump on Wednesday, but managed to get through the 110 m hurdles and discus in good-enough shape to take the overall lead after seven events. But the pain in his left leg was too much when it came to the pole vault and he had to abandon the competition. Mayer had been extra careful in 2019 to conserve his actual competitions to keep away from injuries, but it didn’t help.
The vault also ended any medal hopes for American Devon Williams, who was seventh after seven events, but failed to clear a height. Earlier, Germany’s Kai Kazmirek, another medal contender, went around a hurdle instead of over it and scored 0 in the event; he finished 17th.
That left the door open for Canada’s Damian Warner, of course, the world leader at 8,711. Nope.
Instead, it was Maicel Uibo of Estonia – the husband of Shaunae Miller-Uibo – who had the lead after nine events, 7,869-7,854-7,850 over Warner and Germany’s 21-year-old Niklas Kaul. And Kaul was by far the best 1,500 m runner, finishing in 4:15.70 to 4:31.51 for Uibo and 4:40.77 for Warner.
That left the final score at 8,691 for Kaul – a lifetime best — followed by Uibo with his own PR of 8,604 and Warner third, his third Worlds medal after a silver in Beijing in 2015 and a bronze in 2013 in Moscow. Kaul’s prior best was 8,572.
Just before the 1,500 m in the decathlon was the heptathlon 800 m, where Katarina Johnson-Thompson had been outstanding all day and held a 5,976-5,839 lead over defending champ – and favorite – Nafi Thiam of Belgium. Johnson-Thompson’s huge long jump of 6.77 m (22-2 1/2) was the difference-maker, and she wrapped up her first world title by winning the 800 m in 2:07.26, while Thiam finished in 2:18.93.
Johnson-Thompson’s lifetime best total of 6,981 moves her to no. 8 all-time; Thiam won the silver and Austria’s Verena Prener took bronze (6,560). The U.S. showed well with places 4-5, as Erica Bougard scored 6,470 and Kendell Williams was fifth with 6,415.
The one final that – more or less – went to form was the women’s shot. China’s Lijiao Gong led throughout, reaching 19.07 m (62-6 3/4) in the first round, 19.21 m (63-0 1/4) in round three and 19.55 m (64-1 3/4) in round four to defend her 2017 title. She’s now won a medal in six straight World Championships!
Jamaican Danniel Thomas-Dodd was second after the first round and stayed there, finally settling for 19.47 m (63-10 1/2) on her final throw. Germany’s 2015 World Champion, Christina Schwanitz, won the bronze at 19.17 m (62-10 3/4). American Maggie Ewen was fourth at 18.93 m (62-1 1/4), but medal favorite Chase Ealey could not get untracked and was seventh at 18.82 m (61-9).
In the preliminary rounds, all of the medal favorites qualified in the women’s triple jump and the men’s shot. Poland’s Michal Haratyk, a possible medalist, did not make it in the shot.
In the men’s 1,500 m heats, the main contenders all went through, including Americans Craig Engels, Matthew Centrowitz and Ben Blankenship. In the women’s 1,500 m semifinals, Sifan Hassan (NED) and Shelby Houlihan went 1-2 in the first heat and Jenny Simpson of the U.S. won heat two in a very fast 4:00.99. British star Laura Muir qualified in third and American Nikki Hiltz ran a lifetime best of 4:01.52 to get through on time to the final.
Summaries from Thursday:
Decathlon: 1. Niklaus Kaul (GER), 8,691; 2. Maicel Uibo (EST), 8,604; 3. Damian Warner (CAN), 8,529; 4. Ilya Shkurenyov (RUS), 8,494; 5. Pierce LaPage (CAN), 8,445; 6. Janek Oiglane (EST), 8,297; 7. Pieter Braun (NED), 8,222; 8. Solomon Simmons (USA), 8,151. Also: 14. Harrison Williams (USA), 7,892.
400 m: 1. Salwa Eid Naser (BAH), 48.14; 2. Shaunae Miller-Uibo (BAH), 48.37; 3. Shericka Jackson (JAM), 49.47; 4. Wadeline Jonathas (USA), 49.60; 5. Phyllis Francis (USA), 49.61; 6. Stephanie Ann McPherson (JAM), 50.89; 7. Justyna Swiety-Ersetic (POL), 50.95; 8. Iga Baumgart-Witen (POL), 51.29.
Shot: 1. Lijiao Gong (CHN), 19.55 m (64-1 3/4); 2. Danniel Thomas-Dodd (JAM), 19.47 m (63-10 1/2); 3. Christina Schwanitz (GER), 19.17 m (62-10 3/4); 4. Maggie Ewen (USA), 18.93 m (62-1 1/4); 5. Anita Marton (HUN), 18.86 m (61-10 1/2); 6. Aliona Dubitskaya (BLR), 18.86 m (61-10 1/2); 7. Chase Ealey (USA), 18.82 m (61-9); 8. Brittany Crew (CAN), 18.55 m (60-10 1/2). Also: 9. Michelle Carter (USA), 18.41 m (60-4 3/4).
Heptathlon: 1. Katarina Johnson-Thompson (GBR), 6,981; 2. Nafi Thiam (BEL), 6,677; 3. Verena Preiner (AUT), 6,560; 4. Erica Bougard (USA), 6,470; 5. Kendell Williams (USA), 6,415; 6. Nadine Broersen (NED), 6.392; 7. Emma Oosterwegel (NED), 6,250; 8. Odite Ahouanwanou (BEN), 6,210. Also: 12. Chari Hawkins (USA), 6,073; 13. Annie Kunz (USA), 6,067.