The Sports Examiner

TSX REPORT: Defenders Barshim and Rojas win again, as do Olympic champs El Bakkali, Kipyegon and Thiam at Athletics Worlds

The best ever: another Worlds gold for triple jump star Yulimar Rojas (VEN). (Photo: Getty Images for World Athletics)

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Session 8 ~ Monday, 18 July 2022

Champions shined on the fourth night of the World Athletics Championships at Hayward Field in Eugene. From the 2019 Worlds in Doha, men’s high jump superstar Mutaz Essa Barshim of Qatar was supreme again as was Venezuelan triple jumper Yulimar Rojas, both with world-leading performances.

Similarly brilliant were Tokyo Olympic gold-medal winners who took the honors Monday: men’s Steeple star Soufiane El Bakkali of Morocco, Faith Kipyegon (KEN) in the women’s 1,500 m and heptathlon star Nafi Thiam of Belgium. Five finals and five winners who know what victory is about. The evening in review:

● Women/1,500 m ● The pace was hot from the gun, with Ethiopia’s Gudaf Tsegay – the 2022 World Indoor Champion – moving hard and double Olympic champion Kipyegon, Ethiopian Hirut Meshesha and British Olympic silver medalist Laura Muir staying with her through a 58.9 opening lap.

This was too much for the rest of the field, which could only watch as these four dueled for the medals. Kipyegon and Tsegay exchanged the lead a couple of times, with Tsegay leading at the bell, with Kipyegon and Muir close and Meshesha falling back.

The race was decided with 250 m to go, as Kipgeyon attacked and forged a clear lead into the final turn and ran away on the home straight to finish in 3:52.96, no. 2 on the year and the no. 10 performance in history.

Tsegay took the silver in 3:54.52 and Muir the bronze (3:55.28), with Ethiopia’s Freweyni Hailu coming up for fourth in a distant 4:01.28. American Sinclaire Johnson was sixth (4:01.63) and Cory McGee was 10th in 4:03.70.

Kipyegon won her second Worlds (also 2017) in addition to two silvers, to add to her 2016 and 2020 Olympic triumphs; she now owns five of the top 12 performances ever and at 28, shows no signs of slowing.

● Men/Steeple ● The field just jogged through the first four laps, with Ethiopia’s Lamecha Girma leading rather reluctantly. No one moved hard and fellow Ethiopian Getnet Wale had the lead over a bunched field with two laps to go, but then Eritrea’s Yemane Haileselassie stormed to the lead with 500 m to go and took the bell in front.

Now this was a sprint, with Girma and Wale chasing and taking the lead, with Kenya’s two-time World Champion Conseslus Kipruto in the hunt for a third straight title with 200 m to go. But Olympic champ El Bakkali moved smartly into contention and then burst by the three ahead of him on the final water jump and into the lead into the home straight.

Girma was chasing hardest, but could not match El Bakkali’s speed and had to settle for second, 8:25.13-8:26.01. Kipruto came back from injuries and legal trouble to win a remarkable bronze in 8:27.92 with Wale fourth in 8:28.68.

Americans Evan Jager was sixth in 8:29.08 and Hillary Bor finished eighth in 8:29.77.

There was a bad incident on the first lap, when the pack had to split to run around an oblivious cameraman, shooting the women’s triple jump from lane two. No one fell or was hurt, but this was stupid and unforgivable.

● Men/High Jump ● The serious jumping came at 2.30 m (7-6 1/2), with defending champion Barshim, Korea’s Sanghyeok Woo, Andriy Protsenko (UKR) and American Shelby McEwen clearing on their first tries and Olympic co-champ Gianmarco Tamberi (ITA) on his third.

At 2.33 m (7-7 3/4), Barshim and Protsenko cleared right away, then Tamberi made it on his second try and Woo on his third. McEwen missed twice, then passed to 2.35 m (7-8 1/2). Barshim cleared right away, and only Woo could also clear, on his second try. Protsenko won the bronze over Tamberi based on earlier misses and McEwen ended up fifth.

But Barshim was supreme, clearing a world-leading 2.37 m (7-9 1/4), with Woo missing once and then retired, settling for silver. It’s Barshim’s third straight world title to go along with his Olympic co-gold in Tokyo. He jumped six times during the competition and cleared all six.

American JuVaughn Harrison cleared 2.27 m (7-5 1/4) and finished ninth.

(Thanks for sharp-eyed reader Brian Russell for the correction on place.)

● Women/Triple Jump ● Olympic champ and prohibitive favorite Rojas jumped to the lead at 14.60 m (47-10 3/4) in the first round, but was passed by Jamaica’s 2019 Worlds silver medalist Shanieka Ricketts, who claimed an outdoor world-leading 14.89 m (48-10 1/4). American Tori Franklin popped out to 14.53 mw (47-8w) to stand third after round one.

Unfazed, Rojas bounded out to 15.47 m (50-9 1/4) on her second jump to re-take the world lead for 2022 – the no. 6 jump of all time – and move Ricketts to second. Cuba’s Leyanis Perez displaced Franklin from the top three, jumping 14.70 m (48-2 3/4) in the second round to take third. American Keturah Orji moved up to fifth in round three, with 14.49 mw (47-6 1/2).

The order did not change until the fifth round, when Franklin got a seasonal best of 14.72 m (48-3 1/2), the equal-6th best jump in U.S. history. That moved her into third by 2 cm and Perez could not respond. It’s the first-ever Worlds triple jump medal for the U.S.

Rojas and Ricketts stayed 1-2 and Rojas now has three straight world outdoor titles to go along with three World Indoor titles and her Olympic gold in Tokyo and both the indoor and outdoor world records. The best ever.

Orji did not improve and finished sixth.

● Women/Heptathlon ● Olympic silver medalist Anouk Vetter (NED) entered with a 6,045 to 6,026 lead on two-time Olympic champ Thiam, with American Anna Hall third with 5,741.

And as the best 800 m runner in the field, Hall outlasted Noor Vidts (BEL) and Adrianna Sulek (POL) on the home straight to win in 2:06.67, scoring 1,014 points to finish with 6,755, now no. 3 all-time U.S. and the bronze medalist.

Thiam finished fifth in a lifetime best of 2:13.00 and Vetter was 11th (2:20.09), so Thiam won the gold with a massive world-leader 6,947 to 6,867 for Vetter, repeating their 1-2 from Tokyo. Sulek finished fourth with 6,672. Americans Ashtin Zamzow-Mahler and Michelle Atherley finished 11th and 12th at 5,974 and 5,959. Kendell Williams had to retire with an injury.

● Men/200 m heats ● Florida’s NCAA champ Joseph Fahnbulleh (of Liberia) came on on the straightaway and won the first heat in 20.12 (wind +1.0 m/s); Jereem Richards (TTO) cruised to a 20.35 win (0.0) in heat two and then co-favorite Erriyon Knighton of the U.S. stormed the turn and jogged home in 20.01w (+2.1) in heat three.

Alexander Ogando (DOM) won heat four, in a national record 20.01 (+0.5), well ahead of Olympic silver winner Kenny Bednarek of the U.S. (20.35), who jogged the last 50 m. World 10 m champ Fred Kerley (USA) powered down the straight and won heat five in 20.17 (+0.4), then Filippo Tortu of Italy won heat six in 20.18 (+1.0). World Champion Noah Lyles celebrated his 25th birthday with an easy win in heat seven and posting the fastest time of the day in 19.98 (-0.3). The semis are on Tuesday.

● Women/200 m heats ● World leader Shericka Jackson (JAM) ran away with heat one in 22.34w (+2.5), then teammate Elaine Thompson-Herah – twice Olympic champ – cruised to a second-place finish behind Beatrice Masilingi (NAM), 22.27-22.41 (-0.2) in heat two. Next was Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce, fresh from her 100 m triumph, running an easy second to Aminatou Seyni (NIG), 21.98-22.26 (+1.1) in heat three.

American Tamara Clark won heat four over defending champion Dina Asher-Smith (GBR), 22.27-22.56 (+1.1), then U.S. champ Abby Steiner flew around the curve and won the fifth heat in 22.26 (+0.9). Heat six featured American Jenna Prandini, but she let Favour Ofili (NGR and LSU) go by for the win in 22.24-22.38 (+1.9).

● Women/Discus qualifying ● Lots of drama in the first group, as co-favorite Valarie Allman of the U.S. – the Olympic champ – fouled her first two throws, but then bombed her third throw, reaching 68.36 m (224-3) and celebrating with the crowd. The auto-qualifying standard of 64.00 m (210-0) was reached by two others in Group A and five in Group B, led by Jorinde van Klinken (NED and Arizona State) at 65.66 m (215-5).

American Laulauga Tausaga qualified at 62.85 m (206-2) in 10th place overall, but Veronica Fraley was a non-qualifier at 58.32 m (191-4).

Now at the halfway mark of the Championships – eight sessions out of 16 – the U.S. team is, as expected, running away with the medal count and the team scoring.

Americans have won 16 medals (6-4-6), placing the all-time record of 31 by East Germany from 1987 within some jeopardy. Next up are Ethiopia (3-3-) and Kenya (1-3-2) with six each and 26 nations have won medals so far.

On the placing table, scoring 8-7-6-5-4-3-2-1 for the top places, the U.S. has a staggering 168 points to 68 for Ethiopia, 58 for Kenya, 41 for Poland and 39 for Jamaica. Wow.

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