The Sports Examiner

TSX REPORT: Was holding the IAAF Worlds in Doha a good idea? The competition was superb + Biles already dominating Gymnastics Worlds; Jill Ellis Era ends for U.S. women

U.S. women celebrate a 4x400 m World Championships gold! (Photo: IAAF)

= TSX REPORT ~ 7 October 2019 =

| 1. |  LANE ONE: Was the IAAF World Championships a success or failure in Doha? 

The IAAF World Championships in Doha, Qatar ended on Sunday, finishing 10 days of competition, controversy and a lot of brilliance from the nearly 2,000 athletes in attendance.

So can the question now be answered: was this a good idea?

There are points in favor of it:

● The performances were outstanding, with two World Records and 18 world leading marks;

● The sport’s new faces emerged, including Christian Coleman, Noah Lyles, Tim Cheruiyot, Grant Holloway, Rai Benjamin, Mondo Duplantis, Salwa Eid Naser, Sifan Hassan, Nia Ali, Sydney McLaughlin, DeAnna Price, Katarina Johnson-Thompson and a lot more;

● Some of the old faces are still looking good: Steven Gardiner, Conseslus Kipruto, Karsten Warholm, Mutaz Essa Barshim – whose win in the high jump made the meet for the home country – Sam Kendricks, Christian Taylor, the shot put trio of Joe Kovacs, Ryan Crouser and Tom Walsh, Shelly-Anne Fraser-Pryce, Dina Asher-Smith, Hellen Obiri, Dalilah Muhammad, Mariya Lasitskene and Lijiao Gong;

● The attendance wasn’t great, but it picked up on the final Friday when Barshim was jumping and was good for the final two days.

But there were also the issues:

● It was hot, really hot, with the dates the latest ever by a month and the schedule compressed into single sessions of up to six and seven hours, hardly the best for a worldwide television audience;

● The athletes in the marathons and walks, despite competing after midnight, were still placed under harsh conditions, especially the high level of humidity;

● The attendance was poor, especially in the first few days. The organizing committee did its best to fill up the Khalifa International Stadium, including giving away a lot of tickets and the house was fuller at the end.

The consensus was that this was probably not the best idea. IAAF President Sebastian Coe insisted that taking the event to the Middle East was an important step for the federation, and to his credit, never mentioned that the selection of Doha was made during the administration of his predecessor, Lamine Diack of Senegal, who will shortly be on trial in France for extortion, fraud and money-laundering, among other charges.

There were strong performances in Doha, especially for the American team, which won 29 medals and dominated the event with 14 victories in the 49 events and both of the world records set. In the placing table which awards points for finishes in the top eight, the U.S. scored 310 to  to 122 for second-place Kenya.

The IAAF’s technical team also did yeoman work in Doha, creating a unique light show for the final event of each night – a new standard – and producing very high quality online services for fans both on-site and following the meet at home.

There is the promise of quite a show when the event comes to the U.S. for the first time in 2021. More here.

| 2. | ATHLETICS: U.S. finishes with 29 medals, 14 golds and both world records at Worlds

The IAAF World Championships finished with a blaze of glory for the U.S. team, which overwhelmed the rest of the world.

The American squad won 29 medals in all and 14 golds; the next closest was Kenya with five golds and Jamaica with 12 medals. A few of the highlights of the final days:

● Friday: Qatar’s Mutaz Essa Barshim won the high jump and electrified the Khalifa International Stadium as only a national hero can. American Dalilah Muhammad won the 400 m hurdles over teammate Sydney McLaughlin with another world record, of 52.16. Kenyan Conseslus Kipruto, injured most of the year, won the men’s Steeple in a world-leading 8:01.35 and Steven Gardiner of The Bahamas moved to no. 6 on the all-time list in winning the men’s 400 m in 43.48, leaving American Fred Kerley in third. More here.

● Saturday: The greatest shot put competition in history, with New Zealand’s defending champion Tom Walsh reaching a staggering 22.90 m (75-1 3/4) in the first round, but then finally seeing the 2015 World Champion, Joe Kovacs of the U.S. (pictured below) go from fourth to first in the sixth round at 22.91 m (75-2). Then American Ryan Crouser went from third to second by also throwing 22.90 m, but with a better second mark than Walsh … who won bronze after throwing beyond 75 feet!

The women’s 1,500 m final was a showcase for Dutch star Sifan Hassan, who overwhelmed the field with a sensational 3:51.95 mark, making her the sixth-fastest performer in history. Kenya’s Hellen Obiri defended her 5,000 m title over teammate Margaret Kipkemboi and Germany’s Konstanze Klosterhalfen with a relentless final few laps. Jamaica won the women’s 4×100 m as expected (41.44) and the U.S. team of Christian Coleman, Justin Gatlin, Mike Rodgers and Noah Lyles ran away with the men’s 4×100 m in 37.10, an American Record. More here.

● Sunday: The men’s 1,500 m was a runaway for Kenya’s Timothy Cheruiyot, who won with ease in a sparkling 3:29.26, but the men’s 10,000 came down to an all-out sprint over the final 300 m. Uganda’s Joshua Cheptegei had a little more speed in the final 60 m to edge Ethiopia’s Yomif Kejelcha, 26:48.36-26:49.34.

The U.S. finished with a flourish, as Nia Ali (12.34 lifetime best) and Keni Harrison went 1-2 over favored Danielle Williams (JAM) in the women’s 100 m hurdles and the American quartets ran away with the closing 4×400 m relays. The women’s team of Phyllis Francis, McLaughlin, Muhammad and Wadeline Jonathas (pictured above) ran a world-leading 3:18.92 and won by almost three seconds. The men’s team of Kerley, Michael Cherry, Wil London and Rai Benjamin won by more than a second over Jamaica and ran 2:56.69, the fastest since 2008 and the 12th-fastest 4×4 of all time. More here.

| 3. | FOOTBALL: U.S. ends Victory Tour with 1-1 tie with Korea in Jill Ellis’s last game

The historically-successful Jill Ellis Era came to a close at Solider Field in Chicago as the U.S. women played to a 1-1 tie with South Korea to finish the five-match “Victory Tour.”

This was a much more physical game than the U.S.’s 2-0 win in Charlotte on Thursday. The Koreans refused to be pushed around and controlled the game for long stretches in the first half. A clever cross-field shot by striker So-Yun Ji in the 34th minute gave the visitors a 1-0 lead and ended the U.S. unscored-on streak at 762 minutes.

The lead lasted for just three minutes, as a Megan Rapinoe corner kick in the 37th minute was headed in by Carli Lloyd, finding the ball in the middle of two defenders. It was Lloyd’s 118th goal for the U.S.

The second half had more U.S. possession, but no more scoring. Korea was actually down to 10 players because of a red card for the final 10 minutes (including stoppage time) and the U.S. had multiple chances, but none went in.

The tie meant the U.S. women finished the Victory Tour at 4-0-1 and 13-1 in goal differential. Ellis (pictured) finishes her brilliant U.S. coaching career with the most wins ever at 106, one more than the late Tony DiCicco  (1995-99), plus two World Cup titles in 2015 and 2019.

Ellis is leaving and a new U.S. coach will be on hand for November friendlies vs. Sweden and Costa Rica. More here.

| 4. | GYMNASTICS: Biles set to dominate FIG World Championships in Stuttgart

The almost-annual FIG World Championships in Artistic Gymnastics is underway with qualifying competitions in Stuttgart, Germany, with the events continuing through next Sunday.

The star of the show was expected to be – and is – American superstar Simone Biles. Coming into this Worlds, she owns the records for most career golds (14, men or women), most total medals (20 for women, tied with Svetlana Khorkina/RUS, 1994-2003) and most individual-event golds (11, women; tied with Vitaly Scherbo/RUS: 1991-96) and total medals (17, women; Scherbo won 22).

If Biles wins six medals in Stuttgart – as she did in 2018 – she will hold all of these records, passing Scherbo’s all-time career total of 23 Worlds medals.

She gave every indication that she is ready, as she led the All-Around and qualified for all of the apparatus finals on Friday and Saturday. The U.S. team led the qualifying with a score of 174.205, a staggering 5.044 points ahead of China (169.161). Biles led in the All-Around qualifying at 59.432, ahead of teammate Sunisa Lee at 57.166.

She’s amazing. More here.

| 5. | SWIMMING: ISL debuts in Indianapolis; Hosszu keeps winning in FINA World Cup

The long-awaited debut of the International Swimming League finally came in Indianapolis on Saturday and Sunday, offering its version of a “modern” swim meet, replete with a darkened IU Natatorium, wall-to-wall sound from a live DJ on the deck and racing between teams of swimmers affiliated with new clubs in France, San Francisco, Washington, D.C. and Italy.

That the first meet happened is a tribute to the ISL, but its promised revolution in swimming is still a ways off. There were many of the big stars in the sport in the pool and the television production values were high, but the attendance was poor – under 1,000 each day in a 4,700-capacity facility – and the presentation was somewhat chaotic if you weren’t completely aware of the format.

The program was what American collegiate fans would recognize as a quadrangular meet, with team scoring. The swimmers scored points, which also earned them $300 per point plus a $1,000 payment for competing in the meet.

The swimmers like this, of course: they are getting paid (quite well by swimming standards), their names and pictures are in lights on the giant scoreboards on the deck and the public address announcer is screaming their names. Whether this is sustainable into the future is another question and there are six meets to go.

In the pool, Sweden’s Sarah Sjostrom was the star, winning five individual events and a relay for six total victories and had the most points overall at 55.5. South African Chad LeClos won three individual events and two relays for five total golds; he led all men’s scorers at 43.0.

As far as times go – heavily de-emphasized by ISL in this short-course (25 m) format – world-leading short-course marks were set in 29 of the 32 individual events. The outstanding performance came from Katie Ledecky (D.C. Tridents). After two seconds on the first day, she swam the 400 m Free on Sunday in a re-match of the famous Worlds race against Ariarne Titmus of Australia (Cali Condors). This time, Ledecky was healthy and won decisively in 3:54.06, close to Titmus’s world short-course mark of 3:53.92; Titmus finished second in 3:57.91.

Saturday’s coverage is here; Sunday’s is here.

At the fourth stop of the FINA Swimming World Cup in Budapest, Hungarian star Katinka Hosszu was up to her usual standard, winning three races – the 200 m Fly, both Medleys and a relay – to maintain her lead in the overall standings ahead of Cate Campbell of Australia, who won the 100 m Free in an impressive 53.00.

Russia’s Vladimir Morozov also won three events – the most that will count for points – and logged noteworthy marks of 21.50 in the 50 m Free and 47.99 for the 100 m Free. The other triple winner was Dutch ace Arno Kamminga (NED) in the 50-100-200 m Breaststroke events.

The World Cup continues next week in Berlin (GER). Here on Budapest here.

| 6. | BOXING: AIBA Women’s World Champs underway in Ulan-Ude

Although the 2019 edition of the AIBA Women’s World Championships has no bearing on Olympic qualification, a big field of 224 fighters from 576 countries are in Russia for the 11th edition of the women’s Worlds.

Seven of the 10 champions from 2018 have returned this year, with preliminary matches continuing through the 9th. Quarterfinals will be on the 10th, semis on the 12th and the finals next Sunday (13th).

One of the stars is India’s Mary Kom, who owns the most medals women at the women’s Worlds with seven, including six golds. She’s won at Pinweight (45-46 kg) four times, then at Light Flyweight (48 kg) in 2010 and 2018 and, at 36, will fight at 51 kg in 2019.

Our preview is here.

| 7. | VOLLEYBALL: Men’s World Cup has Brazil and U.S. in front as halfway nears

Although it has no bearing on Olympic qualification for 2020, the FIVB is holding the men’s World Cup anyway in 2019. The round-robin program of matches about 12 of the top continental teams in the world completed the first round on Sunday with Brazil and the U.S. at the top of the table:

1. 15 points Brazil (5-0)
2. 13 points United States (4-1)
3. 12 points Poland (4-1)
4. 9 points Japan (3-2)
5. 9 points Russia (3-2)
6. 7 points Egypt (2-3)

The event is being held in Japan as usual; the matches are in Fukuoka, Nagano and Hiroshima in 2019. The second round will finish on 11 October and the short third round on 15 October. More here.

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