The IAAF is pleased to confirm that the 11th IAAF World Championships in Athletics, Osaka 2007, saw the implementation of the largest ever anti-doping programme at an athletics event.... Read More
At the final IAAF / LOC Press Conference of the 11th IAAF World Championships in Athletics, held in Nagai Stadium before the final session of competition, IAAF President Lamine Diack was joined by Mayor of Osaka City Junich Seki, and IAAF General Secretary Pierre Weiss.... Read More
The final day of the 11th IAAF World Championships in Athletics was a day for races, not time trials, putting into perspective that you don’t need fast times to enthrall an athletics crowd, even the very knowledgeable ones sitting alongside me in the press benches.... Read More
Four days after his emphatic win in the 1500m final, Bernard Lagat opened a new chapter of athletics history on the final day of the World Championships in Osaka’s Nagai Stadium.... Read More
It was the 17th and final session of the World Championships on Sunday and Finland was still waiting for its first medal, still waiting for even a top-eight finisher. Then along came the men’s Javelin Throw and Tero Pitkämäki. Suddenly it was as if night had turned into day. Or winter into summer.
When she knew she had won, Blanka Vlasic decided there was still a treat or two in store for the crowd. She would attempt to break the High Jump world record, but first cam a little dance from the first World champion from Croatia.
Written coverage of the 11th IAAF World Championships in Athletics, Osaka, Japan (25 Aug to 2 Sep) was brought to you by the following writers –
Most athletes lock themselves away in their hotel rooms the day before a competition and cut themselves off entirely from every possible distraction. Not Maryam Jamal.
Talent can only get you so far, as innumerable youngsters have learned the hard way. Some recognise the fact that they are not making the grade as seniors, act on it, seek help and come through to the upper echelon. Alfed Yego can count himself among those.
Most athletes lock themselves away in their hotel rooms the day before a competition and cut themselves off entirely from every possible distraction. Not Maryam Jamal. The women’s 1500m gold medalist spent Saturday walking about Osaka with her manager Jacky Delapierre shopping and having a lunch of Kobe beef at a Japanese restaurant.
Talent can only get you so far, as innumerable youngsters have learned the hard way. Some recognise the fact that they are not making the grade as seniors, act on it, seek help and come through to the upper echelon. All too many disappear, wasted and disgruntled. Alfed Yego recognised the warning signs, accepted advice from his manager, and after a season without a single victory – apart from the semi-final two days earlier - raced out of the pack to win the 800.
Catherine the Great just got greater. Catherine Ndereba lived up to her nickname – and her reputation as the world’s most consistently successful woman marathon runner – by regaining the World title she lost to Paula Radcliffe in Helsinki two years ago.
The flying Croatian Blanka Vlasic delivered her Balkan nation its first World Championships medal of any sort tonight as she danced her way to the World title, winning the greatest women’s high jump final these championships have seen.
The lanky 23-year-old failed to qualify for the final two years ago, but is now top of the world after clearing 2.05m in a competition that saw five women sail over 2.00m in a competition for the first time ever in athletics history. When three cleared 2.03, that made history, too.
“I'm just relieved, I wanted it so bad, said Vlasic, who was sixth in 2001, Croatia’s previous highest finish in any World final. “Now I'm in a state of shock, I don't realise.”
Vlasic was an overwhleming favourite and she admitted the pressure on her was great. She has lost only once all year in 13 competitions, becoming the second best of all time.
“I was the favourite, so had to deal with a lot of pressure,” she said. “It was not easy to beat them.”
Croatia’s first medal was safely in Vlasic’s hands when she cleared 2.03 with one leap, and it turned into solid gold as she arced over 2.05m, leaving Russia’s Anna Chicherova and Antoinetta Di Martino to share the silver. The defending champion, Kajsa Bergqvist, of Sweden had a night she’ll want to forget, going out at 1.97 and finishing equal seventh.
The minor medallists took two efforts apiece to leap 2.03 – a personal best by 2cm for Chicherova with Di Martino equalling the Italian record she set earlier this summer.
“I feel extraordinarily good, this is amazing,” said Di Martino, who fractured her foot just three weeks ago. “I am rejoicing. When I cleared 2.03m I said to myself 'Mamma mia!’”
Vlasic celebrated her winning height with a Flamenco-like shimmy and once Di Martino and Chicherova had bowed out, she returned to the dancefloor for three valiant attempts at a 2.10 world record, her fourth assault on Stefka Kostadinova’s 20-year-old mark this season. Surely it will come soon?
“Only after clearing 2.03m and 2.05m did I have fun, not before,” she said. “My dance? In every competition, I actually have a different one. It gives positive energy to people in the crowd. You need to spice it up.”
By that time, the jumpers had been going for two hours. With 16 in the final the start had been brought forward by half an hour to 18:30 Osaka time, but then it coincided with three victory ceremonies which interrupted the flow and slowed the competition. So much for the officials’ good intentions.
It was a gentle start, though, with the bar at 1.85m. Suprisingly, Di Martino was one of only two to knock the bar off, although it was only a temporary blip. She was soon back on track and rose above that and the second height, 1.90, as if it was a training jump.
Vlasic had no such trouble. Arching over like a floppy child’s toy, the tall athlete was putting clear inches of the Osaka sky between herself and the bar with each attempt. The shorter Swede, Kajsa Bergqvist, jumping next, appeared less relaxed, requiring more and more effort through each of the pre-set heights.
As the bar moved up to 1.94, the qualifying height for this final, all 16 were still involved, with only the Czech Barbora Lalakova and Levern Spencer, the 23-year-old from St Lucia, having needed three attempts at 1.90.
But this was where the field began to shrink. Last year’s European champion Tia Hellebaut, who has been below par all year, was the first go out, followed swiftly by Lalakova, Spencer, and Miruna Mataoanu of Romania. This is what officials had expected in the qualifying round – now, after an hour’s competition, we had the 12 finallists.
The first sign of Bergqvist’s trouble came at 1.97. Two years ago the bar had inched up 2cm at a time. The adjustments tonight were tougher.
After 1.97, only four athletes, three Russians and Vlasic, owned clear records, while Di Martino had been perfect since her trouble at 1.85. The Spanish record-holder Ruth Beitia needed two but she also went on.
The big surprise came when Bergqvist crashed out. She hasn’t been at her best this year, but with 2.02 to her name she’s still world No3 and ending her reign at 1.97 was way below the Swede’s expectations.
As Bergqvist trooped disconsolately from the infield, six women moved on to 2.00m. Di Martino took the lead when she became the only jumper to clear on her first attempt, although the Olympic champion kept the pressure on, clearing second time, followed by Vlasic and Chicherova.
The most women ever to clear 2.00m in a World Championships final before tonight was three, but five went on to 2.03. With the pressure on, this was the time for the world's No1 to show her “bottle”.
Vlasic snatched the initiative, clearing with her first attempt as the three Russians and Di Martino all began to fail. The Italian showed her fighting spirit, wriggling over second time up to equal the national record she set back in June, while Chicherova also produced a personal best to join her.
It was too much for the Russian pair Yekatrina Savchenko and Yelena Slesarenko though, leaving Vlasic ahead of Di Martino and Chicherova as the bar moved on to 2.05. We had the three medallists, all we needed was the order.
Only Vlasic had ever cleared this height before, so the gold was her’s to lose. After two fails apiece, Vlasic prepared herself for her third during the uproar following Tero Pitkamaki’s massive gold medal-winning javelin throw. As if lifted up by the noise, she flew into the night sky like a comet and cleared the bar with space to spare.
She knew it was enough, and as she stepped off the mat, she put her hand in the air and shimmied her hips, delighting the crowd. “There’s a world record coming,” said someone in the press seats.
There wasn’t but Vlasic, not to mention Croatia, was happy enough with the gold.
Osaka 2007 News Team/mkb
Allyson Felix won her third gold medal in four days at the Nagai Stadium tonight as she provided the crucial leg to help the United States quartet to dominate and win its fourth women’s 4x400m relay gold in the penultimate event of the World Championships.
Felix ran the second leg for a team that boasted individual 400m finallist DeeDee Trotter on first, with Mary Wineberg and Sanya Richards taking Felix’s lead to the line in 3min 18.55sec, the fourth best of all-time by a US foursome and the fastest time in the world for 14 years.
“It’s great to work together,” said Felix after her first 4x400m relay final. “I didn’t want to let down the team. I ran a very strong leg, but I wasn’t really sure where I was compared to the others.”
After winning golds in the 200m and yesterday in the 4x100m, Felix completed her hat-trick as the USA ran away with the title leaving Jamaica, Britain and Russia to fight for silver and bronze.
The Jamaicans, anchored by the individual bronze medallist Novlene Williams, smashed their national record for second in 3:19.73.
“We did all we could, ran the national record, we cannot ask for more,” said an exhausted Williams. “Silver is great for us. Now I have two medals and so must be totally satisfied.”
Britain’s individual silver medallist, Nicola Sanders, produced a storming last lap to eclipse Russia’s medal hopes, crossing the line in 3:20.04, a British record, bettering a mark set in the 1991 World Championships, the last time they were staged in Japan.
Sanders was just as pleased to have her second medal of the week. “After the heats we knew that the national record was in reach,” she said. “But to do it then in the final was just fantastic. It is amazing - I got two medals. This feels really great.”
Russia’s best time of the year, 3:20.25, was only good enough for fourth, while Belarus also set a new national record for fifth, 3:21.88.
The pundits had been saying this would be close. Through Sanders and Christine Ohuruogu, Britain had taken the first two places in the individual 400m final and had high hopes of giving the Americans a run for their money.
But after leading the qualifiers, USA had 200m finallists Felix and Richards to come into their side, two of the quickest one-lap runners in the world this year, and Britain’s gamble of putting Ohuruogu on first leg, clearly hoping to get an early advantage, didn’t pay off when Jamaica led at the first change.
That soon changed when Felix opened her stride down the back straight and established a 10m lead on the Jamaicans. Russia lay third with Britain fourth and the rest already out of it.
Wineberg extended USA’s lead to 15m as Richards took the baton for the final lap. Down the back straight, Williams and Russia’s Natalya Antyukh started to gain on Richards, opening a gap on Sanders as they did so. But the American had plenty in reserve and she moved away down the home straight to reclaim the title.
Sanders had saved some energy too. She rounded the bend and began her attack, moving out almost to lane four and catching Antyukh with five metres to go to give Britain its third bronze at this event, as Williams brought Jamaica home for a second silver to go with the gold they won in 2001.
“The other two in front of me ran pretty fast, but I kind of waited,” said Sanders. “I had beaten the Russian girl in the 400 metres final, so I knew that I could catch her again. And it worked!”
Richards had the last word, however. “It was just about team USA,” she said. After the Americans had won all four relays in Osaka, few can argue with that.
Osaka 2007 News Team/mkb
Only disaster would have stopped the United States winning the last title on offer at these championships. It was just a matter of how many superlatives they could accrue along the way.
As the individual 400m gold medallist Jeremy Wariner put it: “We had the top three for the quarter, so we were dominating the relay. A world record? Well, we cannot do both.
“The first goal was to win the relay, win the gold medal and a second goal would have been the world record. We can do that another time."
As Wariner took the baton for the final grandstand lap, the flashbulbs popped and he responded with a notional world record 43.08 from a rolling start.
He also stopped the clock at 2:55.56, the third fastest time ever and the night was complete. As they did the night before in the short relay, the victorious American women waited to celebrate together.
“It is the first time we have run together,” said Wariner. “The other guys put it right before me and I just got it home strong.''
Silver, almost four seconds back were the Bahamas followed by Poland for yet another surprise bronze after third places in both men’s and women’s 400m hurdles.
"I got the baton quite a little behind, maybe fourth or fifth,” said Bahamas’ anchor Chris Brown. “The gap opened by the USA was bigger than I expected. Then I had to do what I had to do. It's another medal to add to our collection. We've shown the others that they will need to work hard if they want to get us off the podium.''
"We calculated that USA, Jamaica and Bahamas are the favourites,” said Poland’s lead-off and 400m hurdles bronze medallist Marek Plawgo.
“But we believed in luck and our team spirit. It is a great tradition in the relay in our country. We have something special in us for this race."
Individual silver medallist LaShawn Merritt led off for the USA, handing over to former Olympic hurdles gold Angelo Taylor. The juggernaut was on its way.
Taking the baton in third place, Jamaica’s Ricardo Chambers immediately overtook Michael Mathieu of the Bahamas and the ensuing Caribbean battle was to last for the next three laps with Poland also entering the fray.
By the next handover, Chambers had moved back into silver with Poland’s Daniel Dobrowski forcing his way past Mathieu. If it had not been for the overwhelming superiority of the Americans, the battle for the minor medals would have been epic.
In the lead, Darold Williamson worked on increasing the USA’s lead with Olympian detachment, but behind him the order was constantly changing.
Down the back straight, Poland’s Marcin Marciniszyn had shot past Jamaica’s Leyford Green who immediately came back at him around the top bend, quickly followed by the Bahamas’ Andrae Williams. At this stage Poland were out of the medals.
While Wariner was forging his glory leg, the Brown forced his way past Jamaica’s Sanjay Ayre to move into a definitive silver.
Seeing his chance, as Ayre began to falter, Kacper Koslowski gave it his all in the final 80m to snatch bronze to the delirium of his team-mates.
Osaka 2007 News Team/mb
Maryam Yusuf Jamal delivered her adopted country of Bahrain's first ever women's championship medal, as she overtook the early leader, Russia's Yelena Soboleva, with just over 200m to run and clocked 3min 58.75sec, the second fastest time of the year.
That Soboleva holds the fastest performance of 2007 was no consolation to the Russian champion, who missed out on gold by 0.24sec. Iryna Lishchynska, of the Ukraine, chased the front two home for the bronze in 4:00.69, while behind the medallists, Mariem Alaoui Selsouli (MAR) and Viola Kibiwot (KEN) set PBs in 5th and 6th (4:01.52 and 4:02.10), while 8th placed Agnes Samaria, Namibia's first World finalist since Frank Fredericks, set a national record 4:07.61.
All these achievements were due to the diligent and earnest pacemaking offered by Soboleva. The World No1 coming into the championships, the 25-year-old graduate of Bryansk Institute of Technology, had looked anxious before the start, clearly dry-mouthed, concerned at the weight of expectation on her, in the absence of Tatyana Tomashova, the 2003 and 2005 winner, to continue the Russian dominance of this event.
The opening lap was respectable enough, with Soboleva and Jamal shoulder to shoulder at the front, and Alaoui Selsouli tucked in behind them handily enough. But this was still not good enough for the Russian, who around the second bend forced the pace a little more: 65.82 at 400m, and the race was already down to the top six, Kibiwot, Dabiela Yordanova (BUL) and Lishchynska chasing after Soboleva, with a gaping 10m hole back to the rest of the already strung-out field.
Jamal sat and bided her time. Two years ago in Helsinki, she felt she was robbed of her medal chance when baulked by another competitor who was subsequently disqualified. This season, the former Ethiopian (then known as Zenebach Tola) had had a formidable build-up to these championships. Apart from a bad race in Paris, she has strung together an impressive series of results, including wins over a mile in Geneva, and at 1500m in Oslo, Lausanne and Monaco. Soboleva knew she had to run her off her legs.
Thus 800m was passed in 2:09.57, the bell reached in 2:57.37. With 300 to go (3:12.66), the race was down to the last three, and Jamal kicked along the back straight to force herself to the front for the first time. Surely Soboleva could not have the strength to come back at her?
But she did. Into the home straight, the front two had now opened up a six-metre gap on the chasing Lishchynska.
Jamal looked to be fading, her strength exhausted, and Soboleva summoned up one last big effort. Yet she, too, was at the end of her resources, and try as she might, she did not have enough to overhaul her younger rival.
And rivals they will be for some time to come, starting with races in Zurich on Friday and then over one mile at the Brussels Golden League meeting, where Soboleva is threatening to attack the world record of her compatriot, and former World champion, Svetlana Masterkova.
She did not reproach herself for giving her all in pursuit of glory. "She was better today," Soboleva conceded, adding that she felt that her semi-final may have taken more out of her than Jamal's less demanding qualifying race.
But, she added, "I would not change anything in my tactics if I was to race this final again. It was a very tough race."
Jamal, who lives and trains at altitude in the Swiss Alps at St Moritz, was enjoying a different sort of high after her victory. "This makes up for Helsinki," she said. "This race was perfect for me."
Osaka 2007 News Team/sd