The IAAF World Championships, Beijing2015 enters its penultimate day. And there are still many things to look forward to.
1 Mo Farah’s 5000m title defence
Mo Farah sets out on a quest to join Usain Bolt as a doubler and in winning five individual world titles on the trot. Can he give any ‘mo’? Can we take any ‘mo’? Have his opponents worked out any way to stop him?
A last-lap sprint won’t do it. Someone must have the great Briton struggling at the bell. Ethiopia’s precocious Yomif Kejelcha perhaps. Or Kenya’s Caleb Ndiku. Mo’s training partner Galen Rupp. One thing is for sure; if it ain’t over by the final lap, it’s all over.
2 The relay baton
Relay batons look forward to a smooth ride around the track and – hopefully – being waved aloft triumphantly at the finish line. This rarely happens. Being snatched at, fumbled, or – worse – dropped is more often their fate. Occasionally even flung skywards in triumph to land who knows where on who knows what.
All four relays get under way on Saturday morning with both men’s and women’s 4x100m finals in the evening session. Jamaica and the USA will be favoured, but it all depends on getting that little metal cylinder around safely.
“We never win but we always get blamed. It’s always ‘the baton did not get around’,” a source close to the equipment cupboard said.
3 The 50km race walk
The day begins with the longest endurance event on the championships program – the men’s 50km race walk. Looking for men who are both fast enough to win and tough enough to handle the conditions brings us immediately to Slovakia’s Matej Toth and Australia’s Jared Tallent.
Toth heads the world list this year while 2013 world bronze medallist Tallent is hyper-consistent. Japan has three of the fastest five for the year – Hiroki Arai, Takayuki Tanii and Yuki Yamazaki – while Poland’s Rafal Augustyn is well up on times and defending champion Robert Heffernan of Ireland must be respected.
4 The women’s 800m
Can Eunice Sum retain her title? The answer seemed to be a confident ‘yes’ until she was narrowly pipped into third place in her semi-final behind Canada’s Melissa Bishop and European champion Marina Arzamasova of Belarus. As 0.04 covered all three in the fastest of the semis, perhaps we should not read too much into that.
Sum has ruled the event since winning in Moscow two years ago, but the racing here has been close and quick. Even if the Kenyan remains the favourite, the destination of the other medals is anyone’s guess.
5 The women’s high jump
Anna Chicherova, a beaten favourite in Moscow, tries her luck at the other end of the Trans-Mongolian Railway journey. She leads the world this year with 2.03m and her Moscow co-bronze medallist, Ruth Beitia of Spain, is one of only two other finalists to have cleared two metres in a fairly low-key year for the event. The other, Maria Kuchina of Russia, is also the world indoor champion.
Blanka Vlasic won a silver medal at the 2008 Olympics in this stadium, but will need to return to the two-metre level to challenge for a medal again. As always, first-time clearances as the bar goes higher will be invaluable.
Best of the rest
The decathlon concludes after two gruelling days with most events contested in the hot sun while Piotr Malachowski looks set to go one better in the discus after taking the silver medal two years ago. With team-mate Robert Urbanek also in contention, Poland could take two medals here.
Len Johnson for the IAAF