Sam Kendricks in pole vault qualifying at the IAAF World Athletics Championships Doha 2019 (© Getty Images)
Can we really be approaching the half-way point already? Time-wise it may be all downhill from here but there’s so much more to come before the lights go down for the last time on the IAAF World Athletics Championships Doha 2019.
Day five offers just four gold medals, but a raft of good events will be at the heat, semi-final or qualifying stage.
Kendricks the man to beat in pole vault
Pole vault qualifying was traumatic (for some) and dramatic (for us). Astonishingly, world record-holder Renaud Lavillenie’s implacable World Championships curse continued as he became the biggest name to bow out in qualifying. Other big names to miss the cut were 2011 world champion Pawel Wojciechowski and consistent big-timer Konstantinos Filippidis.
Defending champion Sam Kendricks and 2019’s two other six-metre performers, Piotr Lisek and Armand Duplantis, all came through, but it is Kendricks who looks the man to beat. Olympic champion Thiago Braz da Silva is enjoying his best season since that heady home triumph.
Should Duplantis win some seven weeks short of his 20th birthday, he would become the youngest world champion in the event since one Sergey Bubka, 19 years and 253 days old when he won the first of his six world titles in Helsinki in 1983.
Close battle anticipated in women’s javelin
Qualifying was nervy for some – just two throwers, world leader Lyu Huihui and Christin Hussong, achieved the automatic mark of 63.50m. A third, Liu Shiying, threw 63.48m.
The rest of the favoured ones got through, but only after a nervous wait for some. In group A, India’s Annu Rani went through with a national record of 62.43m, but two of 2019’s four 67-metre throwers, Nikola Ogrodnikova and Kelsey-Lee Barber, scraped through as fourth, fifth in group A, as did Olympic champion Sara Kolak in sixth.
In group B, defending champion Barbora Spotakova, returning from the birth of her second child, needed all three throws before advancing comfortably with her third effort of 62.15m. Another current 67-metre thrower, Tatsiana Khaladovich, also had an anxious time before going through with 61.74m.
The final, of course, is another day where the seasonal form may well reassert itself, but it looks a wide-open event with perhaps a sleeper like Rani bobbing up with a medal. Because this is javelin, there will be an absolute bolter lurking in there somewhere.
The semi-finals produced the usual epic racing, with big names Emmanuel Korir, defending champion Pierre-Ambroise Bosse and Adam Kszczot among those to bow out.
Wesley Vazquez ran his rivals off their feet in winning the first semi in 1:43.96 and could adopt similar tactics in the final. Canada’s newcomer, Pan American champion Marco Arop, Donavan Brazier, Clayton Murphy and the others will no doubt aim to stay close enough without burning themselves out in the first 400m.
There could be eight men still in contention into the final straight. Let’s hope so.
Lyles looks likely in 200m
The night’s other track final is the men’s 200m. Noah Lyles will start prohibitive favourite, with one eye to improving his position on the world all-time list – third, behind Usain Bolt, Yohan Blake and Michael Johnson – and the other on his opposition.
Defending champ Ramil Guliyev, the resurgent Andre De Grasse and Adam Gemili look best placed to profit should Lyles falter.
Keep an eye on: the finish-line clock.
Wait, there’s more!
Those who love the chance of assessing the form almost as much as watching the head-to-head clashes have a lot to look for on day five.
The men’s flat 400m and women’s one-lap hurdles both have first-round heats, while the women’s 200m and 400m move to the semi-final stage. There’s also qualifying in men’s high jump and hammer.
Your mission, should you choose to accept it: write down your 1-2-3 medal picks after these prelims and see how close you get. Well done if you haven’t self-destructed after just one event.
Len Johnson for the IAAF