A gold medal for the home fans to cheer, a long jump competition for the ages, a scintillating sprint and a world leading performance in the shot put were among the many highlights from Friday’s evening session at Arena Birmingham.
Echevarria strikes gold for Cuba
A long jump competition that was slow to ignite turned into an all-time classic in which Cuba’s Juan Miguel Echevarria became the youngest man ever to win a world indoor title in a field event, with a world-leading leap of 8.46m.
The 19-year-old was the only athlete to produce any sort of consistency in the first two rounds and led with a second round effort 8.28m, but it was outdoor world champion Luvo Manyonga’s first valid jump, a third round 8.33m, that sparked the competition into life.
What followed was long jumping of the highest quality, as Marquis Dendy, Manyonga and Echevarria traded jumps in excess of 8.40m to thrill the Birmingham crowd.
Ahoure scorches to victory
The session’s final event also saw a world leading performance, as Ivory Coast’s Murielle Ahoure backed up a swift 7.01 in the 60m semi final, at the time the fastest in the world this year, with a 6.97 clocking, faster than any athlete has produced for eight years.
The 30-year-old, twice a silver medalist in this event, produced her customary rocket start and surged clear of a competitive field, with her compatriot Marie-Josee Ta Lou again having to settle for silver, matching the colour of the pair of medals she secured over 100m and 200m in London last year.
Switzerland’s Mujinga Kambundji matched Ta Lou’s 7.05 to take the bronze.
They say good things come to those who wait and for Katarina Johnson-Thompson and her British supporters, the wait for a global senior title was ended in sweet fashion in the pentathlon.
Heading into the 800m, the 25-year-old led Austria’s European indoor silver medalist Ivona Dadic by 33 points and knew that a win would secure the gold. With 100m remaining and Dadic making a move, the Briton powered clear of the field and the crowd roared her home to remove any doubt about the destination of the title, a total of 4750 points enough on this occasion.
Dadic took the silver, with Cuba’s Yorgelis Rodriguez taking bronze.
Eighth time lucky for Marton
Johnson Thompson wasn’t the only athlete to end a lengthy wait for a global gold on Friday. Indeed, Hungary’s Anita Marton had competed at a total of seven global championships indoors and out at junior and senior level without standing on the top step of the podium, but a world-leading throw of 19.48m in the shot put third round ended her drought in style.
With the gold in the bag, the 29-year-old then propelled the shot to an even more impressive 19.62m by way of celebration, giving her a margin of victory of 40cm over Jamaica’s Danniel Thomas-Dodd. China’s outdoor world champion Gong Lijao took bronze.
Friday’s evening session began with a blistering first round performance in the 60m hurdles by the USA’s 100m hurdles world record holder Kendra Harrison. The 25-year-old, having decided that there was no point in hanging around, clocked 7.77 for a world lead and a time that would have been good enough to have won all previous world indoor championships bar three.
In the middle distances, the favourites progressed without concerns. Poland’s Adam Kszczot, bidding to win the event at which he already has bronze and silver medals from 2010 and 2014, was an impressive qualifier for the 800m final, as was Spain’s other heat winner Alvar De Arriba.
Ethiopia’s 3000m champion Genzebe Dibaba strolled to the win in her 1500m heat as she looks to add to her existing title and will be joined in Saturday’s final by fellow 3000m medalists Laura Muir and Sifan Hassan.
Both the men’s and women’s 400m finalists were also determined, with American athletes to the fore in the women’s event. Shakima Wimbley and Courtney Okolo both won their semi finals and will expect to make it a USA 1-2, especially in the absence through disqualification of Switzerland’s IAAF World Indoor Tour winner Lea Sprunger.
The men’s 400m seems more open, with two-time world indoor champion Pawel Maslak showing a glimpse of his old form and Spain’s Oscar Husillos arguably the most impressive performer.
In the heptathlon high jump, France’s world decathlon champion Kevin Mayer jumped 2.02m to maintain a 45 point lead over Canada’s Damian Warner, who matched that height. It’s all to play for going into day two however, with Estonia’s Maicel Uibo just 55 points further back.
Next time, at the IAAF World Indoor Championships…
With more middle distance heats, the 4x400m relay first round and the continuation of the heptathlon, Saturday morning promises much.
From 10:00 on Saturday…
Coleman to cut the mustard?
With a world record 6.34 already in the bag following a storming run over 60m at the USA indoor championships, all eyes will understandably be on Christian Coleman as he begins his bid to add the world indoor title to his growing resume.
Walsh to wow?
New Zealand’s defending shot put champion Tom Walsh hasn’t competed indoors this season, but the 25-year-old will surely be a contender as he goes up against Europe’s best, including Poland’s Konrad Bukowiecki and Tomas Stanek of the Czech Republic.
Rojas to repeat?
Venezuela’s Yulimar Rojas became the first athlete from her country to take a global gold when she won the IAAF World Indoor triple jump title in Portland two years ago and she seeks to repeat that feat in Birmingham, with the USA’s Keturah Orji among the athletes hoping to deny her.
Dean Hardman for the IAAF