One of biggest questions ahead of the IAAF World Athletics Championships Doha 2019 was the form and fitness of home hero and sensation Abderrahman Samba.
And on an exhilarating first day of action at the Khalifa International Stadium, the Qatari at least partly answered the question by winning his heat and heading the qualifiers in the first round of the men’s 400m hurdles.
No discipline in global athletics has quite dazzled like the 400m hurdles over the past couple of seasons with three of the four fastest men in history - Karsten Warholm, Rai Benjamin and Samba – all locked in combat in Doha.
Samba, however, has not competed in the 400m hurdles since the Shanghai Diamond League so there were understandable concerns regarding the 24-year-old’s current fitness.
Yet Samba, while perhaps not as his fluent best, recovered from a conservative first 300m to finish powerfully and take out the heat three win in 49.08 from Japan’s Takatoshi Abe (49.25).
Of the “big three” candidates, Warholm was, arguably, the most impressive of those cantering to top spot in heat one, registering 49.27 – 0.14 clear of Ireland Thomas Barr.
Operating at a slower pace than he typically would, Benjamin looked less comfortable. However, the US athlete still had enough speed to clinch top spot in 49.62 in heat two from Tunisia’s Mohamed Touati (49.76).
Coleman goes sub-10 in opening round
Stadium announcer Geoff Wightman described the Mondo track inside the air-conditioned Khalifa International Stadium as a “magic carpet” and the sprinters in the opening round of men’s 100m fully capitalised on the opportunity.
World leader Christian Coleman led the qualifiers for the semi-finals, posting a rapid 9.98 to snag heat six. The American has endured a challenging build up to the World Championships but shrugged off any concerns with a polished performance – 0.09 clear of Italy’s Lamont Marcell Jacobs.
The best of the rest was South Africa’s African champion Akani Simbine, who blasted to a slick 10.01 in heat one to underline his medal credentials.
Running from lane nine defending champion Justin Gatlin also looked assured, taking out heat two 10.06 – 0.07 clear of 2016 Olympic bronze medallist Andre de Grasse of Canada.
Among the other heat winners were 2011 world champion Yohan Blake (10.07), European champion Zharnel Hughes (10.08) and Brazil’s rising talent Paulo Andre Camilo De Oliveira (10.11). Nigeria’s Divine Odururu, the joint world number two, was a non-starter in heat six. The semi-finals and final of the men’s 100m take place on Saturday (September 28).
Barega, Edris and Chelimo impress in 5000m
In the history of the World Championships the men’s 5000m heats can rarely have served up so many intriguing storylines. The passionate Ethiopian fans corralled in a corner of the stadium were delighted to see Selemon Barega clinch top spot in heat one in 13:24.69 with his fellow Ethiopian and defending champion Muktar Edris also advancing to Monday’s final in third (13.25.00). Sandwiched between the Ethiopian duo was Kenyan Jacob Krop, who was rewarded for his positive front-running display to record 13:24.94. European champion Jakob Ingebrigtsen of Norway finished strongly to cross the line fourth in 13:25.20 only to later suffer disqualification heartache for stepping on the inside of the track. The Norwegian team lodged a protest, and Ingebrigtsen was reinstated.
The 2017 world bronze medallist Paul Chelimo claimed victory in the faster heat two in 13:20.18 from another Ethiopian Telahun Haile Bekele with Filip Ingebrigtsen in third (13:20.52). The third Ingebrigtsen sibling – Hendrik – also qualified for the final – advancing on time after crossing the line seventh in 13:21.22 ensuring a history-making achievement: three brothers in the same World Championship final.
Yet perhaps the abiding image of the men’s 5000m came in heat one when Guinea Bissau’s Braima Sundar Dabo came to the assistance of his fellow straggler Jonathan Busby of Aruba. Busby appeared to hit the wall in the latter stages and was clearly struggling in a distressed state. However, Dabo’s selfless act to aid his fellow competitor across the line provided the biggest cheer of the night. The pair finished way out of the back, although Busby was later disqualified for receiving assistance.
The opening round of the women’s 800m provided few surprises with gold medal favourite Ajee Wilson cruising to victory in heat one. The 2017 world bronze medallist from the US produced a composed front-running performance to take out heat one in 2:02.10 – 0.22 clear of Halimah Nakaayi of Uganda.
Wilson’s compatriot and training partner, Raevyn Rogers, looked similarly impressive in clinching the heat two win in 2:02.01, although 2013 world champion Eunice Sum looked less convincing, advancing to the semi-finals on time after placing fourth in 2:02.17.
Jamaica’s Pan American champion Natoya Goule also preferred to the front-running route to advance to the semi-finals, securing heat four in 2:01.02.
The fastest qualifier for Saturday’s semi-finals was Ugandan’s Winnie Nanyondo, who covered the two-lap distance in 2:00.36 to win heat three and hint at her medal potential.
No surprises in the steeplechase
All three heats of the women’s 3000m steeplechase ran to script despite little margin for error with only three automatic qualification spots available from each of three first round heats.
In the first heat all three key players cruised through with Uganda’s Peruth Chemutai (9:21.98) taking victory from world champion Emma Coburn (9:23.40) and Celliphine Chespol of Kenya (9:24.22). It was a similar story in heat two as the main contenders banked the top three places led by world record-holder Beatrice Chepkoech (9:18.01) from 2017 world silver medallist Courtney Frerichs (9:18.42) and German record holder Gesa Felicitas Krause (9:18.42). Former world champion Hyvin Kiyeng of Kenya cruised to the heat three win in a steady 9:29.15 from Bahrain’s Winfred Yavi (9.29.40) ahead of Slovenia’s Marusa Mismas (9:29.68).
Echevarria sails 8.40m
Juan Miguel Echevarria hardened his status as gold medal favourite with an imperious performance in men’s long jump qualification. The Cuban world number one topped the qualifiers with a formidable leap of 8.40m – the best at a World Championships in qualification for ten years – to reveal his gold medal intentions.
Echevarria was the only athlete to bust beyond the 8.15m automatic qualification standard with America’s Olympic champion Jeff Henderson the best of the rest, courtesy of an 8.12m.
Defending champion Luvo Manyonga produced a stuttering performance in qualification but a best effort of 7.91m for tenth earned him safe passage into the final, where the South African can press the re-set button for Saturday’s (Sept 28) final.
Price leads qualifiers in the hammer throw
It was mixed fortunes for the US world leading trio in women’s hammer qualification. World number one DeAnna Price handled the pressure of the preliminaries to lead home the nine automatic qualifiers for Saturday’s final (Aug 28) with a 73.77m effort. World number three Gwen Berry was less impressive, advancing only tenth best with 71.72m but at least she will take her place in the medal round. Brooke Anderson, the world number two, endured a qualification to forget and was eliminated in 20th with a modest best of 68.46m.
Another surprise qualification victim was 2017 world bronze medallist Malwina Kopron of Poland - placing 13th with a best of 70.46m. Kopron was one of three women to achieved a throw of 70 metres but fail to advance – the first time this has happened in World Championship history.
17 (!) advance to women’s pole vault final
A record-breaking 17 athletes advanced to the final of Sunday’s women’s pole vault final in a hugely impressive qualification session which illustrated the rich depth of the event.
Defending champion Ekaterini Stefanidi of Greece required just one jump at the required automatic qualification height of 4.60m to take her place in the medal shoot out. No less than seven women had a flawless record, including 2017 world silver medallist Sandi Morris of the US and European Indoor champion Anzhelika Sidorova.
In the women’s high jump, eight women achieved the automatic qualification height of 1.94m, led by the defending champion Mariya Lasitskene, who had one failure at 1.92m but otherwise had a flawless record. Yuliya Levchenko of Ukraine, the 2017 world silver medallist, advanced with a best of 1.92m – confidently passing at 1.94m. Her countrywoman Iryna Gerashchenko of Ukraine – who boasts a PB of 1.99m – was the main casualty of qualifying, failing to clear beyond 1.85m.
Pichardo’s 17.38m leads triple jump
Two-time former World Championship silver medallist Pedro Pichardo of Portugal led the qualifiers in the men’s triple jump with an eye-catching leap of 17.38m. The only other athlete over the automatic standard of 17.10m was Hugues Fabrice Zango of Burkino Faso with 17.17m. Three-time world champion Christian Taylor was not at his best but, most importantly, a 16.99m jump earned him a safe passage into the final on Sunday. His fellow US jumper Will Claye (16.97) will also feature but there is no place for their countryman Omar Craddock, who had to settle for 13th with 16.87m.
Opening night attendance today was 11,804.
Steve Landells for the IAAF