So. Farewell then, Beijing 2015. After an incredible festival of athletics, Day 9 of the World Championships brought things to a close in suitably dramatic style. For the very last time, here’s our take on another thrilling day in the Bird's Nest Stadium. It's the Beijing Wrap, baby!
It’s a sprint not a marathon
There are 42,195 metres in a marathon. The women’s world champion over the distance was decided in the last 100 of those early this morning.
The leading group became smaller and smaller as every mile passed, with defending champion Edna Kiplagat and London marathon champion Tigist Tufa amongst those to wilt early. There were three still three in contention as the race entered the stadium, and it was diminutive Mare Dibaba who was strongest as she outkicked Helah Kiprop to secure Ethiopia’s first ever world champs marathon gold.
Both men’s middle distance races were slow affairs, with none of the field prepared to take the race on and break the will of ultimate double champion Mo Farah.
In the women’s 5000m, pre-race fave Genzebe Dibaba was not treated with anywhere near the same level of fear or deference. In a masterclass of tactical pace running, her countrywoman Almaz Ayana stepped it up at the half way stage to win gold all on her own in a championship record 14:26.83. Dibaba’s hopes of a double were dashed by the injection of pace; she wound up in third, with Senbere Teferi claiming silver to complete a podium sweep for the Ethiopians.
It demonstrated what’s possible in distance racing when you’re prepared to back your own ability. Gentlemen: take note.
Ayana's was a top quality performance, and although the throwing in the final of the women’s javelin wasn’t of the highest order, it still provided fantastic drama.
The lead changed hands seven times over the course of the contest. Chinese athletes Huihui Lyu and Lingwei Li each took turns to occupy the top spot early on, much to the delight of the crowd.
After no shortage to toing and froing in and around the medal positions, the lead was held by Lyu going into the last round. For a moment it looked like the Bird’s Nest’s very vocal support had done enough to help her land the gold medal. But the decisive blow came with the very last throw, as Germany’s Katharina Molitor went out to 67.69m to wrestle the lead and win her first World Championship title. A worthy winner in a true thriller.
At the opposite end of the stadium, another close contest involving a local favourite was providing a similarly electrifying spectacle. China's eccentric high jump hero Guowei Zhang was pulling out all his finest moves, celebrating each of his four first time clearances with an array of poses, including old favourite the praying mantis (see above).
He progressed to a jump off against defending champ Bohdan Bondarenko and Canadian Derek Drouin. Only Drouin could make a clearance, securing gold for the Canadian record holder.
Zhang and the home crowd had to settle for a joint silver with Bondarenko, but there can be no doubt as to who was the star of the show.
We were big fans of the athletes' showbiz entrances ahead of the relays. We were also purring with what they produced on the track.
The Boss Allyson Felix looked to have wrapped up gold for the USA in the women’s 4x400m after she ran a 47.72 lap to hand the baton and the lead to anchor Francena McCorory. Novlene Williams-Mills had other ideas: the Jamaican is as tough as they come, and ran down the world leader in the last 50m to win her country’s third relay gold.
USA finally tasted team gold in the men’s event, which also produced a dramatic last lap, again thanks to a Jamaican's input. Javon Francis took it out to the twilight zone with a back straight burst that was bold, but ultimately flawed as he was run out of a medal by Trinidad and Tobago’s Machel Cedenio and GB’s Martyn Rooney on the line.
Although there are no medals for fourth, Francis threw everything he had into his run, clocking 43.52 split that was the best of all the runners. We salute him for it.
A different kind of baton
It was fitting that Rooney should win that bronze right at the death. The European 400m champion missed out on the birth of his first child to be in Beijing, a reminder of the sacrifices that top level athletes have to make.
As well being handed his medal, the British team captain was also passed the IAAF flag at the closing ceremony, with London the host of the next edition of the World Championships in 2017. We already can't wait.