If the the 2017 IAAF World Championships have proved anything, it’s that track and field is about as predictable as politics in the 21st century. Here’s what has us cursing the pollsters on day six.
Following yesterday’s Botswana-themed soap opera, tonight’s session began with Isaac “Badman” Makwala running solo in a 200m time trial heat. He duly dipped well under the required 20.53, dropped to the floor and performed five push ups.
With his limbs all nice and warm, he returned to the track two hours later for his semi, a race he coasted through in second to book a spot in the final. He celebrated like he just won gold. The way this has gone, he might well do just that in the Thursday final.
Sand and water are natural partners. Just ask the beach. But throw long jumpers into the mix and the cute couple becomes a complicated love triangle.
Not a single athlete got the auto-qualifier in the women’s long jump, despite plenty being more than capable of exceeding the 6.70m requirement.
“I can only hope we get better weather for the final,” best of the bunch Darya Klishina said post-jump. You and us both.
Moment in the rain
It’s not often that Mo Farah is upstaged, particularly in the London Stadium, the scene of some of his greatest career moments. Yet the biggest cheer of the night was not for the Briton’s classy qualification run in the 5k. It was, in fact, for the chap who came dead last, Mohamed Sambe.
Though the rainy conditions won’t be the sort that the Mauritanian will be used to back home, the 33-year-old proved it’s never too wet to run a PB, while the London crowd proved you don’t have to be a Brit to get a stirring ovation.
Gong gets her gold
Bronze in '09, bronze in '13 then silver in '15 – Chinese shot putter Lijiao Gong had a decent collection of minor world champs medals in her cupboard coming into London. The 28-year-old handled the wet circle best of all the athletes in tonight’s final, throwing an impressive 19.94m in the fifth round to finally taste victory and add gold to her haul.
Hit it hard and hold
Karsten Warholm only started competing full time in the 400m hurdles last year. The former decathlete approaches the race in a cavalier manner, flying out the blocks, establishing a lead and holding on for dear life.
Normally that tactic results in a slow and painful death somewhere around the 350m mark (more of that later), but the Norwegian’s base strength from his ten-event days clearly counts for something. The 21-year-old stormed to the line for a gold medal that no one saw coming, least of all him.
Feet don’t fail me now
Cavalier does’t always work, though. The women’s 400m final was billed as a rematch between reigning champ Allyson Felix and the woman who dived to beat her to Olympic gold in Rio, Shaunae Miller-Uibo.
That narrative preoccupied even the two of them and, as they hurtled down the back straight and into the curve, it looked like the two-woman race everyone predicted was materialising. How wrong we were.
In reality, the pair’s attempt to break each other early proved to be the undoing of them both. First Felix tied up and then, in toe-curling fashion, Miller-Uibo hit quick sand as the lactic turned her legs to jelly.
On hand to pounce was American Phyllis Francis, whose smart running caused one of the biggest shocks of the championships.
“I believed in myself and stayed patient,” a delighted Francis said afterwards, adding that she had a race plan and stuck to it. Her more lauded rivals could learn something from that approach.