As is usual for a final session of championships athletics, gold medals came thick and fast on Day 4 of the IAAF World Indoors. Here’s what we tried to keep up with across three-and-a-half hours of rip-roaring athletics in the Arena Brum.
Main image: A moment of delight for Francine Niyonsaba, who collapses on the Mondo after winning 800m gold and successfully defending her world indoor title.
“I have very good memories of Great Britain,” said Niyonsaba, who won Olympic silver in the UK at London 2012.
Genzebe Dibaba had already assured that Ethiopian running fans (AKA, everyone in Ethiopia) would be pleased with their athletes work at this champs after securing at 1500m/3k double.
First, Yomif Kejelcha cruised through to gold in the 3000m (8:14.41) after a pedestrian pace through the first couple of KM. Shortly after, Samuel Tafera took gold in the 1500m, which was another pedestrian affair (3:58.19).
No one will be talking about those times back in Addis Ababa, though, with four out of four of the Birmingham mid/long distance gold medals returning to the proud east African nation.
Poland to the fore
Though you might not think of them as being an athletics powerhouse, Poland have depth across pretty much every event. They demonstrates that strength in the relays, where their women’s team secured silver behind the USA championship record performance. Their celebrations were hard not to enjoy, particularly after their silver was confirmed following the DQ of the Jamaican team.
Yet it was their men’s team that really ignited the stadium. After picking up the baton in second place, anchor runner Jakub Krzewina charged down American Vernon Norwood to stop the clock first in a world indoor record 3:01.77 and produce the biggest cheer of the weekend not for a British performer.
I want to hold your hand
There was a very big cheer indeed when the men’s 60m hurdles result was confirmed, as Briton Andrew Pozzi was given the nod in a photo finish.
Before that was confirmed, he and Jarret Eaton, the man marginally behind in second, held each other’s close like an octogenarian couple who’d just finished a picnic. Mutual respect at its sweetest.
For so long, Serbian long jumper Ivana Spanovic has had to settle for silver medals at major global championships.
The European indoor and outdoor champ finally got her gold on the biggest stage in Birmingham, producing a world leading 6.96m that not even seven-time world champ Brittney Reese could respond to.
“I still cannot believe it,” said an emotional Spanovic after the competition. The tears she shed on the podium showed just how hard she’s had to work to finally get her golden moment.
The Portland world indoors two years ago began with the pole vault taking centre stage on the opening night. That was reversed in Birmingham, as an epic, three-hour-plus contest took centre stage after all other events had already concluded.
Renaud Lavillenie, the winner of the men’s event two years ago, was once again victorious here, needing just four vaults to wrap up gold with a best of 5.90m. It was clear delight for the man who had suffered in a brutal Rio 2016 atmosphere and struggled with injury all last year. The world record holder’s podium tears demonstrated just how much his return to the top of the pole vaulting world meant.
Words: Thomas Byrne