A packed and boisterous Khalifa International Stadium played witness to Lijiao Gong defend her shot put world title after a few nervous moments, even as Salwa Eid Naser ran the third fastest time in history to become the women’s 400m world champion beating favourite Shaunae Miller-Uibo for gold on Thursday.
Both women’s heptathlon and men’s decathlon events saw dramatic victories as Britain’s Katarina Johnson-Thompson notched the biggest margin of victory in over three decades when she won by 304 points, and Germany’s Niklas Kaul took full advantage of world record holder Kevin Mayer’s absence to become the youngest ever world champion in the event.
With only a 19-point deficit to make up on Estonia’s Maicel Uibo, 21-year-old Kaul ran an impressive 4:15.71 in the men’s 1500m, just outside his personal best, to grab the gold.
Maicel made it two silvers in the evening for the Uibo couple. Canada’s Damian Warner won bronze.
Mayer’s title defence came to a teary end in the men’s decathlon as the Frenchman pulled out after he found himself unable to continue during the pole vault.
Mayer had taken the lead in decathlon after the discus throw, and he even tried to continue stopping short twice during the pole vault before pulling out.
“I am not ok, but it will be fine. I was disappointed because I was leading. But this is sport,” Mayer said on Thursday. “Thursday, I had an injury at my right knee, but I was still able to do the hurdles and discus. It was very difficult. But then my left hamstring hurt and I had to stop.”
Kaul went over 5m mark in pole vault with Uibo grabbing the overall lead with a 5.4m effort.
Germany's Niklas Kaul reacts after winning the Men's 1500m Decathlon final at the 2019 IAAF Athletics World Championships
However, Kaul roared back into contention with a mammoth 79.05m throw in javelin, the penultimate event, to come within striking distance.
As she got closer to the finish line in the women’s 400m final, Naser ran like a machine, with an expression-less face. But just as she crossed the line, her poker face transformed into a feeling of disbelief as the Bahrain athlete tried processing her world title-winning run, beating Bahamian favourite Miller-Uibo.
The victory came in the third fastest time in history – 48.14 seconds.
Naser had picked up pace going into the final bend even as Miller-Uibo inched closer to the front, but the former had snatched the advantage on to the final straight, and there was little that the Olympic champion from Bahamas could do other than settle for silver.
Jamaican Shericka Jackson won bronze in a time of 49.47 seconds.
“This is crazy… I’m world champion. I am really short of words to describe how I am feeling,” Naser said after her win. “To cross the line and see that I am a world champion in that amazing time, I couldn’t believe it.”
With a 137-point lead going into the 800m run, the final event of the women’s heptathlon, Britain’s Katarina Johnson-Thompson had the gold medal in touching distance.
The 26-year-old confirmed it when she ran a personal best of 2:07.26 in the 800m leg for a world leading haul of 6981 points, which is also a British record.
Belgian Nafissatou Thiam (6677 points) finished seventh in the heat behind the Liverpool runner to settle for silver, with Austrian Verena Preiner taking bronze with a haul of 6560 points.
China's Lijiao Gong celebrates winning gold in Women's Shot Put Final at Khalifa International Stadium, Doha
Jamaican Danniel Thomas-Dodd must have given Chinese shot put star Lijiao Gong a few nervous moments, when the former hit the 20m tape during the women’s final on Thursday. That was until the official raised the red flag citing a foul.
Gong had only one attempt left at the time with her best a 19.55m fourth attempt, which eventually proved enough as the Chinese sensation, the only woman to go past 20m this year, had successfully defended her title, as Thomas-Dodd settled for silver with a 19.47m final attempt, ahead of Germany’s Christina Schwanitz.
“I am really excited to defend my title in Doha, because it will help me to increase my self-confidence in the future competitions and also in the training. I have a saying that there is nothing better you can stick to than your dream. This season was very long and hard, so all my hair turned white,” said 30-year-old Gong, who has now won a medal at every Worlds going back to 2009.
“It’s definitely a big accomplishment for me. In 2017, I was very disappointed but it was my first world championships and I had to take everything in strides and make a mark for myself,” said Thomas-Dodd, who won her country’s first women’s medal at a Worlds throws competition.
Schwanitz, the 2015 world champion, threw a 19.17m for her bronze to cap a fantastic season for a mother of twins. “Incredible! This was the hardest medal for me in my life after giving birth to my twins. I am mega happy. The season had a lot of ups and downs, squeeze in my studies of social work and education studies, plus the kids in between,” Schwanitz said.
All 12 athletes in Saturday’s men’s shot put final cleared the automatic qualification mark of 20.90m with defending champion Tomas Walsh of New Zealand leading the way with a 21.92m opening act.
Six more, including Darlan Romani of Brazil, Darrell Hill of the US, Konrad Bukowiecki of Poland, this year’s world leader Ryan Crouser of the US, Walsh’s compatriot Jacko Gill and 2017 silver medallist Joe Kovacs of the US, needed only their first attempt for a spot in the medal round.
“I wanted to put the speed up as fast as I can. I think if you can manage a good throw around 22.50, it may give you a chance to win a title,” Walsh said after the qualification on Thursday. For context, only Crouser and Romani have cleared 22.50m this year, with Walsh’s best being a 22.44.
In the women’s triple jump, with the automatic qualification mark set at 14.30m, Jamaican champion Shanieka Ricketts was the first to book her spot in the final with a first attempt effort of 14.42. American Keturah Orji hit the mark on her first attempt, while the 2017 silver medallist Caterine Ibarguen of Colombia needed two efforts to reach Saturday’s medal round.
Bahrain's Salwa Eid Naser reacts after winning the Women's 400 Metres Final at Khalifa International Stadium, Doha
Venezuelan World champion Yulimar Rojas, the only one in the line-up to cross the 15m mark this year, was through to the final after a second attempt 14.31m
“It means a lot to me to qualify as the first jumper at the world championships. I am happy to come out there and get the job done in the first round,” Ricketts said.
“It takes a lot of pressure off and I can go back and get ready for the final on Saturday. I am still hoping to be able to get to the 15m, hopefully it comes on Saturday. Any mark to be on the podium would be satisfactory.”
Women’s 10,000m champion Sifan Hassan ran a tactical race in the 1500m semi-final as she moved into the final with a Heat 1 win in a modest 4:14.69. The second heat, which as almost 13 seconds faster, was topped by three-time World Championships medallist, Jenny Simpson of the US.
The 2017 and Olympic champion Faith Kipyegon of Kenya finished fourth behind Hassan, American Shelby Houlihan and Morocco’s Rababe Arafi in the first heat.
Djibouti’s Ayanleh Souleiman once again made his presence felt at a major championships when the fifth fastest athlete this year topped the third heat of the men’s 1500m heats and also the timecharts for the evening for a place in Friday’s semifinal.
The silver medallist from London, Timothy Cheruiyot of Kenya, won the second heat as he looks to go for gold in the absence of his training partner, compatriot and defending champion Elijah Motonei Manangoi.
Both the Ingebrigtsen brothers from Norway, Jakob and 2017 bronze medallist Filip, are in the next round too.
During the course of the day, two appeals – one each from Team Poland and Team Spain – ensured that their athletes were elevated to the medals podium on Thursday.
In the first, the Polish contingent brought into question the first effort of the Hungarian bronze medallist in the men’s hammer throw final, Bence Halasz, claiming that he touched the ground outside the circle.
The jury upheld the appeal and added European champion Wojciech Nowicki, who had finished fourth in the standings, to the podium with a bronze.
Spain’s Orlando Ortega too was awarded a bronze for the men’s 110m hurdles after Jamaican Omar McLeod’s tumble in the final was deemed to have impeded the Spaniard while he was third in the race.
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