28 August 2011Daegu, Korea – “Everyone is beatable.” That was a common theme shared by athletes whose No. 1 priority this season was pursuit of the World title. And it was one that held true on a dramatic second day of action at the IAAF World Championships, Daegu 2011.
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In front of an enthusiastic near-capacity Daegu Stadium crowd of more than 40,000, two of the sport’s biggest names – Usain Bolt and Kenenisa Bekele, both reigning World and Olympic champions and multiple World record holders – suffered rare defeats in a pair of races that will go down, each in their own way, as among the Championships’ most memorable.
It wasn’t that either appeared invincible, coming into Daegu or once they arrived. Indeed, Bolt looked vulnerable in several 100m races on the circuit this summer and was pushed to the line in the semi-final earlier in the evening. Bekele, who was here seeking an unprecedented fifth consecutive 10,000m title, hadn’t even raced since January of 2010, and his form was one of the most well-kept secrets in this part of Asia.
Bolt jumps the gun, Bailey triumphs
Bolt’s first 100m defeat in a little over a year was evident less than three strides after the starter’s gun sounded a second time. The 25-year-old Jamaican didn’t need to wait for the judge to show him the red card to realise that the lapse in judgment was his. He knew from the moment he catapulted his tall frame from the blocks.
When the shock of the crowd began to settle – at least somewhat – and the race went off at the second time of calling, it became clear by the 50-metre mark that Bolt's younger training partner, Yohan Blake, was well on the way to the title, which he claimed in 9.92 to keep the crown safely in Jamaican hands. In the preceding rounds, Blake looked fully capable of threatening for the title even with Bolt, whose season’s best was 9.88, in the race.
Silver went to U.S. champion Walter Dix who edged a resurgent Kim Collins of St. Kitts and Nevis, the 2003 champion, 10.08 to 10.09.
Jeilan triumphs in epic finish
There was no shortage of build-up to the longest track event on the programme, too, billed as a face-off between Briton Mo Farah, and Bekele, the four-time defending champion. The year’s fastest vs. the year’s ‘Mystery Man’. Bekele hadn’t raced since a Cross Country outing 20 months ago, but the conventional wisdom went something like this: would one of the finest 10,000m runners in history put his career unbeaten streak on the line if he wouldn’t arrive ready?
That question was answered when, with 17 minutes on the clock, Bekele walked off the track, putting an unceremonious conclusion to his succession of World titles and his undefeated streak.
When Farah switched gears to sprint kick mode with 450 metres remaining, it appeared as though the Briton would live up to the pre-race expectations heaped upon his slight frame. With just over 200 metres to go, he opened up a clear lead on Ethiopian pursuers Ibrahim Jeilan and Imane Merga, but couldn’t quite shake the pair. Coming off the final turn, Jeilan, a former World junior champion in the event, narrowed the gap, setting up one of the finest finishes in the history of the event. Grimacing as they sprinted down the stretch, Jeilan finally made up the deficit with about 15 metres remaining and passed Farah to take the surprise victory in 27:13.81 to Farah’s 27:14.07. Jeilan, who kept the title in Ethiopian hands, earned the gold as much as Farah deserved the silver. Simply an epic contest.
Hardee Hangs on
The men’s Decathlon title stayed in U.S. hands as well, more specifically in those of Trey Hardee whose superior second day throwing abilities made the difference en route to a well-earned second straight World title. Hardee tallied 8607 points, 183 down from his winning score in Berlin two years ago, but that mattered little to the 27-year-old who became the first back-to-back winner in a decade. Silver went to his teammate Ashton Eaton, whose big personal best in the 1500m made the difference. He tallied 8505, just four ahead of Cuban Leonel Suarez, who moved down a notch from his finish in Berlin two years ago.
Reese defends as well
It didn’t come close to being the longest jump of her career – indeed, at 6.82m, it was the shortest winning leap ever at the World Championships – but Brittney Reese did nonetheless join some fine company with her second consecutive Long Jump title. The last to successfully defend was Jackie Joyner Kersee, back in 1991, a few weeks before Reese celebrated her fifth birthday.
Li Yangfeng lives up to World leader credentials
In a heated battle with Germany’s Nadine Muller, world leader Li Yangfeng prevailed in the women’s Discus Throw. The 32-year-old notched a 66.62m effort in the second round, just a little over half a metre better than the German’s 65.97m.
..And Borchin defends
Valeriy Borchin set the tone for title defenders – well, most of them anyway - early this morning when he became the third man to win successive titles in the 20Km Race Walk. Borchin, also the reigning Olympic champion, built on a conservative start before picking up steam in the second half to take the title in 1:19:56, with teammate Vladimiar Kanaykin second in 1:20:27. Luis Fernando Lopez defended South American honours and took bronze in 1:20:38.
Semi-finals - men's 800m and women’s 400m
The journey continued in the mens’ 800m with, not surprisingly, World record holder David Rudisha playing a key role. The 22-year-old Kenyan powered to a 1:44.20 win in the third of three semi-final heats, the fastest ever Championships performance outside of a final. And he made it look like a Sunday early evening stroll in the park. His chief rival Abubaker Kaki moved on as well, but only finished third in the opening heat in 1:44.62 after leading for most of the race.
In the women’s 400m, Amantle Montsho continued her roll, leading all qualifiers in 50.13. Allyson Felix looked good as well winning her heat in 50.36, but defending champion Sanya Richards-Ross, who finished third in heat two, had to sweat it out a bit before finally advancing on time. She clocked 50.66 behind Francena McCorory (50.24) and Jamaican Shericka Williams (50.46).
World leader for Merritt
There is no argument that the performance of the opening rounds came in the men’s 400m. In 44.35 seconds, the defending champion breathed a healthy dose of life into an otherwise lacklustre event this year, and did so in just his second race after his return from a 21-month ban. It was the fastest first round heat clocking in any global Championships - World or Olympics. And Merritt had plenty in reserve down the homestretch.
Elsewhere, no surprises emerged in women’s Pole Vault qualifying with 10 of the 12 qualifiers moving on to Tuesday’s final with a 4.55m clearance, Yelena Isinbayeva among them.
The opening round of the men’s 110m Hurdles witnessed the departure of 2009’s surprise champion Ryan Brathwaite of Barbados who ended two spots down and 0.02sec behind the 16 who moved on to the semi-finals tomorrow evening. American Jason Richardson was the quickest at 13.19, just one tick ahead of Liu Xiang. The final is set for tomorrow night as well.
In the women’s Shot Put qualifying, Valerie Adams made her appearance short and sweet, as the New Zealander led all qualifiers with a 19.79m throw, her first and only of the morning.
Maryam Jamal began her campaign for a third straight 1500m title with a solid and comfortable 4:07.04 run, the Bahraini’s being the fastest of the morning. Morgan Uceny of the U.S., the winner this year in the Lausanne and Birmingham stops of the Samsung Diamond League, looked quite strong as well and appeared ready to roll onwards. The major casualty of the morning was Briton Lisa Dobriskey, the silver medallist two years ago, who was a distant 11th of 12 in heat two.
The fastest women in the world will have their turn in the spotlight on Monday night. None of the favourites for the final was eliminated in an opening round where Bulgarian Ivet Lalova and Nigerian Blessing Okagbare were joint fastest at 11.10.
Bob Ramsak for the IAAF