In front of a packed house at Osaka Nagai stadium on the penultimate day of competition, the USA underlined their almost total domination of the sprints at this IAAF World Championships in Athletics, when Uncle Sam’s men and women won both the 4x100 metres relays, giving Tyson Gay an almost inevitable plaudit of ‘Athlete of the Championships’ for his trio of golds.
4x100m Relay sweep for Team USA
The Jamaican squads were the closest of seconds in the women’s race, thanks to Veronica Campbell, who provided the only gap in the US record, when she won the individual sprint earlier in the week. Despite a sterling last leg by World record holder, Asafa Powell, contributing to another second place, their baton changes were pretty poor. Speaking of which, as usual, despite having at least three of the world’s top ten sprinters on their squads, it was the baton changeovers that nearly gave US fans heart attacks.
Both men’s and women’s squads had poor opening legs, and poor changeovers, but 200 metres winner, Allyson Felix on the second leg and double sprint champion Gay on the third ensured the final leg runners were handed, if not big leads, then adequate ones. The men were clear winners, in 37.78, Powell brought Jamaica through from fifth to second en route to a 37.89 national record, just one hundredth of a second ahead of Britain in third.
With the US and Jamaica again contesting the lead in the women’s race, the US got a far better changeover, from Mikele Barber to Torri Edwards, who zoomed away. But Veronica Campbell, the 100m champion shot off in pursuit of Edwards, caught three metres back on the exchange, but failed by just .03 seconds to catch her.
Defar in control en route to 5000m title
Like US baton changes, there are some other things which seem to become immutable over time. One of them is that an Ethiopian will win the women’s 5000m. Tirunesh Dibaba pulled out of the shorter race after she won the 10,000m a week ago, but all her presence would have done is produce, as it has done so many time in the past, a closer finish with her colleague and sparring partner, Meseret Defar.
As it was, Olympic champion Defar had it pretty much her own way, kicking away from the pack at the bell after a pedestrian pace of 9:11.99 at 3000m. Defar kicked again with 200m to run, and took the title with a 58.6 final lap, finishing in 14:57.91. But ominously for the Ethiopians in the future, including next year’s World Cross Country Championships, Defar was followed home by three Kenyans - Vivian Cheruyiot in 14:58.50 for silver, Prisca Jepleting in 14:59.21 for bronze, and a personal best of 14.59.26 for Sylvia Kibet in fourth.
Walker takes first U.S. men’s Pole Vault gold
The men’s Pole Vault didn’t reach quite the heights of former competitions, either in drama or in distance. Brad Walker of the USA had a first-time failure at 5.76m, but then moved directly to 5.81m which he cleared with his first attempt, as he did 5.86m. That was going to prove enough for victory. Romain Mesnil of France also only took eight jumps, but his failure came first time at the winning height. His clearance next time assured silver, while Danny Ecker of Germany was the best of six vaulters at 5.81m, for the bronze.
Sebrle finally take World gold
Any Decathlon is arduous, but after a particularly competitive one some years ago, an Italian colleague remarked, this medal should be ‘heavy’ gold. In the heat and humidity which have been draining for those of us just watching, this was one of those Decathlons. And Olympic champion and first man over 9000 points, Roman Sebrle of the Czech Republic finally won the world title. But it was mighty close. Maurice Smith of Jamaica, the Commonwealth silver medallist improved his Pole Vault best by all of 25 cm, contributing to the closest of finishes, just 32 points behind Sebrle’s 8676, for a national record of 8644 points. Dmitry Karpov of Kazkstan was third with 8586 points.
Emotional 50Km Race Walk win for Deakes
Nathan Deakes opened the day in the 50Km Race Walk by giving Australia its second gold of the championships, after Jana Rawlinson’s victory in the 400m Hurdles. Deakes was far from being the favourite, although he is the World record holder for the event, with the 3.35.47 he did last year, just days after sitting an exam in tax law. Deakes was always in the leading group, and assumed the head of the field after the 30k mark. European champion from last year, Yohan Diniz of France moved through to second, and gained 30 seconds on Deakes in the last five kilometres, but the Aussie was able to add a few tears to the sweat in the high humidity, as he finished overjoyed in 3:43:53, adding gold to the bronze medal at the Olympic Games 2004, and victory in the Commonwealth Games at home in Australia last year. Diniz took silver in 3:44:22, and a late surge took Alex Swazer of Italy to third in 34:44:38. Australia now hopes that Craig Mottram, who made inroads into the East African distance domination with a bronze in the 5000m in Helsinki might go two places better today.
Pat Butcher for the IAAF