With a full slate of preliminary rounds on Saturday (22), there will be a lot going on in the Bird’s Nest for the first day of action at the IAAF World Championships, Beijing 2015. Here are five highlights to look out for.
1. Men’s marathon
With the world record-holder, his immediate predecessor, and the defending world and Olympic champion all in the field, the pieces are all in place for a hotly-contested men’s marathon to decide the first medals of the championships.
Dennis Kimetto of Kenya, the world record-holder, has stellar results from paced big-city marathons but little experience at the championship level; in contrast, defending champion Stephen Kiprotich of Uganda has won the past two global titles but has underperformed in his appearances in London and New York.
Former world record-holder Wilson Kipsang, also of Kenya, has predicted a winning time in the 2:06-2:07 range, around the championship record, but only if the conditions are good. And while the Kenyan team of Kipsang, Kimetto and Mark Korir will be looking for a sweep of the medals, they will also be watching Kiprotich closely, along with two-time Boston Marathon champion and 2013 world silver medallist Lelisa Desisa and his Ethiopian team-mates.
2. First day of the heptathlon
The first four events of the heptathlon will happen throughout Saturday’s schedule, starting with the 100m hurdles at 9:00am local time, shortly before the marathon runners arrive at the stadium. Action will continue with the high jump shortly thereafter, then the shot put and the 200m in the evening session.
The first day won’t end with medals but will reveal the shape of the competition and show what favourites such as Brianne Theisen Eaton of Canada and Britain’s Jessica Ennis-Hill will need to do on Sunday to win.
3. Men’s 10,000m
The only track final of the day, closing the schedule at 8:50pm local time, will be the 10,000m, the first leg of Mo Farah’s double defence. As the commanding favourite, Farah stands to extend his streak of global victories should his rivals fail once again to find a strategy which can shake him.
Talk of team tactics, surges, and thinning the pack will give way to the actual moves of the 25-lap multi-player chess match where Farah has been the most successful athlete of the past five years.
4. Women’s shot put final
The first field final of the championships, starting at 8:05pm local time, will be the first women’s shot put world title since 2005 to be won by a woman other than Valerie Adams of New Zealand.
With Gong Lijiao of China one of the favourites to contend for that title, the eyes of the home crowd will be pinned to the shot ring for the duration of the final. Gong will need to beat current world leader Christina Schwanitz of Germany, who has seven of the top 10 marks so far in 2015 and tossed the best of those right here in the Bird’s Nest in May.
5. Men’s 100m heats
Of all the preliminary rounds, the most interesting is almost certainly the qualification and heats of the men’s 100m, due in no small part to the presence of Usain Bolt, the best-known athlete in athletics.
Bolt’s competition so far in 2015 has been thin and uneven, but the Bird’s Nest is the track that made Bolt and so far, the Jamaican has never failed to show up for a global title. Bolt – like all the athletes who achieved the qualifying mark for the championships – won’t be required to run the preliminary round in the morning, but will be on the track for the evening heats which start at 7:20pm local time.
Parker Morse for the IAAF