Day one of a World Championships is always light on finals with one, or at most two, gold medals being decided. But against that, you get to see every athlete in each of the events on the day’s schedule.
On day one at the IAAF World Championships London 2017, that includes you-know-who in the men’s 100m first round. With the number of major championship ‘Bolt nights’ rapidly reducing to zero – they won’t be making any more after this year – that alone is worth the price of a ticket.
Then there’s the women’s 1500m. True, there is only one medal final for a track event, but every middle-distance preliminary round is like a final for all but the most gifted of athletes. With fields of about 15 runners and as few as five or six advancing to the semifinal round automatically, the average runner has to focus on being in the right place at the right time and then just run like hell.
Then there are a couple of field event preliminaries where, again, every contender gets to show their form. Many field eventers would endorse the view of Australia’s former high jumper Tim Forsyth who reckoned qualifying was about as much fun as a trip to the dentist. Think nothing bad happens? Well, what about women’s discus qualifying in Rio last year where eventual gold medallist Sandra Perkovic got through only on her final attempt with her one valid throw.
Men’s 10,000m final
If, despite the above, you still think the only thing that glitters is gold, consider the men’s 10,000m, the day’s only final. Local boy made very, very good Mo Farah will be seeking his third straight title and the first leg of a fifth consecutive world or Olympic distance double. Moreover, he will be doing it where it all began at 10,000m, the stadium where the Olympic 10,000m started this stream of double distance gold.
Many will seek to stop him – dual world cross-country champion Geoffrey Kamworor and Kenyan teammates Paul Tanui and Bedan Karoki; an Ethiopian trio led 19-year-old newcomer Abadi Hadis, Uganda’s Joshua Cheptegei, maybe other newcomers like Australia’s Patrick Tiernan.
But they’ve been trying to stop Farah for years and none have found the key. His combination of endurance, tactical nous and closing speed has seen off all challengers since Ibrahim Jeilan got the better of him in Daegu in 2011. It’s held that you can’t beat Farah for speed but, ironically, Jeilan got past him in the final straight then.
Best of the rest
The women’s 1500m heats will be tight. Sifan Hassan has taken all before her so far this year, including a win over Olympic champion Faith Kipyegon in Paris. Kipyegon and defending champion Genzebe Dibaba are near top form, Poland’s Angelika Cichocka is a big improver, the home crowd will raise the roof for Laura Muir, and Caster Semenya’s decision to double is intriguing.
There is qualifying in the men’s long jump and discus. South Africa’s Luvo Manyonga leads the long jump this year, which misses defending champion Greg Rutherford but sees the return of the 2013 winner, neutral athlete Aleksandr Menkov. Daniel Stahl leads the way in the discus this year, the only man beyond 70 metres.
Olympic champion Ekaterini Stefanidi and last year’s new entrant in the five-metre club, Sandi Morris, will be in action in women’s pole vault qualifying, while the men’s 100m kicks off with a preliminary round early in the evening before the appearance of Bolt, Justin Gatlin, Andre De Grasse and many others in the first round.
Len Johnson for the IAAF