Mon | May 25, 2020

Hubert Lawrence | Doha did it!

Published:Thursday | October 10, 2019 | 12:00 AM
Braima Suncar Dabo of Guinea-Bissau helps Aruba’s Jonathan Busby, who was suffering from exhaustion, through the final lap of heat one of the men’s 5,000m at the Khalifa International Stadium during the opening day of the IAAF World Championships in Doha, Qatar on Friday, September 27.
Javon Francis (second right) anchors Jamaica's mixed 4x400m relay team to a silver medal at the IAAF World Championships in Doha, Qatar on Sunday, September 29. Also in shot is Poland's Justyna Święty-Ersetic.

It wasn’t quite the best World Championships ever, but Doha certainly put on a good show. With 15 world leading performances and 11 of those coming in individual events, the world’s best athletes gave fans lots to watch. Many of the contests were stunning and, in general, it seemed that the athletes and their coaches conquered the challenge of peaking for the late season September 28 – October 6 date.By comparison, when chilly London staged the 2017 World Championships, there were 10 leading performances, with six in individual events. In 2015, the last time the meet was held in warm weather AND in its usual August time slot, fans saw 15 world leading performances and 11 by individual athletes.

The best event of the meet was the men’s shot put, which went down to the wire. American Joe Kovacs regained the title he won in 2015 by blasting his final throw 22.91m to win by a centimetre over fellow American Ryan Crouser and deposed champion Tom Walsh of New Zealand. That’s within striking distance of the 29-year-old world record 23.12m.

Spare a thought for Brazilian Darlan Romani. The PanAm champion reached a massive distance of 22.53m but finished in fourth place. He was forlorn when it was over and no wonder. Every other World Championships would have been won with 22.53m.

An individual world record did fall as Olympic champion Dalilah Muhammad snipped 0.04s off the mark she set at the US Championships and left it at 52.16s.

Tears rolled when Braima Suncar Dabo of Guinea Bissau piloted the exhausted Aruban Jonathan Busby to the finish in the heats of the 5000m, and then Busby endeared himself to runners everywhere by checking his wristwatch timer as he crossed the line. Mercifully, the organisers didn’t disqualify him for receiving assistance. Tears rolled when pole vault superhero Renaud Lavillenie was eliminated in qualifying. The Frenchman had been a fixture on the podium from as far back as 2009. One wonders if we will ever see the 2012 Olympic champion in action ever again. With the decorated Frenchman in the stands, American Sam Kendricks won a spellbinding duel with young Swede ‘Mondo’ Duplantis by clearing 5.97m first.

As Jamaica has discovered in the post-Bolt era, life moves on. The IAAF chose Doha to introduce the mixed 4x400m relay to the world. In the final, Poland put European champion Justyna Święty-Ersetic on anchor, and though she hustled and hurried, Michael Cherry of the United States, Javon Francis of Jamaica, Bahrain’s Abbas Abubakar Abbas, and Martyn Rooney of Great Britain swept past her.

Matters of parity

Fans seemed to love it, but one observer said he won’t be watching until the rules ensure that women run against women and men run against men. He feels that would establish parity. My worry is that this exciting new event will one day eliminate the men’s 4x400m and the women’s 4x400m to save time.

Though she didn’t set a world record, Bahrain’s Salwa Eid Naser is my candidate for Doha MVP. She upset favoured Bahamian Shaunae Miller-Uibo with history’s third- fastest time, 48.14 seconds. That’s especially remarkable because she ran two urgent relay legs before the individual 400m began. Rivalling her in the MVP race is Dutchwoman Sifan Hassan, who did an unprecedented 1500m/10,000m double.

When Steven Gardiner won the men’s 400m for The Bahamas, tears of joy may have fallen in his hometown of Abaco. After the battering from Hurricane Dorian, no one could begrudge them that moment.

Hubert Lawrence is a public relations specialist who has scrutinised athletics since 1980.