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Previews25 Aug 2023

Five things to look out for on day eight at WCH Budapest 23


Faith Kipyegon in actiion at the World Athletics Championships Budapest 23 (© Getty Images)

It’s a marathon day.

Alright, there’s been a few of them already, but day eight is an actual marathon day, as is day nine.

The women’s marathon takes to the streets of Budapest on day eight and the men’s on day nine. The early morning starts will be welcomed by most competitors, enabling the elites to get it all done before the heat really kicks in (that’s the theory, anyway).

Then, after the men’s race, there is a mass participation event allowing the public to do a lap of the course, checking their pace against the medallists.

So, who wins?

Good question. In a hot-weather championship marathon there’s almost as many winning chances as there are entrants. Forget the likely conditions: there’s probably going to be a tough-as-nails runner or two in the top finishers, but the best still rise to the top. In the heat-bath that was the women’s marathon at the 2019 edition in Doha, the winning time was the slowest in World Championships history, but the winner was Ruth Chepngetich, who had run 2:17:08 in Dubai earlier that year.

Gotytom Gebreslase won in Oregon in the fastest-ever championship time and is defending her title. Her teammate Amane Beriso Shankule also has excellent big-race credentials. Kenya’s fastest is Rosemary Wanjiru.

We could name many more but, ultimately, it all comes down to what happens on the streets of Budapest.

Can Kipyegon double?

Faith Kipyegon can do anything, it seems, an impression which will only be heightened if she can complete a 1500m-5000m double. The 5000m is one of the three world records the peerless Kenyan broke in her June-July splurge, but also the harder event for her to win.

Gudaf Tsegay is defending the title she won in Oregon and chasing the more common distance double of 5000m-10,000m. Tsegay prevailed in the home-straight dramatics in the 10,000m on the opening night.

Sifan Hassan, who fell in that race before coming back to take the bronze in the 1500m behind Kipyegon, must also be reckoned with. Kenya’s number two – or will that be number one – Beatrice Chebet comes with world cross-country champion’s endurance matched with the speed which saw her a close second to Tsegay at the London Diamond League.

As with the men’s final the following day, the more you look at the start-list, the more possible winners you see.

Did someone say Mondo?

We saw in Oregon how Mondo Duplantis likes to finish a World Championships pole vault final. With a world record, that’s how.

Mind you, if you surveyed all the athletes here, 100% would probably respond that they would like to win with a world record. The thing is, Mondo delivers. His dominance of the event is thrilling for fans and, so far, intimidating to opponents.

Christopher Nilsen, Kurtis Marschall, Ernest Obiena, Piotr Lisek and all the other competitors face a dual challenge: can they bridge the gap to Duplantis and, if they do, beat the man?

Can Wanyonyi go straight to the top of 800m?

Emmanuel Wanyoni’s year started with a gold medal for Kenya in the mixed relay at the World Cross Country Championships in Bathurst. Can he crown it by completing a transition from world U20 champion at 800m to senior world champion?

Well, yes, he can. Still eligible for U20 competition (he was 19 on 1 August), Wanyoni has already finished fourth in a senior World Championships in Oregon last year. An eighth-place blip in Monaco aside, his form is consistent and he has won both heat and semi in Budapest.

Wanyoni runs with a certain cockiness which seems to indicate he is not intimidated at the prospect of racing his elders. There are seven others thinking they can win, too, in a wide-open race, but why shouldn’t Wanyoni come through.

Still in a period of transition

It’s all go for relays as well as marathons. Day eight is not just time for the first of two marathons in two days, it is also the first of two days of relays, beginning with the men’s and women’s 4x100m.

As with the women’s 800m, the composition of the relay finals is to be determined. And, as ever, the composition of the final depends on getting the baton round the track quickly and cleanly.

Heat or final, it’s the same old story. And, if you don’t mind the odd bit of schadenfreude, you will see some of the strongest teams go down. Be gracious, however, it could be your team next.

Len Johnson for World Athletics