Neeraj Chopra at the World Athletics Championships Budapest 23 (© Getty Images)
The last day. Don’t ask for whom the bell tolls – it’s not tolling for anyone; it’s ringing because we’re on the last lap.
And what a barnstormer of a last lap it is. Starting once again with the marathon at Heroes’ Square, the men’s race this time. The women’s race played out to form. Will the men’s follow suit or are there shocks in store?
Then it’s out to the stadium for the final evening session. Five individual medals to be decided – women’s high jump, 800m and steeplechase; men’s javelin and 5000m, and both 4x400m relays, which should be fun.
Let’s take a look at some.
How’s your endurance?
You need plenty of it to run a marathon, but also a fair serve to watch. The Budapest course – basically up and down world heritage-listed Andrassy Ave with a loop across the Danube on the Buda side for good measure. It’s pretty easy to follow your favourites and see them eight times during the race – if you’ve got the stamina.
Can two World Championships marathons both run true to form? History tends to say not, which might make defending champion Tamirat Tola’s task harder after the women’s race largely followed the formbook. In any case, Tola appears the sort of person to be up for a challenge. He’ll get one, too, from the course, the conditions and the many contenders.
Australia v Ukraine
Is the women’s high jump final a dual Australia-Ukraine match? You’d tend to think so. Defending champion Eleanor Patterson and Olympic silver medallist Nicola Olyslagers wear the Australian colours; Yaroslava Mahuchikh – winner of just about everything else, apart from an outdoor global title – and Iryna Geraschenko carry the blue and gold for Ukraine.
Of course, it’s never that simple. First-time clearances at decisive heights could be key and the mercurial Vashti Cunningham and Lara Distin are just two who are capable of that. As we saw in a different way with Yulimar Rojas in the triple jump, the whole scenario can change with just one jump.
The evening’s other field event – the men’s javelin – looks a very open affair which suggests it will be close. Better keep an eye on that.
Questions on the women’s 800m, not to mention the men’s 5000m
The women’s 800m final looks just like the semis. Just like the heats, too, come to think of it. Eight athletes, one race, so many chances. The one difference is that there are three medals to be won whereas there were only two final spots available in the semis.
Another question is just what will Mary Moraa do? The woman who seemingly never runs two successive 100m segments in the same manner relishes in keeping opponents guessing. Athing Mu and Keely Hodgkinson – the gold and silver medallists at the 2021 Olympics and 2022 World Championships – will need to be on their toes to beat the Kenyan.
The men’s 5000m is being spoken of as a Jakob Ingebrigtsen redemption race. It’s that, but the Norwegian is the defending champion and there are also a lot of others in redemption mode – the beaten 10,000m runners who are doubling back here, such as Berihu Aregawi and Mo Ahmed.
Don’t think a study of the startlist will help clarify your thinking. About 15 of the 17 starters look like they could win – but don’t count out the other two!
Just watch it unfold.
Chepkoech v Chepkoech in steeplechase
Could the women’s steeplechase develop into the battle between Kenya’s two Chepkoechs: world record-holder Beatrice, who is enjoying a resurgence after a couple of quieter years, and world U20 and Commonwealth champion Jackline, still only 19 and definitely on the rise.
There are others who might upset that storyline, though. Winfred Yavi is usually up and about. Ethiopia’s Sembo Almayew is poised to break nine minutes. Then there’s always the unknown steeplechaser.
…and then there are relays
And the whole show closes with men’s and women’s 4x400m relays. Always competitive, always exciting, as the baton goes round and round.
Just one more thing to look out for...
The World Athletics Championships Tokyo 25, when we get to do it all again!
Len Johnson for World Athletics