Steven Gardiner in the 400m at the IAAF World Championships
Sunday, day three of the IAAF World Athletics Championships Doha 2019, is the lightest day of competition to date, but it doesn’t lack for things to watch out for.
There’s the first appearance of young US sprint star Noah Lyles, the man many tip to be poised to assume the mantle of you-know-who (that’s Usain Bolt, in the unlikely event you don’t).
And after two days of historic road endurance events in the midnight hours, track has its moment of historical significance, too, with the final of the first-ever mixed 4x400m at an IAAF World Championships.
That, combined with a late start, and some high-quality finals, means the day still offers plenty.
Thompson, Fraser-Pryce and . . .
Elaine Thompson and Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce sit at the top of the women’s 100m season lists, 0.15 seconds clear of the next fastest. Situation normal there: the pair have dominated world sprinting the past few years, after all.
But there is an air of instability this season. The two Jamaicans haven’t been as dominant as times suggest and other challengers have emerged. Dina Asher-Smith is a relatively fresh face, Marie Josée Ta Lou and Murielle Ahoure are showing late career consistency. Teahna Daniels and defending champion Tori Bowie give the US a fresh face and known quality performer in the one team.
Stefanidi looks to extend reign
Seventeen women cleared the automatic qualifying height of 4.60m on day one, so this should be an epic final. The one to beat remains the hyper-consistent Katerina Stefanidi, who has won world and Olympic gold medals in recent years.
Her closest rivals appear to be the US trio Jenn Suhr (a list-topping 4.91m early this season), Sandi Morris and Katie Nageotte and authorised neutral athlete Anzhelika Sidorova. In an infamously flukey event, however, most of the field look capable of a medal if they can get the right first-time clearance at the right height.
…so does Taylor
Christian Taylor in the men’s triple jump matches Stefanidi’s dominance. The personable US athlete has won the past two Olympic titles and three of the past four world titles, including the past two.
Taylor is going for a hat-trick here and looks the man to beat. His teammate Will Claye could do it – he has two 18-metre-plus jumps this year; so, too, could Pedro Pablo Pichardo, who leapt 17.38m with his only jump in qualifying.
Omar Craddock has leapt 17.68m this year and won the Pan-American title while Burkina Faso has a medal contender in Hugues Fabrice Zango, the only other jumper to get the automatic mark in qualifying. Zango has a best of 17.58m this year.
Given favourable jumping conditions, it could take something beyond 18 metres to win, or even to get second behind Christian Taylor.
One will do for Lyles in Doha
Given many people see Noah Lyles as the next big sprint star, there was mild disappointment with his decision to contest just the 200m in Doha. Lyles did, however, throw out a tantalising hint that this would allow him to go for ‘something special’. He has run 19.50, so among the few special things remaining are gold medals and world records. Watch this space…
Competing in his first ever senior global championships, Lyles’ main goal for his first-round heat will be to safely advance to the semifinals.
On the road again
In a third night of competition on the Corniche, we have the women’s 20km race walk. Glenda Morejon of Ecuador tops the 2019 world list and could become the first senior world champion with a 2000 birth year. China’s Olympic champion Liu Hong and defending world champion Yang Jiayu may have something to say about that.
Len Johnson for the IAAF