Report21 Jul 2022

Jeruto and Feng victorious in Oregon on good night for Asia


Norah Jeruto, winner of the steeplechase at the World Athletics Championships Oregon22 (© Getty Images)

Norah Jeruto cleared the last water jump, surged around the bend and accelerated down the final straight.

No one could catch her. Timing her kick perfectly, Jeruto pulled away from her three challengers and captured gold in the women’s 3000m steeplechase at the World Athletics Championships Oregon22 on Wednesday night (20).

It was a masterclass of controlled running by the 26-year-old Jeruto, who clocked a championship record and the third-fastest time in history to claim her first world title on day six of the championships at Eugene’s Hayward Field.

The Kenyan-born Jeruto also secured the first ever World Championships gold in any event for Kazakhstan, the country she has represented since the start of 2022.

Jeruto clocked 8:53.02, smashing the previous championship record by more than four seconds. Ethiopia’s Werkuha Getachew took silver in a national record of 8:54.61 and her compatriot Mekides Abebe grabbed bronze in a personal best 8:56.08.

It was the first steeplechase in history in which three women had finished inside nine minutes.

The day’s only other final also produced a first-time champion, but this one was a surprise, as China’s Feng Bin uncorked the throw of her life to upstage the favourites and win the women’s discus title.

Feng’s winning effort of 69.12m – an improvement of more than three metres on her previous best – came on her first throw. Two-time world champion Sandra Perkovic of Croatia took silver with a best throw of 68.45m and Olympic champion Valarie Allman of the US earned bronze with 68.30m.

On a day of sweltering heat, with temperatures reaching 33C (92F), the Hayward Field track produced some red-hot times – notably in the women’s 400m hurdles semifinals, where Sydney McLaughlin, Dalilah Muhammad and Femke Bol put on a dazzling display of speed in each of their heats.

But it was in the last race of the day that Jeruto made her mark in spectacular fashion in the women’s steeplechase, an event that made its World Championship debut in 2005. Jeruto, the 2011 world U18 champion and 2016 African champion, came into these championships with the world No.1 ranking, an undefeated record in 2022, and the second-best performance on the world list this year.

She controlled the race from the start, moving to the front on the first lap and maintaining a steady pace. Bahrain’s Winfred Mutile Yavi briefly nosed in front with three laps to go, but Jeruto regained the lead in a four-way breakaway with Yavi, Getachew and Abebe.

All four remained in contention going into the bell lap and remained closely bunched going around the back bend. With less than 200 metres to go, Jeruto made her move and no one could respond as she won going away by a margin of 10 metres over Getachew.

All three medallists took a celebratory plunge into the water jump – and were followed into the water by the championship mascot, Legend, in full Bigfoot costume.

Jeruto said she had been worried before the race about her Ethiopian rivals.

“They are also champions like me so I was scared of them,” she said. “It was not easy. It was tough. I decided to be in the front because I like to control the race and to be in the front to make sure I can fight for medals.”

The Ethiopians were thrilled to take the other two podium places.

“Today is very special,” Getachew said. “From Abebe Bikila to Derartu Tulu, Ethiopians are always there. We are history makers. The race went according to our plan. I wanted gold, but the winner is very strong. This is a Kenyan event. Ethiopian men started to challenge and we are joining them now. We are progressing in the steeplechase. It's becoming our event.”

Feng, meanwhile, was a surprise winner of the women’s discus. The 28-year-old entered the championships ranked fourth on the 2022 world list, but even she didn’t see a world title coming.

“I did not expect this result coming to Eugene, I just wanted to show my best,” she said. “I am surprised by my gold medal but honestly not with the result. I expected the fight like this for the podium and I was sure it was going to be tough.”

Perkovic’s silver was her fifth World Championships medal, adding to golds in 2013 and 2017, silver in 2015 and bronze in 2019. At age 32, she became the most decorated women’s discus athlete in World Championships history.

“I did not expect the Chinese girl would beat us all,” Perkovic said. “But I am also glad for her because she threw a huge PB and I think you just have to be lucky.”

Allman, who came in as the world leader and title favourite, said it was “bittersweet” to settle for bronze, the first ever US medal in the event.

“I was so excited to represent my country and showcase the work that me and my coach have been putting in,” she said, “But it was a good fight. I was ready to compete for gold again. But I just could not find that big throw.”

Get your popcorn ready for the women’s 400m hurdles final.

The world’s three top hurdlers put on a can-you-top-this show in the semifinals.

Muhammad, the defending world champion, Olympic silver medallist and former world record-holder, got things started by winning the first semifinal in a season’s best of 53.28.

Dutch star Bol, the Olympic bronze medallist, won the next semifinal in 52.84, the fastest semifinal time ever at a World Championships. Not to be outdone, McLaughlin, the Olympic champion and world-record holder, won the third semifinal in 52.17. That was the second fastest time ever run at a World Championships, and just 0.01 off Muhammad’s winning time in Doha in 2019, then a world record.

“I felt it was a good to get faster,” McLaughlin said. “I just need to shake off some of the nerves and get ready for Friday. I can't wait to have my teammates join me in the final. I just want to be free, give all I have and leave it all on the track.”

It should be a ‘can’t miss’ final.

In other qualifying events, two-time Olympic champion Shaunae Miller-Uibo of The Bahamas, still looking for her first world title, led all qualifiers in the women’s 400m, winning her semifinal in a season’s best of 49.55. World leader and Olympic silver medallist Marileidy Paulino of the Dominican Republic won her semifinal in 49.98.

Two-time US champion Michael Norman ran the fastest time in the men’s 400m semifinals, winning his heat in 44.30, just ahead of Britain’s Matthew Hudson-Smith in 44.38. 2011 world champion Kirani James of Grenada won his semifinal in 44.74, while USA’s Champion Allison took the third heat in 44.71 ahead of South Africa’s world record-holder Wayde van Niekerk (44.75).

In the men’s 800m, Canada’s Marco Arop posted the fastest heat (1:44.56), with Mexico’s Jesus Tonatiu Lopez second fastest overall (1:44.67). Other heat winners included Australia’s Peter Bol, Algeria’s Slimane Moula and Djamel Sejati, Morocco’s Moad Zahafi and Kenya’s Olympic champion Emmanuel Korir. Two-time defending champion Donovan Brazier of the US couldn’t overcome his injury problems, fading to sixth place in his heat. He said he will undergo surgery next week to remove a small bone in his foot.

In the women’s 5000m, Ethiopia’s Letesenbet Gidey had the fastest time of the two heats, clocking 14:52.27 just four days after winning the 10,000m title. The next fastest time (14:52.54) was posted by Kazakhstan’s Caroline Chepkoech Kipkirui. Also qualifying automatically was double Olympic champion Sifan Hassan and Ethiopia’s Gudaf Tsegay, the silver medallist in Eugene in the 1500m.

China’s Olympic champion Liu Shiying was among the three automatic qualifiers for the women’s javelin final, throwing 63.86m. Japan’s Haruka Kitaguchi led all qualifiers with a throw of 64.32m, while Lithuania’s Liveta Jasiunaite also surpassed the automatic mark with 63.80m. Among others advancing were Australia’s defending champion Kelsey-Lee Barber (61.27m) and US athlete Kara Winger (61.30m). But missing out were Poland’s Olympic silver medallist Maria Andrejczyk (55.47m) and world leader Maggie Malone of the US (54.19m).

Steve Wilson for World Athletics

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