The World Championships are underway and there have already been a couple of surprises, starting with the first event of the morning session of Day One as a 19 year-old surprised an extremely well-qualified field to become the youngest world marathon champion in history. From 2008, we all know how difficult the conditions in Beijing make it to run a marathon. The race went out incredibly slow--16:06 through 5k--and for well over half of the race most of the field was within 5 seconds of each other.
In a field that featured 24 men with marathon PBs faster than 2:10, it is at least a little surprising that not a single one of them tried to make the race a little more honest. A complete unknown, Tsepo Ramonene, who only entered with a 2:16 best in the event, put in a surge right around 30km that, at it's height, took him to a 25-second lead over the field.
Unfortunately for Ramonene and entertainment more generally, that lead was short-lived as 19 year-old Ghimay Ghebreslassie and Yemane Tsegay caught and quickly overtook him around 35km. From there, it was a two-man race as Ghebreslassie and Tsegay ran together for the next 5 kilometers or so before the 19 year-old proved too much for Tsegay and put :40 on him over the final couple miles of the race.
The heat clearly affected this race as Kimetto and Kipping both dropped out and never really factored into the race while they were in it. It's become trite to say that anything can happen in the marathon, but that axiom is even more true when you introduce heat and humidity like that in Beijing.
Americans Survive Mid-Distance/Distance Heats
All 3 Americans--Jager, Cabral, Huling--survived the steeple trials to make it through to the final on Day 3. Evan Jager faced a scare in the first heat as he was stuck in 5th entering the final lap in what turned out to be the slowest heat of the morning. He managed to kick his way into second, but was less than 0.2 seconds away from going home after running 8:41.51. His fellow steeplers--Cabral and Huling--both made it through pretty easily. Cabral finished 3rd in the second heat (8:27.33) and Daniel Huling was 5th in the 3rd heat (8:25.34). No surprises in the rest of the field as Kipruto, Birech, and Kemboi all advanced easily.
All four Americans made it through in the women's 1500 and will compete in the semi-final during the Day 2 afternoon session. They all adopted the strategy of laying low and advancing with as little effort as possible, which worked for all four. No surprises with Dibaba and Hassan both advancing and winning their heats. If the world wasn't already on notice for Genzebe Dibaba, they are now, as she had enough of the "just get through" approach after about 1100m. She ran her last lap in 59 seconds. No one is doubting she's the favorite in this event.
The men's 800m is where the only American mid-distance runner got sent home on Day One. Cas Loxsom finished 6th in heat one and didn't run fast enough to qualify on time. Clayton Murphy, aka not-Nick Symmonds, and Erik Sowinski will race in the semi-final tomorrow afternoon. All the main contenders advanced as Rudisha, Tuka, and Amos all advanced with ease.
Gatlin Still On Top, Batman Goes Home
The 400m Hurdles featured the first real surprise of the trials as Bershawn Jackson, the top entrant in the event, finished 7th in the 4th heat and at a time of 50.14 seconds, was far too slow to advance. Johnny Dutch, Michael Tinsley, and Kerron Clement all advanced to keep the hopes of a U.S. sweep alive.
Try as he might, Usain Bolt still can't convince me he can beat Justin Gatlin at this championship. While Gatlin ran the fastest time of the afternoon (9.83 out of Heat 6), Bolt only ran 9.96, the 5th fastest time of the day and slower than fellow-Jamaican Asafa Powell. The Americans look poised to reclaim their dominance in the 100m with Bromell and Rodgers joining Gatlin in tomorrow afternoon's semi-final.
Mo Farah, Mo Problems for the Kenyans
The Kenyans entered the 10,000m with one goal: Make sure Mo Farah does not win. They tried to break him with an aggressive pace, but, surprise!, Farah didn't break. Three Kenyans--Kamworor, Tanui, and Karoki--resorted to "team tactics" from keeping Farah from taking the lead for the first 8000m to trying to trip him with a lap to go. It was all for naught as Farah is just flat-out better than anyone else in the world right now and won in 27:01.13. Geoffrey Kamworor hung on for second in 27:01.76.
Galen Rupp impressed as he was with the pack of 5--Farah, the Kenyans, Rupp--until the the last lap. He didn't assert himself in the race, but there was hope that he would be able to sneak his way into a medal spot. He wasn't able to hang with the kick of Farah and the Kenyans and ended up in 5th. After a tumultuous first 8 months of 2015 from sickness to doping allegations, a 5th place finish at Worlds is pretty good for Rupp. There's always the 5k.
If the next eight days are like the first, we're in for an exciting World Championship meet.