I hope you all enjoyed the break afforded by the lack of a morning session on Day 4. Depending on your location, you may have gone out to a nice dinner, slept in, watched baseball, or engaged in some other manner of leisure activity. But now we're back and there are no more breaks in sight.
After today's action, it would be silly to want a break. It would be entirely reasonable, in fact, to ask that the competition feature exactly zero breaks going forward. Why break this up into morning and afternoon? Why take nights off? Let's just run everything and pack it in to a tight little timetable. What could possibly be wrong with that idea?
As you might be able to tell, I am quite giddy over today's races. There was that proper mix of transcendent performance and competition that makes for compelling viewing and it all culminated in the final two races of the afternoon--the women's 1500m and men's 800m. But, first thing's first:
Women 400m Semifinals
The semifinal of the women's 400m appear to have set the stage for an exciting battle for gold between Bahamian Shaunae Miller and American Allyson Felix. Miller started off the afternoon on the track with the easiest 50.12 you'll see to win her heat. In the third heat, Felix answered the call from Miller and ran 49.89--the only sub-50 time of the semis--to win her heat. While this will most likely come down to Miller and Felix, a couple other runners could look to surprise. Four Jamaicans advanced to the finals, and among them, Shericka Jackson impressed by competing with Felix and running the second fastest time of the afternoon of 50.03. Christine Ohuruogu will be looking to defend her 2013 world championship after kicking past the field in the second heat. 49.89 for Felix. The final for the women's 400m will take place in the afternoon of day 6.
Men's 200m Heats
Only one real surprise occurred in the heats of the men's 200 and that was that Isiah Young will not advance after finishing 6th in the first heat. The sprints have been a bit of a disappointment for the American men now with Gatlin faltering for silver in the 100m, Batman and Dutch not making it to the finals of the 400m hurdles, and only Lashawn Merritt getting through to the 400m final. After Young's disappointing performance and the announcement that Wallace Spearmon would not race due to a calf tear, the pressure is on the remaining Americans to perform. In the 200, that means Gatlin attempting to redeem himself after giving Bolt the 100m gold.
That looks like it will be difficult. In heat three, Bolt silenced at least this doubter that he would be able to challenge Gatlin. He raced 150m then really pulled back in the last 50m. He still ran 20.28, but that time belies the impression his performance left. Gatlin responded well in the next heat. He blew away the competition on the turn in heat 4 and eased in to the finish in 20.19. He didn't cruise as much as Bolt did in the previous heat, but he should be able to bounce back from that disappointing 100m final. Anything can happen with a round of semifinals tomorrow still separating us from the finals, but this is shaping up as another Bolt v. Gatlin matchup.
Men's 400m Hurdles
With the two top runners in the world--Bershawn Jackson and Johnny Dutch--having failed to qualify for the final, the race for the podium was wide open. The Americans were historically dominant in the event, so either Kerron Clement or Michael Tinsley seemed like decent bets. There were also two Kenyans in the final, which no one seemed quite sure how to interpret. Nicholas Bett forced that interpretive action on us as he dominated the final with a world leading time of 47.79 to win gold. He became the first Kenyan to win a World Championship at a distance under 800m.
As for the Americans, Michael Tinsley hit the 8th and 9th hurdles and Kerron Clement just looked flat compared to the rest of the field and was out-leaned by Jeffrey Gibson for the bronze medal spot. With Americans making advances in events of traditional Kenyan dominance, it seems the Kenyans have decided to make inroads on traditionally American-dominated events.
This race went out at a crawl as the first 800m were run in a pedestrian 2:25. Genzebe Dibaba wasn't ready to let that get drawn out much longer and made a move right around 700m that strung the field out. Jenny Simpson at first tried to go with her, but ended up getting broken by Dibaba's kick. That kick left the race with four contenders--Dibaba, Hassan, Kipyegon, and Seyaum--but there was always only one contender and that was Genzebe Dibaba. According to FloTrack's Twitter account, Dibaba ran her last 800m in around 1:57. There aren't many women in the world who can hang with that in an open 800m race and most certainly none who can after 700m of racing.
Here's a wild idea: let's get Genzebe Dibaba in a competitive men's race. Not a world class race, but one where a handful of runners figure to run within a couple seconds of 4:00 for them mile. Who's seriously saying there's no chance she challenges the 4:00 mark if she has people to run with? Ok, I'm not seriously saying that, but still, it would be fun to see her make the attempt.
Taking lessons from the tactics of the previous race, David Rudisha set a pedestrian pace to open the final of the men's 800m. They came through 400m in 54.15, which, after the race that proceeded it, is a pace I'm not willing to rule Genzebe Dibaba out of being able to hold. But also like the 1500m that preceded it, the move in the 800m came early. coming off the turn, with 300m to go, Rudisha started making a bit of a move. Toward the end of the back straight, that move was challenged by Kszczot who attempted the old pass-on-the-inside move. Rudisha was having none of it and threw in a surge as soon as he felt what was happening. He won convincingly, but we knew that to be true days ago.
Adam Kszczot was not broken by Rudisha's harsh rejection of his advances and held off a valiant kick from Amel Tuka. For Tuka, a bronze is a fantastic end to an even more fantastic season. Entering the year, he had a personal best of 1:46.12, which doesn't get on anyone's map for a world medal. Over the course of 2015, he has dropped about 3.5 seconds off his 800m time, which defies words. I'm sure numerous (and mostly base-less) doping accusations will ensue, but what Tuka has done is phenomenal and represents the reason many of us run: You never know when that break through will be around the next corner.
We'll be back tomorrow for some heats in the morning and a glut of finals in the afternoon. More on that in a couple hours.