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Kenyans Dominate: World Championships Day 5 Recap

Day 5 included an historically fast men's 400m final, a tactical and exciting women's steeplechase, and a sit-in protest to a false start.

Michael Steele/Getty Images

Morning Session

Men's 5000m Prelims: The story of the first heat of the 5K for me was Ben True. The race went extremely tactical, allowing True to settle in ad get comfortable with the pack. He showed an ability to kick with the  top runners in the field that we haven't seen from Americans yet in the distance races. All the qualifiers finished within half a second of each others so there was no shot at any time qualifiers out of the first heat. The second heat featured a little more excitement. There was a scare as Mo Farah nearly tripped with 150m to go. The race ended with a blistering kick as the competitive juices must have been flowing. Ryan Hill went with it and kicked well to finish 6th. Meanwhile, Galen Rupp showed his experience in championship races and REALLY took his foot off the gas over the last 100m to settle for 7th, knowing he would get in on time.

Women's 800m Prelims: The real surprise here came in the fourth heat as Janeth Jepkosgei finished fourth in a slow heat and didn't advance to the next round. This particular heat went out the slowest of any heat and Jepkosgei got bumped to 4th when Sofia Ennaoui from Poland threw in a huge surge in the last 10 meters to win the race. I like the thrill and anticipation of a tactical race as much as anyone, but as a runner, that's the risk you take when you let a slow preliminary race happen. You let less talented runners stick around and make yourself more vulnerable to randomness. It sucks that one of the best runners won't get a chance to mix it up in the final, but the better runners choose to climb that mountain they die on top of.

Heat 6 provided a contrast to the the fourth heat surprise and showed how setting a pace can make sense. Jennifer Meadows entered as one of the faster women in her heat, but she didn't seem willing to leave her World Championship fate up to a kick. She forced an honest pace and, although she finished 4th in her heat and outside of an automatic qualifier, she got in on time. If you're a better runner, you have an opportunity to control the race and your fate with an honest early pace. It's fine to trust you kick, but you have to know what you're getting into.

Men's 110m Hurdles Prelim: This was the event of false starts. In the first heat, German Alexander John was called for a false start that wasn't clearly visible to the eye. There was a bit of a tense moment as he stood behind the blocks and said "no" a couple times, but ultimately left without incident. The second heat, however, was where the fun began. American Ronnie Ash faced a similar circumstance where he was called for a false start that was far from obvious to the eye. Unlike John, Ash refused to leave for a solid 2-3 minutes. At one point four officials were trying to reason with him to get him to step off. It seemed, from the bits of audio that came through, that Ash was trying to run under protest, which is not World Championship policy. Eventually, he acquiesced and when they resumed, the race got off to...another false start. This time it was Peter Svoboda. None of these three false starts was visible even in slow motion. Based on the displeasure voiced by the disqualified athletes, the IAAF is going to have to work a bit harder to get some buy-in to the block sensor method they have been using.

Afternoon Session

Women's 200m Prelims: No real surprises. Each heat winner looked incredibly strong and comfortable. Dafne Schippers continued her great World Championships performance. Coming off silver in the 100m, she once again flashed the top-end speed that carried her through the 100m prelims and finals. That should play a bigger role in the 200m, her better event, and she'll be my underdog prediction for gold.

Women's 400m Hurdle Final: Zuzana Hejnova continued on the path set by her strong performance in the prelims and emerged as the clear winner in this race. The Americans must be relieved to get two medals out of this race after Shamier Little, who entered the meet with the fastest time in the world, struggled mightily in the two preliminary rounds and squeaked into the final. She looked strong here and held off fellow American Cassandra Tate, who had a stellar final 100m, for silver.

Place Athlete
1 Zuzana Hejnova (CZE)
2 Shamir Little (USA)
3 Cassandra Tate (USA)

Men's 200m Semifinal: Again, no surprises in this one. Gatlin and Bolt both advance to the final and look poised to go 1-2 in some order, just as we all assumed they would. Justin Gatlin convincingly dealt with Alonso Edward in the second heat while Usain Bolt disposed of the third heat and looked like he was jogging the entire time. Gatlin will hope to redeem himself against Bolt tomorrow afternoon in the final.

Women's 3000m Steeplechase: This was set up to be the beginning of American steeple dominance. Evan Jager was supposed to at least medal on the men's side and Emma Coburn was as good a bet as any woman to medal in the women's race. None of that came to fruition as four Kenyans made Jager look silly in the last 200m of the men's race and Emma Coburn similarly wasn't able to compete with the kicks of her competitors. The race got out very slow as they came through 1K in right around 3:10. Lalit Babar of India entered with the third-slowest time in the field, but that didn't deter her from making a huge move in the second kilometer to open up a 20m or so lead on the field. The field didn't react and went through 2k in 6:22 and caught Babar soon after.

Emma Coburn took the lead with about 800m to go and held it into the bell lap. American hope was palpable. But, like Jager before her, Coburn was swallowed up by the field of Jepkemoi, Ghribi, Krause, and Assefa heading into the water jump. The final straight ended up being a kick between those four--they all finished within a second of each other--with Jepkemoi just outlining Ghribi who in turn just outlined Krause for the gold. At various points each of those three looked to be the eventual winner. This is why slow, tactical races are so exciting. The rush of those final meters is unmatchable.

Place Athlete

Hyvin Jepkemoi (KEN)

2 Habiba Ghribi (TUN)
3 Gesa Krause (GER)

Men's 400m Final: Despite the majesty of that Women's Steeplechase, the Men's 400m somehow managed to overtake it as the race of the day. It featured a the fourth-fastest time ever recorded, a personal best for LaShawn Merritt, and a season best for Kirani James. If someone told you before the race started that Kirani James would run a season best 43.78 and LaShawn Merritt would run a PR of 43.65, you would likely conclude that they went 1-2 in the final. Instead, James had to settle for Bronze and Merritt for Silver as South African Wayde Van Niekerk ran 43.48, the fourth-fastest time ever recorded.

Van Niekerk had to be taken off on a stretcher after the race, which seems reasonable after such an amazing performance. Merritt and James were at their best today and Van Niekerk had to, to use a tired sports cliche, leave it all on the track to beat them.

Place Athlete
1 Wayde Van Niekerk (RSA)
2 LaShawn Merritt (USA)
3 Kirani James (GRN)