In the penultimate day of action from Beijing, the frequency of finals reached a fever pitch as medals were awarded in the women's 800m, men's 5000m, decathlon and both 4x100m relays.
While American runners failed to make up for their missed opportunities of the first seven days of competition, they performed respectably even though the results, for the most part, didn't quite go their way.
Women's 4x400m Relay: The United States and Jamaica both qualified, setting up the expected duel for gold to take place on the final day of competition. The United States avoiding blunders at this point seems like something to celebrate and that's what they did here. I was surprised by how good Nigeria looked in the first heat. They were comfortably ahead of Jamaica and Russia throughout most of the legs and held off a late charge from Jamaica to win the heat. Could they potentially work their way into medal contention with the U.S., Jamaica, and Russia?
Men's 4x400m Relay: The U.S. must have been rested after their underrepresentation in the men's open 400m and came out to win the second heat of the men's trials in convincing fashion. 2:58.13 is a world leading time. Jamaica and Trinidad & Tobago also qualified with times under 2:59. The Bahamas were disqualified from the first heat for lane infringement (rule 163.3a), which will make the final a hair less competitive.
Women's 4x100m Relay: Jamaica blew away the first heat with a world-leading time of 41.84 seconds. The United States looked nearly as impressive in the second heat to beat out the Schipper-led Netherlands squad as well as Trinidad and Tobago. No surprises in the preliminary round. Just teams trying to send messages to each other.
The final was not as close as preliminary results suggested it might be. Jamaica ran away with it in a championship record 41.07 seconds, besting the second best effort from the Americans of 41.68. Unlike many instances in the past eight days, the U.S. did not give this away. The Jamaicans were clearly the better cast of women and the Americans were respectable with their silver medal finish.
|3||Trinidad & Tobago||42.03|
Men's 4x100m Relay: The first heat featured the U.S. team that clearly was out to prove they could compete. Trayvon Bromell got out hard from the block and put a great handoff into Gatlin. The exchange to Gay was not smooth at all, and Great Britain was able to catch up because of it. Gay blew away his competition on the turn and gave the baton to Mike Rodgers to continue his work on the home stretch. 37.91 FTW is not a a merit-less accomplishment.
As the U.S. did in the first heat, the Jamaicans did in the second heat as they blew away a French squad that really isn't bad at all. Jamaica ran 37.41 to beat out France's 37.88 China made the final with an Asian record of 37.92 for third. The home crowd in Beijing was going wild once it became clear what was happening.
Here in the finals, the United States did give a medal to Jamaica. After a brilliant third leg from Tyson Gay to give the United States a solid lead, he and Mike Rodgers botched the final handoff and allowed Bolt to put them away. It came out a couple minutes after the finish that the exchange actually occurred outside of the zone, disqualifying the U.S. team. Handoffs have long been an issue for United States relays leading to much confused questioning of "why don't you just freaking practice them a little bit?" That questioning certainly will not abate following this display.
A week ago, the U.S. looked ready to reclaim sprint dominance from Jamaica, but after this week, Jamaica continues to rule that group of events. This is due in part to unforced errors on the U.S. side--botched handoffs, leaning too early, tripping over hurdles--but Jamaica deserves credit as well. Bolt and SAFP showed up in great shape and rightfully defended their supremacy in the sprinting world.
Women's 800m: The pace oscillated early. The first 200m went out in a very fast 27.13 seconds, but immediately after that threshold, the race started looking more like a championship 5000m than an 800m. They came through 400m in 59.08 seconds, so their second 200m was just barely faster than 32 seconds. Eunice Sum was in the lead at that point and led unchallenged through about 650m until Melissa Bishop challenged her coming off the turn.
But at the end of the day it was Marina Arazamasova of Belarus who came through with the win. Bishop and Sum had to settle for silver and bronze respectively. The three entered as the only three runners in the field to ever break 1:58 and they proved to be the best three again today.
|1||Marina Arazamasova (BLR)||1:58.03|
|2||Melissa Bishop (CAN)||1:58.12|
|3||Eunice Sum (KEN)||1:58.18|
The final of the men's 5000m went out at a jog from the gun. The field came through 400m in 73 seconds and the pace didn't pick up from there as they came through 1600m in 4:48. Mo Farah was sitting in last place at this point, which didn't really matter all that much. I mean, is Farah not going to be able to react to a move up front? He's just better than everyone.
The field just wanted to hand the gold to Farah. The pace picked up from the 73 second lap pace of the first mile, but not by much. The came through 3000m in 8:47. Farah took the lead just before four laps to go, but didn't throw a surge at the field as everyone remained together with three laps to go. It wasn't until they came through 4200m that Caleb Ndiku tried to actually beat Farah. And for the next 600m or so, it looked like he might have a chance. He led with a bit of daylight between Farah and, despite Farah looking like he was straining, that slight gap held up.
Over the final turn, Farah got on his shoulder and put about a second and a half on the Kenyan in the last 100m of the race.
With three Kenyans and three Ethiopians with resumes suggesting they were in the ballpark of challenging Farah, one would have expected them to work together to employ some team tactics to try to break him early. Of course, none of that happened, as everyone was willing to let this come down to a kick. I can't envision what that thought process was that went through the heads of the rest of the field thinking they could possibly beat Farah off of a pedestrian pace.
The Americans were never quite able to look competitive with the kick although they did finish a respectable 5-6-7. With Galen Rupp getting a full season of running leading up to Rio, I can see him challenging for a medal next summer.
|1||Mo Farah (GBR)||13:50.38|
|2||Caleb Ndiku (KEN)||13:51.75|
The 10 events culminated with a world record attempt. All Ashton Eaton needed to do was run 4:18.25 in the 1500m to beat his world record. He got out a little behind pace, coming through 400m in ~70 seconds and 800m in about ~2:20. He came through 1100 needing to run 64 seconds over his last 400m, but didn't quite inject the pace he needed over the first 200m of that stretch as he needed to run 30 seconds for his last 200m. He did that comfortably, closing hard to get second in the heat with 4:17.52.
Queue the "Could LeBron James beat Ashton Eaton in the Decathlon?" LetsRun threads.
|1||Ashton Eaton (USA)||9045|
|2||Damian Warner (CAN)||8695|
|3||Rico Freimuth (GER)||8561|
One more day to go and, with Genzebe Dibaba in the women's 5000m and a stacked men's 1500m field in the afternoon, it will be must watch track. Plus, if you're into this sort of thing, the United States will have two more chances to botch a relay in the 4x400m. That's six potential handoffs to go wrong. The 2015 World Championships: Come for the competition; stay for the laughs.