The men’s 400m race had been tipped to be one of the most explosive races of the 2015 IAAF World Championships, but expectations were surpassed as South Africa’s Wayde Van Niekerk crossed the line in a new World Lead (WL) and African Record of 43.48s, placing him 4th overall on the all-time list.
The 23-year old could barely stand on his feet after giving his all to win the title, and could not even celebrate the rare feat he had accomplished at the Bird’s Nest Stadium in Beijing. In fact, he had to be wheeled out of the arena, and it was evident that he ran the race of his life.
Only World Record (WR) holder, Michael Johnson (43.18s), Harry Reynolds (43.29s) and Jeremy Wariner (43.45s) have clocked faster times in the history of the 400m. Van Niekerk becomes the first African man EVER to win a World Championships title in the 400m, and is one of only four men from the continent to have gotten to the podium in the event at the World Championships.
Nigeria’s Innocent Egbunike won Silver at the 1987 Championships in Rome; Samson Kitur of Kenya claimed Bronze in 1993 in Stuttgart, with Ugandan Davis Kamoga taking Silver in a National Record (NR) behind Johnson at the 1997 World Championships in Athens.
Taking Silver behind Van Niekerk was defending champion, LaShawn Merritt who hasn’t been in his best form this season. The tempo of the race however inspired 29-year old to run a Personal Best (PB) of 43.65s, while Olympic champion Kirani James clocked a Season’s Best (SB) of 43.78s to place 3rd. This makes it the first time in history that three men have run inside 44s in the final of a championship.
The second African representative in the final, Isaac Makwala, was unable to replicate the feat of his country woman, Amantle Montsho, who won the world title in 2011. The Continental champion finished 5th with a time of 44.63s, and has once more lost the African Record to Van Niekerk, after reclaiming it in July with a time of 43.72s set in La Chaux-de-Fonds, Switzerland.
It must be said that Makwala put up an impressive performance in Beijing as well, returning a time of 44.19s in the heats, before executing the semis in a fantastic manner, powering to victory in 44.11s despite being drawn in Lane 9. The rivalry between the pair will be rekindled at the All-Africa Games, and will make for interesting competition in Brazzaville.
The semis of the men’s 200m took place today, and the qualifiers for tomorrow’s final include Triple World Record holder Usain Bolt who took Heat 3 with an SB of 19.95s; World Leader Justin Gatlin (19.87s): Great Britain’s Zharnel Hughes (20.14s), Asian champion Femi Ogunode who clocked an NR/PB of 20.05s in the semis; South Africa’s Anaso Jobodwana (20.01s, PB) and Alonso Edward of Panama (20.02s). Completing the list are Nickel Ashmeade (20.19s) and Ramil Guliyev of Turkey (20.10s).
The women’s heats commenced today and Nigeria’s Blessing Okagbare did not start the race after sustaining a hamstring injury during her warm-up race. Tournament favourites Dafne Schippers (22.58s), Elaine Thompson (22.78s), Candyce McGrone (22.45s) and Veronica Campbell-Brown (22.79s) all sailed through to the next round.
Great Britain’s Dina Asher-Smith set a PB of 22.22s enroute qualification for the semis, as team mate, Bianca Williams (22.85s) also advanced to the next round. Others are Jeneba Tarmoh (22.79s), Jenna Prandini (22.95s), Marie Josee Ta Lou (who won her heat with a PB of 22.73s), and Mujinga Kamdundji (22.92s).
Men’s 110 Hurdles
The big names all sailed through to the semis of the World Championships which comes up on Thursday. Shane Brathwaithe (13.28s) and Omar Craddock (13.43s) dominated in Heat 1, while Pascal Martinot-Lagarde (13.35s) and Jamaica’s Andrew Riley (13.43s) were the fastest qualifiers in Heat 2. Leading the pack in Heat 3 was defending champion David Oliver, who had the fastest time overall in 13.15s; he was followed by Frenchman Garfield Darien in 13.43s. Hansle Parchment and Matthias Buhler were the Top 2 in Heat 4, clocking 13.33s and 13.35s respectively, while WR holder, Aries Merritt was the man to beat in Heat 5 where he returned a time of 13.25s.
Women’s 400m Hurdles
Czech Republic’s Zuzana Hejnova was favoured to retain her title and she did not disappoint, making her the first woman in the history of the championships to successfully defend her crown. She clocked an impressive WL of 53.50s to finish ahead of USA’s pair of Shamier Little (53.94s) and Cassandra Tate (54.02s) who made up for their male compatriots’ lapses in the men’s event.
This has been a break out year for 20-year old Little, who came to Beijing as the World No. 1 with a time of 53.74s clocked in Eugene. She is the reigning NCAA and Pan American champion. It would be a championship to forget for Commonwealth champion, Kaliese Spencer who finished 8th. The hurdler was hit by injury during the course of the season, and is yet to regain full fitness. She also hit a hurdle, and could not recover in time to meet up with her competitors.
Women’s 3000m Steeplechase
Kenya’s Hyvin Kiyeng Jepkemoi added another GOLD to Kenya’s tally on Wednesday, winning the world title in 9:19.11 ahead of World Leader, Tunisia’s Habiba Ghribi who took Silver in 9:19.24s, while Gesa Felicitas Krause of Germany set a PB of 9:19.25s to claim Bronze. World No. 3, Virginia Nyambura of Kenya finished a distant 7th, just behind Hiwot Ayalew who was 6th in 9:24.27.
Men’s Javelin throw
One of the stand-up performances of the day was recorded by African and Commonwealth champion, Julius Yego who bounced back in style after being fouled in his first attempt, before making a throw of 82.42m on his second attempt. He regrouped on his third, taking GOLD with a superb WL of 92.72m, becoming the second African to achieve this feat after South Africa’s Marius Corbett did same at the 1999 World Championships in Athens. Yego inspired a 1-2 for the continent as Egypt’s Ihab Abdelrahman El Sayed claimed Silver with an SB of 88.99m, the first time two Africans will be making it to the podium in the same championships.
Women’s Pole Vault
Cuba’s Yarisley Silva is the newly crowned World Champion in the women’s Pole Vault, taking her first title with 4.90m ahead of Fabiana Murer of Brazil (4.85m) and Nikoleta Kyriakopoulou (4.80m). USA’s duo of Sandi Morris and Jennifer Suhr both ended the competition outside of the medal zone, finishing in 4th alongside Sweden’s Angelica Bengtsson with 4.70m. It was an NR for the Swede though.