Wednesday will be remembered for some new champions and disappointment to some established names. In men’s javelin, Julius Yego came up with a massive hurl of 92.72 that left everyone behind and completed devastated Czech Republic’s defending champion Vitezslav Vesely. In men’s 400m, LaShawn Merritt had to remain content with the second place finish as South Africa’s Wayde van Niekerk crossed the line in 43.48 seconds. In women’s pole vault, Brazil’s 2011 world champion also met with disappointment and yielded the field to Cuba’s Yarisley Silva. The Cuban was the only woman to clear 4.90m and won the gold. Women’s 3000m steeplechase became a mad scramble for gold as no clear winner could be seen with 1 kilometer left. The tight race was finally won by Kenya’s Hyvin Jepkemoi. Czech Republic’s Zuzana Hejnova successfully defended her 400m hurdles title won in Moscow in a race, where many had expected a close duel between Hejnova and Jamaica’s Kaliese Spencer. But the 2014 Diamond League and Commonwealth Games gold medalist was caught on the second hurdle and her medal chase ended as she finished last.
Men’s javelin was strongly contested and many expected Czech Republic’s Vitezslav Vesely to defend his Moscow title. But the Czech looked off-color from start. He either fouled or hurled the javelin too short to count in the final. For Kenya’s Julius Yego, however, it provided an opportunity to make amends after his heart-breaking fourth place finish two years ago at Moscow. The Kenyan began with a foul and a modest 82.42m throw. No one could predict the final result, when Egypt’s Ihab Abdelrahman El Sayed threw 88.99m in the second round. There were two Germans in the competition who did reasonably well. Thomas Rohler managed 86.68m and his compatriot Johannes Vetter hurled the spear to 83.79m. Then came the bomb. In the third round, Yego surprised himself by unleashing a massive throw of 92.72m, more than 3 meters clear of Abdelrahman’s mark. With that, he left all competitors far behind. Gold medal aside, the Kenyan became the third longest thrower of all time. Incidentally, this distance had not been reached in the last 14 years.
In men’s 400m, South Africa’s Wayde van Niekerk dashed LaShawn Merritt’s hopes of winning the gold. Niekerk was off the blocks like a rocket and overhauled Merritt on the second bend. The South African continued in the same vein and though Merritt chased him relentlessly, Niekerk ran away from the American on homestretch, crossing the line in the Personal Best time of 43.48 seconds. Merritt won the silver in his PB of 43.65 while Olympic champion Kirani James took the bronze in 43.78. It was the first time in 400m history that the 1-2-3 did the race under 44 seconds.
In women’s pole vault, the field became thin after the bar was raised up to 4.90m. Only Yarisley Silva of Cuba, Fabiana Murer of Brazil and Nikoleta Kyriakopoulou of Greece remained. Of the three regulatory attempts permitted, two went by as all three vaulters committing fouls. Then Silva leapt over in her third attempt. Now there was pressure on Murer, who had a solitary attempt left. The Brazilian couldn’t respond. Yarisley Silva won the gold, Murer took the silver and Kyriakopoulou was content with the bronze.
In women’s 3000m steeplechase, it became difficult to predict the winner as several athletes were bunched together with 1000m remaining. Usually, the race is won as a rout and the winner becomes too visible. That didn’t happen at the Birds Nest stadium on Wednesday. It wasn’t the fastest steeplechase final but one, where competitiveness ruled. Finally the Kenyan Hyvin Jepkemoi won the race in 9:19.11. After her, three more athletes crossed the line within a second of each other. Tunisia’s Habiba Ghribi took the silver in 9:19.24, Germany’s Gesa Felicitas Krause won the bronze in 9:19.25, and Ethiopia’s Sofia Assefa was fourth in 9:20.01.
In women’s 400m hurdles, defending champion Zuzana Hejnova of the Czech Republic retained her title in a world-leading time of 53.50s, followed by USA’s world junior champion Shamier Little. The bronze medal went to another American Cassandra Tate. It was expected that Hejnova would be severely challenged by Jamaica’s Kaliese Spencer but the Jamaican spoiled her own chances by making an error on the second hurdle. That put paid to all her chances as she finished last.
Wednesday also had the 200m men’s semifinals and expectedly Usain Bolt and Justin Gatlin cruised through with sub-20 seconds results. In men’s triple jump, Christian Taylor of USA and Pedro Pichardo of Cuba qualified in their Groups and will likely have showdown in the final on Thursday.
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