There Is More Than One Way To Get To The Podium’s Top Step

2023 World Athletics Championships

Budapest, Hungary

August 21, 2023

The 2023 World Athletics Championships are off to a great start: Day One: a gold medal performance by USA’s Ryan Crouser in the shot put; a bumpy but successful homestretch run for gold by Ethiopia’s Gudaf Tsegay in the women’s 10,000m; and a world-record performance by USA’s 4x400m mixed relay to top off the evening. Day Two: A blow-by-blow hammer battle which resulted in Ethan Katzberg winning a first-ever gold medal for Canada; a tenth-event showdown in the women’s heptathlon which resulted in a breath-taking homestretch drive and a narrow, hard-fought gold medal for Great Britain’s Katarina Johnson-Thompson; a scintillating final furlong by Joshua Chepteigei as he successfully defended his 10,000 titles; and a fast close by USA’s Noah Lyles to snatch gold in the men’s 100m final and to seize a possible shot at a 100m/200m sprint double.

But what will happen tonight? There are various pathways to success. And on Day Three, the four winning finalists earned victory in different ways.

Sha’Carri Richardson wins 100m for US, first time since 2017, photo by Getty Images for World Athletics.

The Surprise: Over her career, USA sprinter Sha’Carri Richardson has presented herself in various ways: ebullient; serious; teasingly; funny; outrageous; etc. And on Day Three, she fooled quite a few folks. Richardson had a scare in her semi-final round of the women’s 100 meters. She finished 3rd in her semi-final heat and had to sweat it out: Would she move on to the final? Or would her quest for a 100m medal be over?. After a wait that probably felt like an eternity, she got the little Q she needed and would be moving on to the final. In the ensuing locker room wait of over an hour, the young sprinter had time to stew about what had happened in the prelim and how she would handle the final – from Lane 9. Lane 9 is where sprinters go to die. When the moment for introduction arrived, Sha’Carri would be the first finalist to come through the entry and out onto the stadium.. As the music blared, the crowd roared, expecting Richardson to bound out onto the start line. Instead, Richardson came out slowly. Wide-eyed and looking around tentatively, she walked to her Lane 9 position. She looked like a deer in the headlights. Her competitors engaged in jumping and other pre-race protocols as Richardson meekly positioned herself in the blocks. At the gun, Sha’Carri’s so-so start gave her work to do, and she dug right in and was catching the others. Now in full flight, she needed every inch to catch all in the field – and she did it just before the finish line. Amazingly, Richardson had won. When the scoreboard confirmed her victory, the new champion exploded, racing around and waving the American flag. She had surprised everyone.

The Wake Up Call: In the men’s triple jump final, the Cuban duo of Lazaro Martinez and Christian Napoles were competing well and appeared to be ready to give their native land a 1-2 finish in this punishing event. But then in the 7th round Hughes Fabrice Zango of Burkina Faso, awakened from his early-round slumber, uncorked a hop, step, and jump of 57’10½” to leap into first place. Rattled by the late turn of events, the Cubans, unable to improve, had to settle for the 2nd and 3rd podium positions. Meanwhile, Zango’s gold medal joins with his Doha bronze and Eugene silver to give him a complete medal set.

Grant Holloway wins his third title, 110m, Budapest 2023, photo by Kevin Morris.

The Affirmation: Grant Holloway was aware that there had been whispers about his performances: “Does Holloway’s silver in the Tokyo Olympics suggest he is vulnerable in global championships?” “He has a 12.81 PR, but does his season’s best of 12.98 provide some evidence that his superior skills are beginning to slip.” But Holloway is a resourceful guy and perhaps the greatest high hurdler of all time. And he used that blather to further inspire his quest for gold. He wanted that gold, and he went out and got it: a wire-to-wire season’s best of 12.96. “I came in here, and everyone counted me out,” said the 3-time champion afterward. “I took it personally.” That fueled anger for gold doubtless played an important role in his Day Three success.

Daniel Stahl, photo by Bauhaus.Swe

The Buzzer-Beater: The conclusion in the Men’s Discus proved to be a showcase for last-minute victories. In the 6th and final round, young Kristjen Ceh, standing in 2nd position, unleashed a mammoth throw of 70.02m/229’9” to relegate leader Daniel Stahl (69.37m/227’7”) to the runner-up position with one final throw remaining. The crowd hushed as Stahl wound up for what may ultimately prove to be the greatest press-packed throw of his life: a heave of 71.46m//234’5”. It was a mark that clinched the gold medal for the Swede and sent Kristjan Ceh to the runner-up position for the silver. / Dave Hunter / 

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