This is Dave Hunter’s column for day 4, which was a superb day of track & field!
WC/Day 4: Glorious Performances On Track And In The Field
Kipyegon! El Bakkali! Tausaga! Tamberi!
Followers of track & field generally love the sport under all conditions. They can become ecstatic when they are fortunate enough to witness absolutely stunning performances on the track and in the field. Day Four of the 2023 World Athletics Championship was such a day.
In this track & field banquet, there were terrific little nuggets throughout the evening. One appetizer was witnessing veteran Vernon Norwood in the 400m semi, looking terrific down the homestretch, digging down deep to notch a new personal best, and holding off the reigning world record holder to secure his advance to the 400m final.
But the centerpiece of this track & field banquet was served in four delicious courses. And here they are.
Faith Kipyegon takes the 1,500m in Budapest! photo by Kevin Morris
w1500m – Final: In a middle-distance race in a global championship, it can be risky to attempt a wire-to-wire strategy. But when you are Faith Kipyegon, and earlier this season, you set new world records in the mile, the 1500m, and the 5000m (the event you will be running!), you can employ such an approach. In the final, the two-time Olympic champ set sail up front, which was dutifully accepted by her competitors. Running well within herself, the Kenyan star was prepping for her patented sprint to the finish line. Taking off after the bell, Kipyegon left the field behind as she covered the final circuit in 56.63 to cross the line in 3:54.87. Ethiopia’s Diribe Welteji (3:55.69) held off Sifan Hassan for the silver medal, with Sifan (3:56.00) taking the bronze. USA’s Cory McGee, the only American to make this final, finished 10th in 4:01.60.
Soufiane El Bakkali sweeps by Lamencha Girma, photo by Kevin Morris
m3000SC – Final: The steeplechase final was a much-anticipated showdown of the two most accomplished athletes in this event: world record holder Lamecha Girma and reigning Olympic and World Champion, and defending champion and master strategist Soufiane El Bakkali, In the race’s early stages, the duo was feeling each other out, with El Bakkali covering Girma’s every move. The real action unfolded in the race’s second half as Girma tried unsuccessfully to break away from his Moroccan opponent. The crowd roared as the twosome took the bell. El Bakkali had the perfect endgame strategy. The defending champion bolted to the water jump 30 meters before the final water jump, employed his quick and matchless technique over the water jump, and, just like that, the race was essentially over. El Bakkali savored his final spurt down the homestretch, crossing the line in 8:03.53, with Girma crossing next to snag the silver in 8:05.44. Capturing the bronze was Kenyan athlete Abraham Kibiwot (8:11.98).
Four meter PB in discus on throw 5 by Laulauga Tausaga! photo by Christian Petersen for Getty/World Athletics
wDT – Final: Leading up to the women’s discus final, reigning Olympic gold medalist and World Championship bronze medalist Valarie Allman was viewed as the odds-on favorite. She looked dominant in the final’s early stages, ringing up progressive marks in her first four attempts and leading to a best mark of 69.23m/227’1”. Meanwhile, after an opening foul, Allman’s teammate Laulauga Tausaga was steadily improving her marks. Her third-round heave was a season’s best of 65.56/215-1. But the real bomb was yet to come. On her 5th attempt, Tausaga unleashed a magnificent throw of 69.49/228’0”. She was visibly stunned by her heave, which improved her personal best by more than 4 meters and vaulted her into the lead. With two throws remaining, Allman, who appeared to be well on her way to the gold earlier, could not regain her lead. The Americans finished 1-2 with China’s Bin Feng, the defending champion in this event, grabbing third in a season’s best of 68.20m/223’9”.
High Jump Love god, Gianmarco Tamberi, photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images for World Athletics
mHJ – Final: The capacity crowd roared with delight in watching the spirited battle among 3-time World Champion gold medalist Doha’s Mutaz Essa Barshim, USA’s JuVaughn Harrison, and Italy’s Olympic high jump gold medalist Gianmarco Tamberi. Each had its own vocal supporters as the event continued throughout the other events. After the event raged on and the other competitors had all concluded, it was clear that the trio would be the medalists, but how would the colored medals be distributed? The threesome would continue at 2.36m/7’8¾”. At that juncture, Harrison had jumped clean and was in the lead alone with Tamberi and Barshim, each with one miss. Barshim went 3-and-out at 2.36m. When Harrison had a critical miss on his first attempt at 2.36m, Then Tamberi – always an entertaining athlete – cleared 2.36m on his first attempt and stood defiantly on the high jump mat, knowing the gold medal advantage had swung his way as the crowd went wild. With the bar at 2.38m/7’9¾, the young Harrison was unable to clear the new height after three attempts. After his two misses at that same height and his victory assured, Tamberi moved the bar to 2.40m/7’10½. His lone attempt at the new other-worldly height failed, but it allowed the new champion to race to the crowd to celebrate his victory which crowns him as the reigning Olympic and World Championship gold medalist in the men’s high jump. / Dave Hunter /