By ELLIOTT DENMAN
DOHA, QATAR - On further review, there will be no further review.
All returns are now officially in. The 17th World Championships of Track and Field have officially been put in the books.
Forty-nine events were staged, 24 for men, 24 for women, one for both - the brand new mixed 4x400 relay (with two male and two female teammates.)
And the unanimous winner of the "greatest event they did here," award - as I am formally confirming herewith - was the Saturday night men's shot put.
Details forthcoming shortly. Please read on.
Forty-three Worlds events were staged at the elegant Khalifa International Stadium, which thanks to its innovative/ingenious installation of cool-air blowers all over the place, was not
hugely hot throughout as the rest of Doha surely was, but was downright cool at times. Stadium-goers, once they understood what they were getting into, started donning second layers of clothing to beat off the chill.
Six other events were relegated to the Corniche park area of town, and they weren't air-cooled at all.
Five of them turned into visits to the sauna as their participants fought through the steam best they could, knowing fully that winning times in these events had no way of avoiding relegation to the "slowest ever" list in World Championships history.
Only the men's marathon, which started a few ticks before midnight of the final Saturday, and finished in the wee-small hours of Sunday. somehow avoided the worst of the Persian Gulf area temps. Somehow, these guys ran brilliant races in pretty brilliant times.
Two-time Boston and 2018 New York City Marathon champion Lelisa Desisa won it all for Ethiopia in the pretty-darn good time of 2:10:40. Even the 55th and final finisher, Nicholas Cuesta of Uruguay, ran a pretty decent one, too, 2:40:05.
But the five other events, women's marathon, and the double pairings of men's and women's 20 and 50-kilometer racewalks, were brutal exercises in survival technique. Amazingly, no one in them suffered major damage.
And now we take you back to Khalifa International Stadium, 20:05 p.m. Saturday.
Twelve burly gentlemen approached the ring to have it out, three Americans, two New Zealanders, and the lone muscular delegates of Brazil, Poland, Nigeria, Canada, Czech Republic, Croatia and Serbia.
The Serbian, Armin Sinancevic, was sent out after three fouled efforts. Croatia's (and U. of Virginia's) Filip Mihaljevic, Czech Republic's Tomas Stanek and Canada's (and DePaul U.'s) Tim Nenow fell short with their first three tosses, too. Goodbye. guys.
And now the highest-stakes battle was really on.
Team NZ's Tom Walsh had fired the first salvo, a 22.90 in the opening round, fourth best all-time.
As Nigeria's Chukwuebka "just call me Chuck' Enekwechi (of Francis Lewis HS, Queens, NYC, and Purdue University), NZ's Jacko Gill (making a remarkable comeback after cardiac difficulties), Poland's Konrad Bukowiecki and USA's Dorrell Hill (of Penn State U.) were coming up a bit shy, as well, the battle of the Big Berthas was fully on.
Brazil's Darian Romani heaved one 22.53 in round two to put him squarely in the podium mix.
All USA'S Joe Kovac (another Penn Stater) could do now was get off the longest throw of an already distinguished career that included the 2015 Worlds title and the 2016 Olympic silver medal. It plunked into the soft Khalifa turf at 22.91, putting him in gold medal position with the equal third best on the all-tiime list.
But gutsy USA's (and U. of Texas's) Ryan Crouser, the reigning Olympic champion, wasn't out of this thing yet, either.
Poised and ready, he let if fly.
And it landed 22.90 away, a single silly centimeter behind Kovacs and equal to Walsh's big first-rounder, but good enough for the silver because his second-best of 22.71 topped Walsh's next best of 22.56.
The place - as the IAAF itself accurately put it - 'exploded into life' with all these back-forth-back dramatics.
It was one ''wow' after another, and another.
All three medalists now rank in their sport's all-time top seven, and continue to have their eyes on the 29-year-old world record of 23.12 set by USA's/ West Virginia's/ Texas A&M's Randy Barnes, before they were born. Of course, Barnes was later tossed from the sport on drug charges and the 23.12 remains questionable to some purists.
"I am proud that I was able to stay in my own head and not watch Ryan and Tom throw so far,' said Kovacs.
'i'm honored just to be part of it,' said Crouser.
And I was honored to be sitting in Row 21 of the Media Tribune on this special night to see it all go down.
So to repeat - put it in the books as the Moment of All Moments at the 17th Worlds. And sure to be long remembered.
BY ELLIOTT DENMAN
Friday, October 4, 2019, at Khalifa International Stadium, Doha, Qatar - Day 8 of the 10-day 17th World Championships of Track and Field - put it in the
put it in the books as one of the greatest of all days in the annals of the sport.
You had to be there to appreciate it all - as I was fortunate enough to do.
From 8:15 p.m. to 10:20, fans - and for one of the few times at these Worlds, the stadium was virually full - got to experience one dazzlement after another,
one brilliant achievement, one great competition, after another, another, another.
If all these happenings didn't make you a big-time enthusiast of the sport - which continues to be the Flagship Sport of the Olympic Games, no matter what all those swimming and gymnastics and basketball partisans tell you - it's never going to happen. This was as good as it gets, or may ever.
First, the men's high men's high jump, featuring Qatar's home-grown hero, Mutaz Essa Barshim.
Let us remind you that for 26 years many humans - after the first and only to do it, Javier Sotomayor of Cuba - have been trying to leap skyward and arch their bodies over a high jump bar set over eight foot high. Just one man in that era - Barshim - has come as close as two little centimeters to that mark.
A very tall and very thin 28-year-old, Barshim had endured his share of injuries the past two years and was not at his best at this biggest meet ever held in his homeland. But with the Worlds in his backyard, he was not about to disappoint his fans.
And on this day they included no less than the Amir, H.H. Sheikh Tamin bin Hamad Al Thani.
It didn't look good for Barshim when he missed his first two attempts at 2.33 meters, which three others cleared. But Barshim was not about to disappoint anyone here, not willing to settle for anything but hometown gold. Sure enough, he rallied his nerves, stretched his angular body to its limit and cleared 2.33 on third attempt, as the Amir and all others in this sparkling edifice breathed collective sighs of relief.
That done, he soared 2.35 and 2.37 as all three of his still-in-it rivals sent the crossbar crashing down into the pit.
There was instant delight in Doha for one of the greatest rallies in the annals of high jumping. Or any event in the sport. From far out on the brink, he climbed back to the top of his hometown podium.
As he later put it, "it was a dream."
The big-time show kept moving right along.
Next, to the discus circle, which Sandra Petrovic has has ruled as her personal property for years, claiming two Olympic, two World and five European titles in this
art of spinning the platter high and far. She is such a celebrity in Croatia that she has been elected to Parliament. Well, this day, she was both outthrown and outvoted by the delegation from Cuba, Yaime Perez and Denia Cabbalero. There were no calls for a recount. Results stood, Perez 69.17, Caballero 68.44, Perkovic 66.72.
The Croatian icon sportingly accepted her relegation to bronze.
On to the women's 400-meter hurdles, an event New Jerseyans have loved to embrace through the brilliant efforts of Union Catholic HS alumna Sydney McLaughlin, and some New Yorkers appreciate, too. via the talents of Dalilah Muhammad, a grad of Queens' Benjamin Cardozo HS.
Muahammad came to Doha as reigning Olympic champion and world record-holder (52.20.) McLaughlin came to Doha as heir apparent.
Muhammad simply ran the greatest race of her life to lower the world record to 52.16. McLaughlin simply ran the second-best time in world history, 52.23, for the silver.
McLaughlin will simply have to wait till the day she rules this event on her own - which many predict will not be far off.
Back to the track now, for the men's 3000-meter steeplechase final.
The event has been a Kenyan monopoly for eons - with nine straight Olympic firsts and 11 of the last 13; to go along with six consecutive World Championship wins, and firsts in 13 of the total 16 Worlds 'chase finals, 1987-2017 Kenyans even went 1-2-3-4 at the 2015 Worlds in Beijing.
Could anything like that happen again?
Ethiopia's Lamecha Girma obviously thought so. Morocco's Soufiane El Bakkali likewise,
They beat out a quick pace. The top Kenyan, Consensius Kipruto, Worlds champion in 2017 and silver medalist in 2015 and 2013, again came in as the consensus choice, but knew this one could have a very different result. Would the Kenyan reign sustain?
It would not unless he "doug down" deeper than he'd ever before in his distinguished career, unless he somehow, in absolute desperation, found a final burst of energy when it seemed he just might be ready to concede.
Sure enough, Consensius did not concede. His desperation final-stride lunge over the finish line got him the gold - and the continuation of his nation's mind-boggling monopoly, Has there ever been a steeplechase race closer than this one - Kipruto 8:01.35, Girma 8:01.36? Could there ever be?
Finally, the men's 400 meters.
All week, Stevie Gardiner had been reminding the world how battered, how beleaguered, his home island of Abaco in the Bahamas had been by Hurricane Dorian.
Well, he got to remind the world once again Friday night because the world wanted to know his story, how he'd been able to continue training (at his Florida home base), as he'd feared the worst for his family back on Abaco, as he couldn't hear from them for days, how his greatest wish was to bring some joy back to his family and home nation.
His teammate, Shaunae Miller-Uibo, had tried her darndest to do the very same the night before, but had settle for second-place and silver in the women's 400 final.
Somehow, Steve Gardiner remained totally focused, totally confident "he could win this thing."
Did he ever. Leaving a pack of major-league challengers far back, he sped to the 400 gold in 43.48, fastest time of his life, moving himself up to sixth on the all-time charts. Runner-up Anthony Jose Zambrano of Colombia and bronze placer Fred Kerley of USA simply had no chance.
This was Stevie's day. And Mutaz Essa's day, and Yaime's day, and Dalihah's day, and Consensius's day.
Can there ever be another such day in the sport?
Most unlikely. Then again, the improbabilities of it all are another of track and field's special beauties.
20-KILOMETER RACE WALK
BY ELLIOTT DENMAN
DOHA, QATAR - Maria Michta-Coffey is a brilliant young woman.
The 33-year-old Long Islander is a post-doctoral student in microbiology sciences at Touro College after graduation as valedictorian at Long Island University's CW Post College. She'll be happy to regale you about such matters as '"Hepatitis C virus cell entry determinants of occludin,"
her Ph.D. thesis subject.
A 22nd-placer at the 2016 Rio Olympic Games and an inductee into her Suffolk County (New York) Sports Hall of Fame, she is also the greatest American female racewalker of this century with more USATF National titles to her credit than any contemporary. Who knew that when she won the USATF 40-kilometer title all those years ago, in a race hosted by Shore AC at Ocean Township's Joe Palaia Park in New Jersey, that the list would grow and grow, and grow and grow.
Well, she's still doing exemplary things.
Perfect example; the women's 20K racewalk final here in Doha, at the 17th World Championships of Track and Field.
Understand that even in the most ideal circumstances, she'd never have been a candidate to walk off with a medal.
Team USA's racewalkers, male and female, have a long-long way to go before catching up to the rest of the world - specially so in places like China, Russia, Spain, Mexico, Italy, Sweden, France, Japan, Colombia and Australia, where they give their racewalkers worlds of more support and encouragement.
But 'MMC' was out there - ''carrying the flag'' for her nation and doing all she could to keep America at least in the racewalking mix.
In perhaps the weirdest conditions ever for a 20K race of this magnitude - the event went off at a minute before midnight Sunday - and finished in the wee-small second hour of Tuesday - this lone American entry placed a courageous 35th place with a clocking of 1;46;02.
Scene of all this was the Corniche Park area - where all the road events, marathon runs as well as racewalks - are booked for the middle-of-the-night in the attempt to beat the heat and the steam of this Persian Gulf nation.
These attempts have all been in vain. The heat and the steam continue proving unbeatable. Winning times in these road events continue setting 'slowest ever' records for the World Championships.
Three outstanding athletes from China - Hong Liu (1;32;53), Shenjie Gieyang (1;33;10) and Liujing Yang (1;33;17) prevailed over
Brazil's Erica Rocha De Sena (1;33;36) to sweep all the medals.
Somehow, someway, 39 of the 45 original starters managed to finish this thing.
Just a few months ago, "MMC' would have been the longest of long shots just to be here.
You see, Maria and husband Joe Coffey welcomed daughter Llliiana to the world this spring.
On minimum post-partum training time, she still managed to get back into World Championships-level form.
A 2018 pre-Lilliana qualifying time proved her ticket to Doha.
"The female body is an amazing thing,'' she told you after crossing the finish line.
Anyone beyond the 'birds and the bees' stage of his/her own educational progress, should, of course, be aware of all these
Two-time 20K Olympian ''MMC' - and yes, hoping to make it three by Tokyo time - provided another reminder here - 'just in case.''
WILSON EARNS BRONZE MEDAL
AND NOW LOOKS AHEAD TO TOKYO 2020.
By ELLIOTT DENMAN
DOHA, QATAR - The message was written all over Ajee' Wilson's face.
She knew she'd run better, faster 800-meter races so many other times in the past. She knew she expected to finish higher in the Monday night women's 800 final of the 17th World Championships at Khalifa International Stadium. She knew that her third-place
run, after coming into the Worlds as the consensus favorite of her sport's cognoscenti to run off with a gold medal, wasn't what she expected.
At the same time, a subtler message became clearer. She knew that she'd be prepared to dig down deeper than she ever had before, that she would absolutely, no-doubts-about-it-be-totally certain that she'd use this one to build the motivation to run the greatest race of her life, at the next big one, the 2020 Tokyo Olympic Games.
And so the 25-year-old pride of Neptune, New Jersey and Temple University graduate, the 10-time USA champion and American record-holder indoors and outdoors, a three-time World Championships finalist, the 2019 Diamond League champion and a 2016 Rio Olympic semifinalist, knows the work to be done on the road ahead.
"Yes. it was disappointing," she told media members in the mixed zone where athletes emerge from the Khalifa track to explain what happened minutes before.
"It wasn't my best race. I'd hoped for better."
After a long flight home, and a suitable break from an arduous training routine under coach Derek Thompson in Philadelphia, Wilson will begin mapping plans for another long journey - to Tokyo.
She'd been so impressive on the Diamond League campaign - with wins in Monaco, Birmingham and Brussels.
She looked great in the first two rounds of these Worlds - twice winning decisively.
And thus she seemed to be headed to another big win as the 800 final got rolling. She bolted to an immediate lead, speeding 200 meters in 26.94, 300 in 42.34 and was co-leader with Jamaica's Natoya Goule at 400 in 57.96. It was Goule still ahead at 500 in 1:13.57 but Wilson right there with her at 1:13.60.
With the slender crowd now roaring, Wilson now made her big move of the race on the backstretch, leading at 600 in 1:28.14 and 700 at 1:43.20. She was still in front with just 30 meters to go.
But it was Uganda's diminuitive Halima Nakaayi who closed fastest of all, speeding the final 200 in 14.73 with a dramatic burst to win it all in 1:58.04, for her nation's first-ever victory in this event,
Wilson's USA and Philadelphia-based training partner, Raevyn Rogers, closed with a big rush, too. a 14.56 for a 1:58.18 finish.
Wilson's final 15.64 brought her to the line in 1:58.84.
As Nakaayi and fourth-place teammate Winnie Nanyondo, draped in Ugandan flags, trotted off to a victory lap, Rogers and Wilson adorned themselves in Old Glories.
"I knew something special was going to happen tonight," said Nakaayi, "So I just kept pushing and pushing. I was feeling strong and in the end I got it.”
Said Rogers, a three-time NCAA champion for Oregon, "silver means a lot to me. It's been a hard year with lots of ups and downs mentally and in other ways so this is a great way to end.”
Wilson's conclusion: I've got to feel good. I wanted to win, of course, and went off hard, but in the last part of the race I saw it was hard. At least I got a medal.”
As so many American ballplayers - some track people, too - have put it, "there's always next year."