Amazing action on Day 1 of the World Athletics Championships

July 16, 2022

The Dominican Republic relay 4x400m relay team after winning the world title[/caption]

At the end of the first day of the World Athletics Championships in Oregon, Japan is on top of the medal table with a gold and a silver medal that came in the men’s 20km walk. Toshikazu Yamanishi defended his title in 1:19:07, becoming the third walker to do so in the 20 km event, after Maurizio Damilano of Italy in 1987/1991, and Jefferson Pérez of Ecuador who uniquely won 3 in a row from 2003 to 2007. Koki Ikeda won silver while Perseus Karlström of Sweden won the bronze medal.

The Dominican Republic is second on the medal table after a gold medal in the mixed 4 x 400m relay; a race that became a great climax to the first day of the championships.  During the relay race, the crowds in the stadium were charged. Earlier on in the day, the US team had started with a world-leading time of 3:11.75 to win their respective heat in what would make theme the pre-race favorites and hence the huge support they were getting from the home crowd.

Even from far away, one could almost feel the atmosphere inside the Hayward field as Elijah Godwin handed over the baton to Allyson Felix –the most decorated track runner in the world. The excitement and the cheering from the fans continued as the US team led up to the last 100m before Fiordaliza Cofil of the Dominican Republic began to quickly close in on Kennedy Simon before proceeding to win the first gold medal for their country in a new world-leading time of 3:09.82. Femke Bol, in an incredible finishing kick, secured a silver medal for the Netherlands in a new national record of 3:9.90. The USA won the bronze medal.

Kimberly García León of Peru earned a gold medal for her country in the women’s 20km walk after walking a national record time of 1:26:58. Also in a national record in this event was Katarzyna Zdziebło of Poland who won the silver medal in 1:27:31. China’s Shijie Qieyang won the bronze medal in 1:26:56.

Probably as sleepy as Ferdinand Omanyala who had trouble securing his visa to travel on time and only arrived about three hours to his 100m race, Kenyan fans woke up at 3AM to catch the evening session of the day. For me it was just on time to watch the perfect timing of planes flying by as the US national anthem came to its climax before the afternoon session got underway.

Compared with the morning session, the stadium was full in the afternoon session. The atmosphere there was simply amazing and with one of the favorite commentators in our sport, Rob Walker featuring in the commentary, it made the day even more exciting.

The first event on the track was the men’s 3000m steeplechase semi-finals in which Soufiane El Bakkali appeared to effortlessly win the first heat in 8:16.65 ahead of Kenya’s Leonard Bett  running 8:16.94 and Abraham Kibiwott  running 8:17.04.

USA’s Hillary Bor appeared to want the second semi-final faster as he led just after the gun, but slowed down again midway, perhaps realizing he was acting as a pacesetter for the rest. Lamecha Girma took control of the race in the last 1000m. With about 50m to go, Conseslus Kipruto was still outside the three automatic qualifying positions before rapidly overtaking Mehdi Belhadj of France and Bor to finish second in 8:20.12 behind Girma who won the race in 8:19.64. Bor secured the last automatic position at 8:20.18.

The last semi-final was won by Ethiopia’s Hailemariyam Amare in 8:18.34, but all eyes were on USA’s Evan Jager who shows that he is back in his former form as he comfortably finished second in 8:18.44. India’s Avinash Mukund Sable.

Arguably, the women's 1500m is building into an exciting final between Kenya's Faith Kipyegon and Ethiopia's Tsegay Gudaf. Gudaf won her heat in the fastest time of 4:02.68 while appearing to be on an easy jog. Fellow Ethiopian, Hirut Meshasha won the first heat while Kipyegon won the second heat.

Those feared to feature in the men’s 100m event turned up. Canada’s Adre De Grasse had recently contracted Covid-19, Olympic Champion Marcell Jacobs had recently suffered and injury that saw him pull out from a number of races, and Kenya’s Ferdinand Omanyala had almost missed to secure his visa to travel. However, all of them not only turned up, but made it into their respective semi-finals. Fast times were registered in the heats with Letsile Tebogo of Botswana running a World U20 record of 9.94 to win his heat. In what promises to be an exciting final and faster times to come, seven runners ran under 10 seconds with Fred Kerley running the fastest time of 9.79 to win his heat.

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