Beijing World Champs, Day 5, Session Two: Fast 400 running, Big Throws, Exciting Pole Vault, by Alex Mills


The men's 400 meters was, as Dave Johnson of Track & Field News put it so succinctly, "perhaps the event of the meet." Wayne Van Niekerk blistered up the track, following LaShawn Merritt through 200 meters, and then, took off and ran the 4th fastest 400 meters of all time. Merritt followed, then, Kirani James, all under 44 seconds!

Julius Yego and Yarislay Silve kept everyone excited with with the javelin and the pole vault! A fantastic evening on night five in the Bird's Nest.

And a steeplechase, where the medals were decided over the very last water jump, and the gold medalist after the last barrier! It goes to prove that racing is what it is all about, and the top five in the steeplechase were separated by less than three seconds!

Here is how Alex Mills reprised the amazing session two of Day five.

VanNiekerk_Wayde-Beijing15.JPGWayne Van Niekerk, photo by

Wayde van Niekerk crowned a fabulous evening of track and field, with a sensational performance in one of the best 400m races in history.

What was already an epic evening after two amazing field events, became a classic as the action was rounded off by three fabulous track finals, culminating in the best of them all.

Leading home three men under 44 seconds for the first time ever, Van Niekerk took victory in 43.48 seconds to climb to fourth on the all-time lists and crown a perfect world championship debut as reigning champion Lashawn Merritt ran a personal best 43.65 for second and place and 2011 winner Kirani James 43.78 for third.

Both Van Niekerk and Merritt exploded out the blocks storming through in the first 200m to lead as the came into the final bend and though James began tried to move down on them in the finishing strait he could not make any ground leaving the South African and the American to battle for gold.

Though James tried to stay with him, Van Niekerk was just too strong driving away from his rival in the final 50 metres to take a clear and comfortable victory to gain his continent's first ever gold in the event.

The victory represents an incredible turn around for the 23 year-old, who just a year ago lost out on Commonwealth gold to James by almost half a second when finishing second to his Grenadian rival. Yet having gone unbeaten all season, beating both James and Merritt on numerous occasions his victory is a well deserved one.

Though they compete in incredibly different events, it's likely that he will have taken inspiration from the breathtaking performance of a fellow African Kenyan, Julius Yego, just an hour earlier.

Two years on from missing out on a bronze medal in the final round of competition, there was to be no heartache in China, as he produced the best throw in fourteen years to claim gold and ensure his hero status within the world of athletics and his home country.

Having seen Egypt's Ihab Abdelrahman El Sayed's put down a marker of 88.99m in the previous round, Yego responded by throwing a huge 92.72 metres in the next round to go one better than Van Niekerk and become the 3rd best javelin thrower of all-time. Despite three rounds remaining neither El Sayed's, who fouled his last four throws, nor the rest of his rivals could get close to the top two marks. Meaning that the Kenyan was the world champion and Africa had their first ever 1-2 in the event. Former champion Tero Pitkämäki finished 3rd with 87.64 in a high class competition that saw six men throw over 86 metres.

It also meant just a day after Nicholas Bett made history in the 400m hurdles, the Kenya had rewrote the record books once again as they won their first ever gold field event title.

While the men had the attention of the right side of the stadium, the women were lighting up the left, putting together one of the world championship's best ever pole vault competitions as Cuba's pocket size star Yarilsley Silva won gold ahead of Brazil's Fabiana Murer to ensure her name would not jinx her chances.

With the lineup already two up on usual quota due to 14 women clearing 4.55m in qualifying, all but two of the athletes remained in contention as the bar went up to 4.70m. Though that would prove to be a height that cut the field down dramatically, seven athletes still remained. With four women now tied for first, and Silva laying back in seventh, after clearing the last height at the third attempt, the recipients of the medals remained a mystery. Yet the next challenge of 4.80m would prove decisive to four of the women's podium prospects, as Angelica Bengsston, Sandi Morris, Jennifer Suhr and Holly Bradshaw all failed to progress further.

This left Silva, Murer and Greece's Nikoleta Kyriakopoulou to decide the destination of the medals between them. In an epic finale, where all three athletes had a hand on gold at one point, it would be Silva who had the last laugh, as her final attempt clearance at 4.90 gave her victory when failure would have meant gold for Murer and Brazil.

Having suffered a difficult start to the season through injuries and fitness issues, reigning champion Zuzana Hejnova ensured her year ended in the best possible way as she she retained her 400 metre hurdles title with a season's best time 53.50. In doing so, the Czech athlete became the first athlete to retain the title and only the second to win it on two occasions. Just as with her victory in Moscow, Hejnova was followed home by two Americans, on this occasion, Shamier Little was second and Cassandra Tate third.

Earlier in the night, teenage sensation and 2014 world junior champion Dina Asher-Smith continued her effortless transition into senior athletics as she smashed her personal best to come through the heats of the women's 200m as the fastest qualifier running 22.22 seconds. The 19 year-old who became the British record holder for the 100m in May, looked to have plenty left too, as she eased at the line.

Another easy winner was Holland's Dafne Schippers, the new world silver medallist who ran 22.58 despite easing down after 150m.

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