Sifan Hassan takes the 1,500m in Doha, finishing a 1,500m/10,000m double, photo by PhotoRun.net
Joe Kovacs takes gold by 1 cm! photo by PhotoRun.net
Malaika Mihambo soars to LJ gold, photo by PhotoRun.net
In this column, Stuart Weir opines on the quality of this event. Stuart picks up things I do not, and I appreciate his candor and humor. You will too!
The decision to take the world athletics championship to Doha was always going to be controversial given the issues with climate. How should we assess the 2019 championships? Doha was my sixth IAAF outdoor world championships so I am in a reasonably good position to assess it in relation to previous events.
After the full stadiums of London 2017, almost any venue in the world was going to suffer by comparison. The lowest official attendance was 7,266 on the first Sunday evening. With the women’s 100m final at 11.20pm that evening , a significant number of those already left before the showcase event of the day. Midweek attendances were 16,000-20,000 with the stadium full for some of the final weekend sessions. Before one is too critical of Doha, let’s recall Moscow and Beijing where attendances were not great either.
In order to avoid the heat of the day the program started at 4.00pm at the earliest, running towards or beyond midnight. An 8 hour session was always going to be a challenge for spectators (and media!) It seemed hard to understand why there was often the full hour in the middle of the session with nothing but a few medal ceremonies. Why not start later or end earlier? At the time when we’re being told that Diamond League programs must be cut to 2 hours because that is what TV and spectators want, it seemed strange to have slow-moving 8 hour sessions. The one advantage of the slow-moving sessions was that sometimes the only event in progress was a field event, thereby giving it more profile than normal.
Marathons and race walks
Perhaps the most controversial part of scheduling was having the two marathons and four race walks starting at midnight. Mara Yamauchi, the British marathon runner who was once second in London, was commentating in Doha. She felt that midnight starts were very difficult for athletes – wondering how you prepare, how much do you eat, how would you get through the day to be in peak condition at midnight? The official statistics show the women’s marathon taking place at a temperature of 32 Celsius (90 Fahrenheit) and 74% humidity throughout the race. 28 of 68 women marathon runners did not finish, although, it was claimed, that was not exceptionally high for a championship marathon.
To be fair the same criticism was offered of the Commonwealth Games marathon in Australia last year. If one decides that Doha, Australia and dare I say it, Tokyo, are too hot for Olympic or championship marathons, we are in danger of implementing a policy that world championships can only be hosted by countries with a temperate climate, so excluding much of the world.
The stadium and track
The stadium, upgraded this year, was excellent affording a good view of the track from almost every seat. The track was said to be fast and times achieved would tend to back this up.
There were some magnificent races and field events, stellar performances and medals decided by the smallest of margins. According to data on the IAAF website, based on the competition performance rankings and also the average scores of all results, Doha came top in comparison with all previous world championships.
It is invidious to list outstanding events as my memory is undoubtedly subjective and other people would argue as strongly for different performances. That said, these are some of the events that will long stay in my memory and which convince me that the 2019 IAAF world championship was in magnificent and memorable occasion
- Joe Kovacs, Tom Walsh and Ryan Crouser taking the shot put medals with just 1 centimeter separating them
- Malaika Mihambo long jump gold with three 7 meter jumps.
- Salwa Eid Naser just beating Shaunae Miller-Uibo in the women’s 400m.
- Sifan Hassan winning the women’s 1500m in 3:51.95, having already won the 10,000m.
- Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce aged 32 and after having a baby, running one hundredth of a second outside her PR for gold in the 100m
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