Donald Scott, USA, bronze, Lazaro Martinez, Cuba, gold, Pedro Pichardo, Portugal, photo by Getty Images for World Athletics
The morning session was a shake-down cruise, per Stuart Weir. Long waits as bags were X-rayed. Few fans in the audience, and some problems with the wifi, which had worked brilliantly on Thursday. Such is the life of a media professional. Stuart went back to his hotel and sent us stories and photos, of which we are most grateful.
The World Athletics Indoor Championships got underway at 9.35am Friday 18 March. There were athletes aplenty but spectators were thin on the ground. It is after all Friday morning when most self-respecting Serbs will be at work. Hopefully, we will see the arena fuller this evening and over the weekend. Donald Scott summed it up well: “There’s no crowd at practice, so I shut them out again today. It was like practice – shut them out and get it done”.
The one medal event in the first session was the men’s triple jump, which went straight to a final with 13 athletes. The result was
1 Lazaro Martinez (Cuba) 17.64
2 Pedro Pichardo (Portugal) 17.46
3 Donald Scott (USA) 17.21
4 Will Claye (USA) 17.19
These were the only 4 athletes to reach 17 meters. Those of us who remember when it was a bad day when Jonathan Edwards or Christian Taylor failed to reach 18 meters are left scratching our heads about how the event has gone backward.
Martinez commented: “Right now, I am very happy about this competition because 17.64m is a great jump. And it is also my first major indoor medal. I trained for this result every day very hard and I am glad I managed to sell my shape [last in translation, I think!]. Everything was different this year, it went very well when I was training in my country and I felt very good coming here. Competing indoors is much different compared to outdoor competitions. There is no wind, the track is more bouncy and I feel fine about it. This medal is very important for my life because this medal is like an open door for everything. I do not think about any limits. I believe that someday in the future, I will be able to jump 19 meters. I am looking forward to the world championships in the summer. In Eugene, my plan is to jump 18 meters. I prepare at home for that competition and there will be very strong opponents. I am the world indoor champion now so I have to confirm it there”.
Jonathan Edwards’ world record of 18.29 has remained for 27 years, so it will be a remarkable day when Señor Martinez clears 19 meters!
In the other events, you cannot win a medal but you can lose one! A number of potential medallists did not progress.
W400 (Top two per heat and 2 fastest to the semi-final). Jess Beard (USA) is third in 52.72. Lynna Irby (USA) fourth in 52.78
M800 (4 heats just top 2 in each to final) Elliot Giles (GB) DNS, injured in the warm-up. Guy Learmonth (GB) third, Mark English (Ireland) fifth, Charlie Da’Vall Grice (GB) sixth, Collins Kipruto (Kenya) fourth.
M3000 (Top four per heat plus three) Berihu Aregawi (Ethiopia) sixth.
Finally, there was one of those moments which embarrass the sport. Jessie Knight (GB) is running in either first or second place in the 400 when she is barged by Lada Vondrova (Czech), causing Knight to step onto the infield. Knight is DQed. GB appeal and the judgment is: “In the opinion of the Jury of Appeal, following video review of the incident, the GBR athlete’s steps inside the curb/line were the direct result of the actions of the CZE athlete who tried to cut to the inside lane too sharply and therefore impeding the GBR athlete. The incident was caused by the CZE athlete who could be liable to Disqualification under TR 17.2.2 The jury accepts the appeal and ruled that the British athlete should be reinstated”.