Our senior writer in Kenya is Justin Lagat. A coach and sports journalist, Justin has been our eyes and ears in Kenya to appreciate the incredible depth of talent, not just in the distances, but in throws, sprints, and now race walking! Justin Lagat will cover the World Champs, day by day, getting up at 3 am many days to cover the sport he loves.
The climax of the first day of the world athletics championships in Oregon came with the mixed 4x400m relays. Stakes were high, and the atmosphere was electric. Earlier on in the day, the US team had started with a world-leading time of 3:11.75 to win their respective heat, making them the favorite to win the title here.
Even from far away, somewhere in Kenya, I could feel the atmosphere inside the Hayward field as Elijah Godwin handed over the baton to Allyson Felix. The excitement and the cheering from the home crowd 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 winning 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.
My alarm woke me up in 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.
It wasn’t easy waking up at 3:00 AM here in Kenya to catch the action, but the atmosphere in the afternoon session in Oregon was simply amazing, and with one of my favorite commentators in our sport, Rob Walker featuring in the commentary, it made it even more exciting.
The first event on the track was the men’s 3000m steeplechase semi-finals, of which Soufiane El Bakkali seemed to easily win the first heat in 8:16.65 ahead of Kenya’s Leonard Bett (8:16.94) and Abraham Kibiwott (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 seemed to be jogging effortlessly when she won her heat in the fastest time of 4:02.68. Hirut Meshasha won the first heat while Kipyegon took the second one.
Fast times were registered in the men’s 100m 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.