This is Dave Hunter’s sixth column on the Oregon 22 World Athletics Outdoor Championships. Dave Hunter wrote this column about the happenings on day Six.
WC / Day Six: Allman Joy!
Valarie Allman: First U.S. Woman To Win World Championship Discus Medal
July 20th, 2022
The women’s discus final was held on a sizzling summer afternoon and in front of a partisan Hayward Field crowd. USA discus throw specialist Valarie Allman became the first American woman to win a World Championship discus medal of any color.
With temperatures over 90 degrees and the sun beating down on the shadowless infield, 12 international athletes began the quest for the medals in the women’s discus final.
Early in the first round, former Stanford athlete Valarie Allman, employing her unique double-twirl throwing technique, jumped out to the lead with an opening heave of 67.62m/221’10”. Her leading position was short-lived as Croatian athlete Sandra Perkovic on her first attempt got the ball out 67.74m/222’3”, jumping her into 1st place and relegating Allman into 2nd. But the real bombshell hit when China’s 28-year-old Bin Feng unleashed a majestic opening throw of 69.12m/226’9” to move into the gold medal position. Feng came into this competition with the best personal mark of 66.00m/216’6”. But her stunning opener gave the Chinese athlete a new personal best mark by over 3 meters and a commanding lead.
In the 2nd round, Perkovic, #2 on the 2022 world leader board, improved her mark with a season’s best throw of 68.46m/224’7”. And in round three, the 27-year-old Allman, the 2022 world leader at 71.46m/234’5”, bettered her mark with a throw of 68.30m/224’1”.
While the field was trimmed to 8 after the 3rd round, the leading trio enjoyed a commanding lead over the rest of the field by nearly 3 meters and it appeared likely that the leading threesome would ultimately claim the medals. As it turned out, the final three rounds saw no improvements by the three leaders resulting in Allman, the reigning Olympic champion, earning the bronze medal, the Croatian taking silver, and Feng capturing the gold medal. USA’s Laulauga Tausaga finished 12th with a top throw of 56.47m/185’3”.
The medalists shared their thoughts in the mixed zone. “I am so excited, and I have to say all opponents did a very good job today,” said the new world champion. “I did not expect this result coming to Eugene; I just wanted to show my best. I am very excited about this result and want to share this excitement with my family and my friends. I am surprised by my gold medal but honestly, not with the result. I expected the fight like this for the podium, and I was sure it was going to be tough.”
“This event is just the love of my life, and I enjoy every moment of it,” said the 32-year-old Perkovic. “I was so happy to be here, able to fight and represent my country.”
The American was gracious in speaking to the media, but her disappointment was obvious. “Truly, it is bittersweet” admitted the bronze medalist. “Coming to these championships, I was so excited to represent my country and showcase the work that me and my coach have been putting in. But it was a good fight. I was ready to compete for gold again. But I just could not find out that big throw.” But the Olympic champion is already looking ahead to the next world championship gathering in 2023. “It is good to walk out with a medal, but I am definitely ready to compete again next summer in Hungary and go for the world title.”
Weather conditions remained brutal for the women’s 3000m steeple chase final. There was no dawdling as the race got underway, with Kenya’s Norah Jeruto dashing to the front to set the early pace with Burundi’s Winifred Yavi, the 2022 world leader at 8:56.55, in close pursuit and USA’s Emma Coburn, the 2017 world champion in this event, in 3rd.
With 5 laps remaining, the frontrunners remained intact, with the other two Americans – Courtney Frerichs and Courtney Wayment bunched in the middle of the 15-athlete pack. With 3 laps remaining, Jeruto continued to lead, punishing her opponents with her relentless pace, while Coburn, looking withered, was now back in 6th. With 2 laps remaining, Ethiopia’s Werkuha Getachew joined Jeruto’s lead group, which soon was comprised of Yavi and Ethiopia’s Mekides Abebe.
It was that quartet that took the bell: 4 athletes battling over 3 medals. Jeruto, leading from the opening gun, deflected all challengers on the final circuit and hit the line first in 8:53.02 to capture the gold medal, set a new 2022 world leader, and established a new world championship record. 2nd was Getachew in a new Ethiopian national record of 8:54.61, with Abbe clinching the bronze in a lifetime best of 8:56.08. Albania’s Luiza Gega finished 5th in 9:10.04 to set a new national record, while Aimee Prat finished 7th in 9:15.64 to set a new Great Britain national record.
The Americans had a tough go of it in the steam bath, with Frerichs finishing 6th in a season’s best of 9:10.59, Coburn crossing 8th in 9:16.49, and Wayment 12th in 9:22.37.
Afterward, the new world champion discussed her race strategy. “I enjoyed my race today. At the starting line, I was afraid of my friends from Ethiopia. They are also champions like me so I was scared of them, “ revealed Jeruto. I tried my best to win the race, and it was not easy; it was tough. Next race, we meet with my opponents in Monaco, and we will fight again. I decided to be in the front because I felt my fellow athletes and I like to control the race and to be in the front to make sure I can fight for medals.”
wJV / Prelim: Lithuania’s Liveta Jaiunaite was the top qualifier with a season’s best mark of 63.80m/209’4”. USA’s Kara Winger, with the 2nd best mark of 61.30m/201’1”, also advanced to the final which will be held Friday.
w5000m / Prelim: In the 1st heat, USA’s Karissa Schweizer was upfront with the Eastern Africans and actually had the leading coming off the curve onto the final straightaway. But the African quartet, led by eventual winner Gudaf Tsegay (14:52.64), breezed by the American to finish 1-2-3-4. No worries as Schweizer crossed 5th in a season’s best 14:53.69 and snared the final automatic qualifier. Emily Infeld rallied to finish 6th in a season’s best of 15:00.98 to gain a pass into the finals. The 2nd heat victor was yet another Ethiopian – Letesenbet Giday (the 10,000m gold medalist) – who hit the line in 14:52.27. Other advancers were reigning world champion Sifan Hassan (3rd in 14:52.89) and USA’s Elise Cranny (5th in 14.53.20). In the mixed zone, Tsegay, the runner-up in the 1500 meters earlier this week, was upbeat. “I am so happy to be back on the track for 5000m. My focus now is on the final.” Caster Semenya, 800-meter Olympic champion, who finished 13th in heat one in 15:46.12, said “I think it is great to be able to run here. Just being able to finish the 5k, for me, is a blessing. I am learning, and I am willing to learn even more.”
m800m / Prelim: The performance by the American men in this preliminary round was an absolute disaster. Donovan Brazier, the defending world champion in the event, has been struggling this entire outdoor season, and he struggled again in this prelim, clocking 1:46.72 to finish 7th and failing to advance. In the mixed zone Brazier revealed that he would be having surgery in the next week to remove a small bone. Bryce Hoppel, 4th in the Doha final, finished 5th in his heat in 1:46.98 and also failed to advance. Brandon Miller faded badly in his heat, finishing 5th in 1:47.29 and – you guessed it – failed to advance. In what appeared to be a bright spot, Jonah Koech finished 2nd in his heat in 1:44.62 in what appeared to be an automatic qualifier. But shortly thereafter, it was announced that Koech was disqualified, purportedly for some aggressive jostling. It was the first time ever that the United States failed to advance a single 800m athlete out of Round One. Meanwhile, Canada’s Marco Arop looked sharp as he won his heat in the fastest time of the day in 1:44.56. Mexico’s Jesus Lopez (1:44.67) and Ireland’s Mark English (1:44.76) also looked impressive.
w400H / Semi-Final: USA’s Dalilah Muhammed (53.28 / SB), her America teammate Sydney McLaughlin (52.17), and Netherland’s Femke Bol (52.84) each won their heats in impressive style and look like they are medal-ready. USA’s Shamir Little also looked sharp, advancing with a season’s best of 53.61. American Britton Brown advanced with a little q in 53.72 as the USA will have 4 athletes in Friday’s final. Afterward, McLaughlin shared how she is approaching these rounds and the final. “I felt it was a good day to get faster. I just need to shake off some of the nerves and get ready for Friday.” explained the world record-holder. “I can’t wait to have my teammates join me in the final. I just want to be free, give all I have, and leave it all on the track.”
w400m / Semi-Final: The heat winners were Bahama’s Shaunae Miller-Uibo (49.55), Dominican Republic athlete Flordaliza Cofil (50.24), and her teammate Marileidy Paulino (49.98). American athletes Lynna Irby (51.00) and Talitha Diggs (50.84) failed to advance. There will be no Americans in the final. ”I am taking everything step by step,” said Miller-Uibo in the mixed zone. “I anticipate it to be a very competitive and very quick race in the finals, so I am looking forward to it.” The final looks like a showdown between 2-time silver medalist Miller-Uibo and 2022 world leader Paulino.
m400m – Semi-Final: Heat winners were: USA’s Michael Norman (44.30); the ageless Kirani James (44.24); and USA’s Champion Allison (44.71). Other forces to be reckoned with will include world record holder Wayde Van Niekerk (44.75) and Great Britain’s Matthew Hudson-Smith (44.38). “I was happy to hit the bend first. Once you do it, you are in a little bit of control. I was happy to control the race from there. It was hot and humid, but it is what it is.,” offered upbeat Kirani James. “The final will be fantastic. There is a lot of talented guys out there. I am just happy to be back in the moment.” Michael Norman, #5 on the all-time world list, explained his semi-final race: “I saw Hudson-Smith was trying to sneak up on me, so I had to work hard coming down the home straight. But I was kind of dominating the race,” explained 2022 world leader Michael Norman. “Now – eat, sleep, treatment. It is going to be a competitive race. It is all I can ask for.” / Dave Hunter