Dalilah Muhammad and a record-breaking 400m hurdles; Sifan Hassan seizing a remarkable double crown; and Mariya Lasitskene, following up her 2015 & 2017 triumphs with another high-jump gold, all left their stamp on this year’s IAAF World Athletics Championships.
By Onuba Comms’ guest athletics expert, Marina Rivas
In the recent history of the IAAF World Athletics Championships, there has perhaps been no edition as singular as this year’s in Doha, Qatar. It has drawn a flurry of contrasting opinions: on the one hand wowing the world with the luxury and style of facilities which defied the fierce temperatures (though remained notably short of spectators on several occasions); and on the other missing a show-stopping turn from an established “name”, such as the retired Usain Bolt – who racked up 11 golds spanning four World Championships – or French pole-vaulter Renaud Lavillenie, a medallist at the past five editions who failed to even reach the final this time around.
Nor will we dwell on the climatic conditions that made those events held outside the air-conditioned stadium an even greater challenge, yet there were still plenty of memorable moments to be savoured at Doha 2019. For our part, we will be focusing on the exploits of three women who left Qatar viewing the world with gold-tinted glasses.
They are three very different cases, though all three athletes are at the peak of their powers. The first of them is New York-born Dalilah Muhammad, whose profile, going into the competition at least, remained low – due to the fact that her discipline, the 400m hurdles, has never been a bill-topper in mainstream circles.
However, those in the know were quick to hand her the favourite’s tag, given her status as the reigning Olympic champion and world-record holder. Even so, nobody predicted that, within months of breaking the all-time world record – the 52.20-second mark achieved in July, Muhammad would smash that barrier once more thanks to the 52.16 clocked at the Khalifa International Stadium.
Staying on the track and we have the Ethiopian-born Netherlands athlete Sifan Hassan, who stunned observers by making off with two world titles in two such contrasting disciplines as the 1,500m (with a national & championship record time of 3:51.95) and the 10,000m (via a personal best of 30:17.62). It was an unprecedented display of strength and stamina, that had the crowd in Doha in raptures.
Hassan’s feats were somewhat overshadowed, however, by the breaking news – mid-championship – of the four-year doping suspension meted out to Alberto Salazar, the coach of Hassan and many other big names on the international athletics scene. And though the Dutch speedster was not included in those named in the Salazar verdict, it has been used by many as an opportunity to cast doubt on her achievements.
Last but not least we turn to the setting of one of the most fascinating duels for gold in Doha, the women’s high jump, won in both 2015 and 2017 by the prodigious Mariya Lasitskene. Still just 26, the 1.80m high jumper made history by becoming the first woman to win three World Championships’ golds in the discipline. Yet she was made to battle every step of the way by talented 18-year-old Yaroslava Mahuchikh of Ukraine. Indeed, both athletes’ highest clearance was at the 2.04m mark, with 1st place going to authorised neutral athlete Lasitskene thanks to her flawless record up to and including that height.
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