The men’s 1500m final sees 10 runners finish in the span of 1.90 seconds, and a South African wins the 800m amid scandal.
The halfway point of the 2009 world track and field championships has been reached, and impressive performances continue to emanate from Berlin’s Olympic Stadium. The highly-touted men’s 1500m highlighted a night that was not without controversy.
It was supposed to be a showdown between defending world champion Bernard Lagat of the US and his former countrymen Asbel Kiprop and Augustine Choge of Kenya. Choge took the lead early and lead the field through 800m in a pedestrian 2:00.18. Deresse Mekonnen on Ethiopia took over the pacing duties through 1200m, increasing the tempo significantly, hitting the third 400m split in under 57 seconds. As the field approached 200m to go, Kiprop was still way back in the field, albeit passing through the top seven as if the others were standing still. As the field hit the final stretch it was Yusuf Kamel of Bahrain, formerly known as Gergoy Konchellah of Kenya, taking charge and leading the field to the line for his first world championship. Mekonnen was able to slot himself in to the silver medal spot, finishing in 3:36.01 to Kamel’s 3:35.93. Lagat, who got boxed in on the inside at the worst possible time, weaved desperately around the field and pulled through in third, securing his first world bronze medal in 3:36.20. Kiprop and Choge were unable to use their kicks to put them on the medal stand, finishing in the unenviable fourth and fifth positions. Americans Lopez Lomong and Leo Manzano finished eighth and twelfth respectively.
The women’s 800m final was the last final of the night, and certainly the most controversial event of the meeting thus far. South African Carter Semenya started the race amid controversy over her gender. There has been speculation, and now an official investigation by the IAAF, concerning her true gender. The outcome of the race did not help quell the suspicions as Semenya took the lead through 400m (56.83) and easily outdistanced the field in a world-leading 1:55.45. Defending world champion Janeh Jepkosgie of Kenya finished what seemed like an eternity behind in a season-best 1:57.90. The surprise bronze medalist was Great Britain’s Jenny Meadows, who ran the race of her life, setting a personal best of 1:57.93.
American Olympic champion Dawn Harper was considered the clear favorite in the women’s 100m hurdles, having set a personal best of 12.48 in her semifinal. However, the final would not be as gracious to the 2008 Beijing golden girl. Harper clipped the second hurdle and never recovered, finishing 7th, well out of the medals. Brigitte Foster-Hylton of Jamaica rode a season-best 12.51 to the top of the podium, taking her first world championship gold medal. Olympic bronze medalist Priscilla Lopes-Schliep of Canada and Dolloreen Ennis-London of Jamiaca rounded out the podium with times of 12.54 and 12.55 respecitvely. Derval O’Rourke of Ireland finished fourth but did set a national record of 12.67. American Ginny Powell was the highest American finisher, just ahead of Harper in sixth place, 12.78 to 12.81.
Earlier in the day American Jen Rhines qualified in for the final in the women’s 5000m, finishing sixth in her prelim with a time of 15:20.20. Fellow American Julie Culley finished seventh in her prelim, but was unable to join Rhines as a time qualifier, with a time of 15:32.33.
The men’s 200m semifinals allowed Usain Bolt to take center stage again, as he easily qualified for tomorrow’s final in 20.08. The three Americans, Shawn Crawford, Wallace Spearmon and Charles Clark, all qualified for the final, and will likely contend for a medal, although gold is unlikely.
Elsewhere around the track Robert Hartling became the second winner for the host country in a throwing event, as he treated the Berlin Olympic Stadium crowd to a win in the men’s discus with a mark of 69.43m, a personal best. American Casey Malone finished a very respectable fifth with a mark of 66.06m. After the first day of competition in the decathlon, American champion Trey Hardee is sitting in third place with a score of 4,511. Fellow American Aston Eaton is also still in the running for a medal, as his score of 4,355 palaces him fifth after the first day of competition. Ukranian Oleksiy Kasyanov is the day-one leader with a top score of 4,555.