Lyles shines bright in Doha with 200M gold
American wins his country’s first title in the event since Tyson Gay’s success in 2007; Brazier, Kendricks triumph.
Among the galaxy of stars on view at the Khalifa International Stadium on Tuesday, American Noah Lyles shone the brightest.
The 22-year-old sprinter’s decision to forego the 100M to focus only on the 200M proved a masterstroke as he raced to the gold in 19.83sec.
Lyles had talked of breaking records in Doha but it did not materialise on the day as he fought off an early challenge from Briton Adam Gemili to come out on top.
His performance capped a wonderful day for the United States, with the country claiming three of the four gold medals on offer.
“So many times this year, I’ve thought of being world champion, you wouldn’t believe it. I say it on the phone and to myself in the car, so to have finally done it feels unbelievable,” said Lyles.
It was Gemili who shot out of the blocks first and led for more than half the race. Lyles, who began sluggishly, found his feet at the bend and pumped up speed to corner the gold.
Gemili, who could not sustain the initial momentum, was passed by Canada’s ’16 Olympic silver medallist Andre de Grasse (19.95) and Ecuador’s Pan American champion Alex Quinonez (19.98).
The stadium exploded as Lyles, his hair coloured silver as a tribute to a Japanese anime cartoon, ascended the 200M throne. It was USA’s first title over the distance since Tyson Gay won it in Osaka in 2007.
Lyles, who has been touted as the next face of athletics, said he should not be compared with Bolt.
“I don’t know how many people come to their first World Championships and get the gold, but I’ve done it. Don’t say I’m the new Usain Bolt. I’m me. If you like me, I’ll happily entertain you. It’s my time,” he said.
United States’ other two gold medals came in men’s pole vault and 800 metres. Pole vault saw an entertaining duel between defending champion Sam Kendricks and emerging star Armand Duplantis.
Kendricks cleared 5.97M to become only the second man, after Ukrainian Sergey Bubka, to successfully defend his World Championship title.
Sweden’s 20-year-old Duplantis, who cleared the same height, gave the American a tough fight but finished runner-up on a countback. Poland’s Piotr Lisek (5.87), silver medallist in London two years ago, was third.
The three, who were neck-and-neck till 5.80M, kept the crowd entertained with their close jumps and friendly rivalry. Kendricks almost suffered a miss at 5.87M, being able to clear it only on his third try. But he soon regained confidence and went on to win the gold.
In the end, the three medallists did a combined back-flip on the landing mat, much to the delight of the adoring crowd.
“I’m elated, stunned, excited, all at the same time,” said Kendricks. “After 5.80, it all got messy. I got shoved from first to second and then had to climb back up. It was only because I had clear jumps that I could come through. All the hours on the training track was building up to that final one hour,” he added.
Donavan Brazier notched the United States’ first-ever gold medal in the men’s 800M with a strong and bold run in the final. Puerto Rico’s Wesley Vasquez took the runners through a 48.99sec first lap before Brazier took over with about 300M left to run.
The American had a stranglehold on the race from then on, motoring on smoothly in the straight for a championship record of 1:42.34sec. Bosnia’s Amel Tuka finished strongly to win silver in 1:43.47, and Kenya’s Ferguson Cheruiyot Rotich took the bronze in 1:43.82.
Australia’s woman javelin thrower Kelsey-Lee Barber (66.56) stepped up when it mattered the most to snatch the title from China’s Shiying Liu (65.88) and Liu Huihui (65.49M).
Shiying, the reigning Asian Games champion, had led until the final round when the Australian came out of nowhere to triumph.
Barber was pleased to win Australia’s first gold medal in the discipline.
“All athletes go out there to try to be on that podium, so winning that gold has been a goal of mine all year. We’ve been working hard for it, so it’s nice to finally say I’m world champion,” she said.
Meanwhile, Briton Dina Asher-Smith was the fastest qualifier in the women’s 200M semifinal, sprinting home in 22.16sec. With Jamaica’s Elaine Thompson pulling out, she has a clear shot at winning the title.
Bahrain’s rising talent Salwa Eid Naser coasted home in 49.79sec in the women’s 400M semifinal. The ’17 silver medallist was quicker than the defending champion Phyllis Francis (50.22) and Bahamas’s Olympic champion Shaunae Miller-Uibo (49.66).
In 400M women’s hurdles, USA’s defending champion Kori Carter pulled out midway through the second heat. But her compatriot Dalilah Muhammad, the world record holder, was on cruise mode and won in 54.87sec.
This year’s Diamond League champion Getnet Wale (8:12.96), from Ethiopia, topped the men’s 3,000M steeplechase semifinal. France’s Djilali Bedrani (8:13.02) and Kenya’s Leonard Kipkemboi Bett (8:13.07) were second and third fastest in qualification.