Mihambo brings out the golden leap on final day
German triumphs in long jump, United States top table with 14 gold as Doha hand baton to Eugene.
With one huge leap in the third round, Malaika Mihambo broke several hearts and also the spirit of her rivals. Stars and stripes must have been the theme of the night but even as the Americans garnered more gold to top the table, Mihambo stood tall in the long jump with a marvellous performance for Germany.
The final day of the World Championships in athletics had its share of exciting action with another huge crowd turning up to lap up the action at the Khalifa International Stadium. As they settled down, Mihambo showed her class to get the evening off to a wonderful start, African might made up the middle segment and the US power in relays brought up a riveting conclusion.
It was 26 years ago that Germany last won a long jump gold at the World Championships, through Heike Drechsler in Stuttgart 1993. Mihambo was fancied to break that long drought and she did just that with a 7.30M leap, the biggest in the world over the last three years.
It didn’t come easy though. Concerns rose when she started with a 6.52 and followed it up with a foul. Ese Brume of Nigeria had stormed into the lead with a 6.90M jump and the pressure was on the German. She responded as only champions can, uncorking a leap that was well past her personal best of 7.16M.
The 25-year-old simply killed the competition with that jump, with the remaining rounds only helping in deciding the silver and bronze medals. Ukrainian Maryna Bekh-Romanchuk edged Brume with a 6.92M effort for the second spot but that was the best her rivals could deliver.
“It was a really tight moment for me,” said Mihambo about her third jump. “I had to do a valid jump. I told myself, you have to make this one valid, no matter what. And it worked. 7.30 is amazing. I don’t even remember doing it in training, and I don’t know whether I will jump that far again,” said the 25-year-old.
Tim Cheruiyot’s daring run fetched Kenya the gold in men’s 1500M. Silver medallist in London two years ago, Cheruiyot was a man on a mission in this day. As he hit the front early and kept widening the lead, his rivals couldn’t even come near his shadow. Cheruiyot timed 3:29.26 and was followed by Taoufik Makhloufi of Algeria in 3:31.38 and Marcin Lewandowski of Poland (3:31.46).
“It was my plan to run like that, so that I could avoid any collision and be in a good position. I felt the support of the Kenyans in the crowd and it was amazing,” said Cheruiyot.
Uganda’s Joshua Cheptegei ran a brilliantly paced race to seal the 10000M gold. He battled it out with Kenya’s Rhonex Kipruto and Rodgers Kwemoi initially before hitting the front decisively. Ethiopian Yomif Kejelcha fought valiantly in the final lap but gave up the chase in the last 50 metres as Cheptegei charged home in a world-leading 26:48.36. Kejelcha’s silver came in a personal best of 26:49.34 while Kipruto claimed the bronze in 26:50.32.
Pan-American Games champion Anderson Peters of Grenada upset the fancied throwers to claim the javelin gold. Peters hurled the spear to 86.89 metres and none of the European big guns could match that. Magnus Kirt of Estonia managed 86.21 for the silver before getting injured while German Johannes Vetter clinched bronze at 85.37.
“I didn’t think 86M would be enough to win the gold. I was up against 90M men throwing high 88s all season. I just believed in my coach and the work we did all season,” said Peters.
The United States won three more gold medals on the final day to take their tally to 14. Nia Ali won her first world title in the 100M hurdles with a blazing run and then, the two 4×400 quartets demolished opposition to bring the curtains down on the championships.
Ali, a mother of two, timed 12.34 seconds in a gun to tape victory, leaving world record holder Kendra Harrison (12.46) in second place. Jamaican Danielle Williams, the season’s leader, fought back in the later stages but could only win bronze, one-hundredths of a second behind.
US were unbeatable in the relays. The women’s team timed a world-leading 3:18.92 to push Poland (3:21.89) to silver position. The American triumph fetched Allyson Felix her 13th World Championships gold, even though she didn’t run the final after sparkling in the semis.
There was confusion and more confusion regarding bronze as Jamaica (3:22.37), who finished third, were disqualified for not lining up in the right order at the second exchange. Great Britain were elevated to bronze position. But later, the verdict was reversed and the Jamaicans were awarded bronze.
The US men also clocked a world-leading time – 2:56.69 – for the gold, followed by Jamaica (2:57.90) and Belgium (2:58.78). It was the United States’ 14th gold medal, placing them firmly on top of the medals table.
With Eugene, Oregon, set to host the next World Championships in 2021, the US victory was a fitting climax to the championships. HE Sheikh Joaan bin Hamad Al Thani, the president of the Qatar Olympic Committee, officially handed over the baton to Kate Brown, the governor of Oregon, marking the end of the journey in Doha and the beginning of the race for the American city.