The CHill Zone of T&F: Conway's View From the Finish Line

Worlds Opening Day – All Kenya

Aug 27th, 2011
7:11 am PDT

The opening day of every major is filled with qualifying rounds, and day one in Daegu was no different with only two finals on the docket. If there’s such a thing as making a statement on opening day however, the Kenyan women did just that in those two finals as they swept the medals in both the marathon and 10,000 meters – and added a non medaling fourth place in the 10K!image

In the marathon the Kenyan’s set the stage for the day, and possibly this championships, as they went to the front early on and worked as a team, methodically burning away the competition. By the latter third of the race they were solidly in control and it was just a matter of what the order would be as they closed out a rare sweep, lead by New York Marathon winner:

  1. 2:28:43 – Edna Kiplagat – KEN
  2. 2:29:00 – Priscah Kiptoo – KEN
  3. 2:29:14 – Sharon Cherop – KEN

How rare is a sweep in the marathon? The last sweep in a championships setting was in the men’s event at the 1994 European Championships when Spain swept the medals!

Ah, but they weren’t done, not with the 10,000 meters still to be run. Once again the Kenyan women went into “team” mode. With Shalane Flanagan taking the early lead with  a slow pace through 3K, the Kenyan’s stayed together then went to the lead around 4K and passed through the half way point in a dawdling 15:47.50. Then they hit the gas, stretching things out with a pack of 8 women. First Sally Kipyego, then defending champ Linet Masai kept the heat up as one by one the pack got smaller until over the final kilometer it was the four Kenyans and Ethiopian Meselech Melkamu, who was imagedesperately trying to break up the Kenyans. But to no avail as they unleashed a withering final 800 to go an astounding 1,2,3,4 in the event with 5,000 favorite Vivian Cheruiyot emerging as champion smoothly running away from everyone:

  1. 30:48.98 – Vivian Cheruiyot – KEN
  2. 30:50.04 – Sally Kipyego – KEN
  3. 30:53.59 – Linet Masai – KEN
  4. 30:56.43 – Priscah Cherono – KEN

Cheruiyot, better known for the 5000, set a PR with her win with 3rd placer Masai setting a season’s best. The last time we saw a 1 through 4 sweep in any event was in the men’s 200 in Helsinki when the U.S. took a “super” sweep. I said before the start of the meet that I would be shocked to see a sweep of any event on the track, now I wonder how many sweeps they just may have as Kenya made both of these finals look much too easy! Early leader Shalane Flanagan (USA) ran a very respectable 31:25.57 for 7th, but looked merely mortal against the Kenyan juggernaut.

As exciting as these finals were the day was about qualifying with opening rounds in the several field event, the women’s 400, and the men’s 400 and day one of the decathlon. In the 400 all the major players made it through to the next round. The one shock being the disqualification of Britain’s Christine Uhuruogu to a false start. The starters held the sprinters a lot on the opening day, and ironically the first person DQ’d was a Korean athlete in the preliminary (run in) round of the men’s 100. I wouldn’t be surprised to see some drama in the starts before this meet is done! Uhuruogu aside (she’s not had a stellar season) everyone of note eased their way through including early favorites defending champion Sanya Richards Ross (USA), Allyson Felix (USA), Anastasia Kapachinskaya (RUS) and Rosemarie Whyte (JAM).

The story was the same in the heats of the men’s 100, where qualifiers headed to tomorrows semi finals. Both full contingents from the U.S. and Jamaica made it through quite easily. Usain Bolt (JAM) lead all qualifiers at 10.10 looking MUCH sharper than he had on the circuit. He nailed his start, had a solid drive and transition, and was blowing away the field by 30 meters. If he executes like that in the semis and finals he will repeat as champion. Also looking good was veteran Kim Collins (SKN) who was in control of his heat from the gun and won easily in 10.13; Christophe Lemaitre (FRA) who started better than usual and ran strongly to win his heat in 10.14; and Yohan Blake (JAM) who showed swift turnover mid race to the tape to finish in 10.12. Best of the Americans appeared to be Walter Dix who looked very relaxed and un-pressed in his 10.25 win. Tomorrow’s semis are going to be BRUTAL!

The final qualifying of note was the first day of the men’s decathlon. Final scores are not yet posted as I write this, but through the first four events things were fairly close with Tre Hardee (USA) leading slightly over Ashton Eaton (USA) and Aleksey Drozdov (RUS). As the day closed with the 400 Eaton blasted a huge 46.99 over Hardee’s 48.37, which should be good for about a 150 point swing. Closing out another big first day for Eaton – his stronger of the two days. The question now is how well he can hold off the competition on day two which is primarily field events. I have a feeling this one is going to come down to the final couple of events.

A great way to open a World Championships. Typically the excitement starts on Day Two with the finals of the 100, but the Kenyans certainly turned that on its head with perhaps the greatest set of opening day performances ever. Two finals, six medals. It doesn’t get better than that! I wonder what else Kenya has in store?

Tomorrow we get the semis and finals in the men’s 100! We will also be treated to another hot 10,000, this time defending champion Kenenisa Bekele going up against this year’s sensation Mo Farah. And speaking of hot events, the women’s long jump is shaping up as a deep event if today’s qualifying is any indication, with half a dozen women looking very good.


Sunday’s Finals

  • Men’s 20K Walk
  • Women’s Long Jump
  • Women’s Discus
  • Men’s 10,000
  • Men’s 100

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