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Athletics

Doha world athletics championships: Five things we learned on Day 8

Dalilah Muhammad set a world to claim her first 400m hurdles world championships.
Dalilah Muhammad set a world to claim her first 400m hurdles world championships. REUTERSFabrizio Bensch

The local boy does good in a stadium full, full, full of people who then pour into the Doha night before a world record is set.

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Local hero

Mutaz Essa Barshim didn’t disappoint. The 28-year old Qatari retained his high jump title in front of a packed – yes you read that right – packed Khalifa International Stadium. Struck down by an achilles tendon injury in 2018, his every move was roared as the bar rose from 2.19m to 2.30. There was palpable edginess when he failed his first two attempts at 2.33. And the roof nearly flew into the heavens when he went over on his third and final chance. He cleared 2.35 first time along with Mikhail Akimenko and Ilya Ivanyuk. But while Barshim went over straight away at 2.37, the Russians – competing under a neutral flag – failed. My how the partisans cheered.

Result

With Mutaz Essa Barshim adorned in gold, the hordes left. Shame. They missed the women’s 400 metres hurdles final in which the 2016 Olympic champion Dalilah Muhammad set a world record to claim the title. Interest in athletics clearly only goes so far.

Duel in the void

For the cognoscenti, the women’s 400m hurdles was as fascinating as the men’s race. In that one Norway’s Karsten Warholm and Rai Benjamin from the United States were the big dogs. Warholm woofed loudest.  The women’s showdown was between Muhammad, 29, and 20-year-old Sydney McLaughlin who had beaten Muhammad a couple of times during the year. Muhammad had thrown down the gauntlet by setting a world record of 52.20 during the US championships in Iowa in July. Three months later in Doha, Muhammad ran 52.16 and McLaughlin 52.23. Two of the fastest times in history. Witnessed by? Empty seats. 

Sands of time

Dalilah Muhammad, who is nearly 30, had better enjoy her moment in the sun for Sydney McLaughlin has espoused the Zen big picture. “At least it is gold and silver for the United States,” said the 20-year-old after the final. “I’m young and I’ve learned so much during these championships.” Tokyo Olympics in 2020 should be fascinating. A Shogundown? 

This one’s for you

Emotional stuff after Steven Gardiner from the Bahamas won the men’s 400 metres. The 24-year-old from Abaco dedicated his first world championship crown to the hurricane devastated islanders. “I spoke to my family and friends just before the final. They told me to go out and do my best. I did and now I’m a world champion. This gold is for them.”

 

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