No sooner had day two closed at the World Athletics Championships Budapest 23 than the Hungarian capital launched into national party mode, a fireworks show on the Danube marking St Stephen’s Day, celebrating State Founding Day and the country’s first king, patron and founder.
The show inside the National Athletics Centre had been some spectacle to behold. There were thrills, happily no spills, but several surprises as the US sprinter Noah Lyles, the Ugandan distance running king Joshua Cheptegei, the British all-rounder Katarina Johnson-Thompson, the Serbian long jumper Ivana Vuleta and the unheralded Canadian hammer thrower Ethan Katzberg all hit the gold medal standard – as Spain’s Maria Perez had done on the roads in the morning in the women’s 20km race walk.
Happily for the hugely passionate home crowd, there was also a first medal to celebrate on St Stephen’s Day – not quite the gold that Bence Halasz craved in the men’s hammer but a battling bronze.
Two-time 200m champ Lyles takes the 100m title in style
The big surprise in the men’s 100m came at the semi-final stage, reigning champion Fred Kerley failing to make the cut by 0.01, finishing third in his race in 10.01. With the injury-plagued Olympic champion Marcell Jacobs of Italy also bowing out and South Africa’s Akani Simbine false-starting, it was Lyles who snatched the hand of opportunity, the two-time world 200m champion fulfilling his promise at the shorter distance as he powered from fifth at halfway in the final to first place in 9.83, a joint world lead.
In doing so, he kept the title in US possession for a fourth successive World Championships. “Going into the US Championships with Covid, I got a bronze medal but a lot of people cut me off right there,” Lyles said. “I knew what I had to do.”
A mere four thousandths of a second separated second place from fourth, Botswana’s Letsile Tebogo taking silver and a first ever men’s world 100m medal for Africa in a national record of 9.88 and Britain’s now joint world leader Zharnel Hughes edging bronze ahead of Jamaica’s Oblique Seville, fourth for a second successive year – all four clocking 9.88.
Cheptegei joins the greats with 10,000m hat-trick
Ahead of his move up to the marathon in Valencia in December, Joshua Cheptegei bade a possible farewell to championship track racing by completing a hat-trick of world 10,000m wins.
Striking with 600m to go and holding off Ethiopia’s Olympic champion Selemon Barega, who was ultimately pipped for silver by Kenyan Daniel Ebenyo, Cheptegei crossed the line a clear winner in 27:51.42.
In doing so, the 26-year-old Ugandan became the fourth man to bag three world 10,000m crowns, following Ethiopians Haile Gebrselassie and Kenenisa Bekele, who both won a fourth, and Briton Mo Farah.
“This might be my last championships on the track,” said Cheptegei. “That’s why this gold medal means even more.”
Yes, today KJT’s troubles seem so far away
The women’s heptathlon reached a dramatic conclusion, with Anna Hall of the USA, the pre-event favourite and world leader, haring off a two-minute pace in the concluding 800m.
The surprise 2022 world bronze medallist needed to finish about 2.85 clear of Johnson-Thompson to land the gold but Briton showed her class in the home straight as she dug in for a PB of 2:05.63 as Hall crossed in a championship best of 2:04.09.
In doing so, the injury-plagued Johnson-Thompson – who hails from Beatles territory in Liverpool – found a second gold at the end of a long and winding road since her 2019 win in Doha. She finished top of the pile with 6740, Hall taking silver with 6720 and Anouk Vetter of the Netherlands claiming bronze with 6501 – ahead of fourth-placed Hungarian Xenia Krizsan (6479).
“I just knew I could prove to myself and prove to all the people that I could still do it,” said the winner.
Vuleta graduates to world champ outdoors while Katzberg gets the cream in the hammer
For the second year in a row, Ivana Vuleta leapt to a world title in Eastern Europe.
Last year the 33-year-old Serb won her second world indoor title on home ground in Belgrade. Here in Budapest, the two-time bronze medallist upgraded to world outdoor gold with a fifth-round world lead of 7.14m. Tara Davis-Woodhall of the US finished runner-up with 6.91m and Romanian Alina Rotaru-Kottman third with 6.88m.
Ivana Vuleta in the long jump at the World Athletics Championships Budapest 23 (© Getty Images)
Also in the field, the young Canadian Ethan Katzberg snatched a surprise men’s hammer gold with a fifth-round national record of 81.25m. Poland’s Olympic champion Wojciech Nowicki took silver with 81.02m and Hungary’s Bence Halasz – who led for the opening three rounds – the bronze with 80.82m.
Painstaking Perez perfects her winning race walk technique
As on day one, the first gold of day two went to a Spanish race walker, Maria Perez carbon-copying Alvaro Martin’s winning tactic in the men’s 20km with an unstoppable surge in the final 5km.
The 27-year-old Andalusian finished 25 seconds clear of Australia’s Jemima Montag in 1:26:51, with Italy’s Olympic champion Antonella Palmisano salvaging bronze after taking a mid-race tumble.
For Perez, who broke the 35km world record in May, it was sweet redemption following the DQ she suffered on the Oregon medal trail last year – and reward for having painstakingly ironed out the kinks in her technique under the guidance of her coach Jacinto Garzin and former 50km champion Josep Marin.
“The 20km was always difficult for me because I had so many technical issues and was often disqualified,” Perez confessed. “All of these new technologies are so sensitive, they can fix the smallest mistakes.
“I would like to say a big thanks to Josep because he has been working with me as a consultant of the last year and helped me to improve my technique a lot.”
Ingebrigtsen makes waves with semi-passable Ovett impression
As though Jakob Ingebrigtsen were not already assured of a place among the historical greats of the middle distances, the Norwegian who climbed to fourth on the all-time men’s 1500m list with his 3:27.14 European record at the Silesia Diamond League meeting, last night indulged in a touch of the gallery-playing Steve Ovetts as he toyed with the opposition en route to the formality of victory in his semi-final.
Seventh at the bell and eighth with 350m to go, the Olympic 1500m champion and world 5000m gold medallist whizzed past his nominal rivals around the final turn, playfully opening his arms to encourage the crowd – as was the wont of Ovett, the one-time 1500m and mile world record holder from Great Britain.
Ingebrigtsen gave another wave before crossing the line in 3:34.98, with Britain’s Olympic bronze medallist Josh Kerr second in 3:35.14. Kenya’s 2019 world champion Timothy Cheruiyot failed to make the cut, trailing in ninth in 3:37.40. US champion Yared Nuguse won the other semi in 3:32.69.
Faith Kipyegon – surprise, surprise – was fastest in the women’s 1500m semi-finals, the Kenyan Olympic and world champion winning her race in 3:55.14 from Ethiopia’s Diribe Welteji (3:55.18) and Olympic 5000m and 10,000m champion Sifan Hassan (3:55.48), the Dutchwoman sporting plasters and bandages following her dramatic fall with sight of the line in Saturday’s 10,000m final. Kenya’s Nelly Chepchirchir won the other semi in 4:02.14.
Unlucky Broadbell hits the deck, crashing from world lead to first-round KOS
For even the best of athletes, first-round hurdles heats can be far from a formality. That much became painfully clear to Rasheed Broadbell in the third last track race of a marathon morning session.
The Commonwealth champion from Jamaica arrived at the National Athletics Centre on top of the world, holding the 2023 global lead of 12.94. He departed prematurely, crashing into the final flight in his path as he surged to overtake Senegal’s Louis Francois Mendy.
Grant Hollway of the US showed his two-time world champion pedigree, the smoothest and the fastest heat winner in 13.18.
In the opening round of the men’s 400m hurdles, Karsten Warholm was a predictable class apart. The Olympic champion and world record-holder from Norway was happy to allow Wilfried Happio the honour of victory, easing off the gas to cross the line 0.08 behind the Frenchman in 48.75.
The fastest qualifier was defending champion Alison dos Santos, the Brazilian continuing his comeback after knee surgery with a comfortable win in the opening heat in 48.12.
The first round of the men’s barrier-free 400m yielded the biggest cheer of the morning, Attila Molnar delighting the home crown with a Hungarian record of 44.84. The fastest qualifier was Havard Ingvaldsen, the 20-year-old Norwegian registering a big PB with a national record of 44.39 to go sixth on the European all-time list.
There was also a national record for Japan’s Kentaro Seko (44.77), while the past three world champions all advanced with relative ease, the Bahamian Steven Gardiner clocking 44.65, South African world record-holder Wayde van Niekerk 44.59 and Grenada’s Kirani James 44.91.
Sha’Carri Richardson was the fastest – and most impressive – in the women’s 100m first round, the US champion clocking 10.92 while easing down.
Five-time world 100m champion Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce and her Jamaican teammate Shericka Jackson, the world 200m champion, took it easier in their heats, winning in 11.01 and 11.06 respectively.
Credit: World Athletics