In the end, it was left to Femke Bol to bring down the curtain on the wonderful World Athletics Championships Budapest 23. In fittingly show-stopping style.
Eight days on from falling short of the winning line in the mixed 4x400m, the Flying Dutchwoman made up a 10-metre deficit on the final leg to snatch women’s 4x400m gold for the Netherlands in the last few strides.
There was also a dramatic comeback win for Jakob Ingebrigtsen in the men’s 5000m, the Norwegian clawing his way past Spain’s Mohamed Katir to bounce back from his surprise 1500m defeat. Kenya’s Mary Moraa produced another thrilling finish to win the women’s 800m, overhauling defending champion Athing Mu of the US, who was pipped for silver by Britain’s Keely Hodgkinson.
In the field, Olympic champion Neeraj Chopra took India’s first ever World Championships gold in the javelin and Ukrainian high jumper Yaroslava Mahuchikh secured a world outdoor title to match the one she owns indoors.
There were also golds for Bahrain’s Winfred Yavi in the women’s 3000m steeplechase and Uganda’s Victor Kiplangat in the men’s marathon. Oh, and victory in the men’s 4x400m left the USA top of the medal table with 12 gold, eight silver and nine bronze with Canada in second and Spain in third.
Bol brings down the curtain with mission impossible Dutch relay win
Just when you thought you had seen it all over the course of nine thrilling, compelling days of action at the World Athletics Championships Budapest 23, along comes Bol in the final event to provide a grandstand finish for the ages.
Left sprawled on the track in sheer despair on the opening night, crashing within sight of the line with gold seemingly within her grasp on the anchor leg of the mixed 4x400m.
Fittingly, remarkably, it was in the same spot in the National Athletics Centre that Bol looked like she might actually retrieve a lost cause at the conclusion of the women’s 4x400m.
At one point, on the back straight stretch of the final leg, the 23-year-old was a good 10 metres behind the clear leader for Jamaica, Stacey Ann Williams. Gold looked like mission impossible, even for an athlete of Bol’s quality.
With Nicole Yeargin of Great Britain five metres ahead in second, even silver seemed like mission improbable. But then Bol – who bounced back from her opening day nightmare with victory in the 400m hurdles final – dug deep and shifted into overdrive.
She passed Yeargin 10 metres from the line and then somehow managed to haul herself past Williams in the final few metres.
It was truly breathtaking to behold. But, then, we are talking about a woman who emulated the original Flying Dutchwoman with her triple gold medal winning feat at the European Championships in Munich last year – triumphing in the flat 400m and the 400m hurdles and pulling victory out of the bag for her team with a storming anchor leg in the 4x400m.
“I felt like I had to finish as strongly as I could,” said Bol, whose flying finish in Budapest brought the Dutch quartet home in 3:20.72, a national record and world lead – 0.16 ahead of Jamaica, with Britain in third.
“I wanted to stay patient, but in the last metres I said ‘No, we have to take it’. It was one of my most important runs ever, but it is the first time we have become world champions so it applies for all of us. Every tenth and hundredth of a second was needed.”
In the men’s 4x400m relay, it was the USA all the way, 400m hurdles bronze medallist Rai Benjamin anchoring them to gold in 2:57.31 ahead of the surprise packet France and Great Britain.
Ingebrigtsen digs deep to snatch redemption gold in 5000m thriller
Another World Athletics Championships; another 5000m final redemption run for Jakob Ingebrigtsen.
In Oregon last year, the young Norwegian bounced back from an unexpected loss to a British man in the 1500m to claim the considerable consolation of 5000m gold.
In Budapest, five days on from his loss to Josh Kerr at what he still considers to be his No.1 distance, the 22-year-old Olympic 1500m champion managed to regain his Midas touch once again. Only just, mind.
In a race that built up to as much of a compelling denouement as the 1500m final, Ingebritsen had some five metres to make up when Mohamad Katir, the Spaniard who earned 1500m bronze behind him last year, put the hammer down with 250 metres to go.
Rounding the final curve, the defending champion closed to within striking distance but Katir was still ahead coming into the home straight and looked like he was going to stay there.
Ingebrigtsen, however, refused to be beaten. He clung on, dug deep down and finally cracked his rival, edging past in the closing stages to take the sweetest of gold medals. The time, 13:11.30, was irrelevant. The final lap not quite so: 53.33.
Kenya’s Jacob Krop claimed the bronze medal but the glory belonged to the Norwegian winner.
“To win another world title is great, of course,” Ingebritsen reflected. “I was very tired. I tried to save my energy to win at the end because that was the only way tonight.
“I knew that if my tactics were better than my competitors, I would have a chance to win. And that’s what happened. It worked out absolutely perfectly.
“This title means a lot to me after losing again in the 1500m. I haven’t been at my best but I had the motivation and I had great support.”
Magnificent Moraa has rivals dancing to her winning 800m tune
Prior to the semi-finals of the women’s 800m in Budapest, Athing Mu was undefeated at 800m since early 2020. The world and Olympic champion had racked up 26 successive victories before she was floored shortly into the last lap of her semi, content to pick herself up and qualify in second behind Kenya’s Mary Moraa.
When it came to the crunch in the final, Mu was unable to restore her shield of invincibility. In another thriller of a climax on the track, the straining US runner was passed on the outside by the determined Moraa some 30 metres from the line, then Britain’s Keely Hodgkinson stole past her on the inside to snatch her third successive global silver.
Moraa crossed the line in 1:56.03, a lifetime best. Well, not exactly crossed as leapt for joy over it – almost doing herself some damage as her legs buckled as she landed. No matter. The 23-year-old still wowed the crowd with her trademark victory dance
“I am pleased to get the gold this time and become the world champion,” said Moraa. “After bronze last year, I wanted to improve and I have.
“Everyone in the final was so fast I knew I would have to have a fast finish. I came from a long way behind but I managed to do it.”
Chopra hits the bullseye with another historic javelin gold for India
As a young boy growing up in a farming community sixty miles from Delhi, Neeraj Chopra got a taste for throwing by seeing how far he could hurl a cricket ball. After graduating to the javelin, studying the technique of world record-holder Jan Zelezny on the internet, he hit the rest of the world for six by landing Olympic gold in Tokyo in 2021 – only his vast nation’s second in any Olympic sport.
Two years on, the 25-year-old became India’s first gold medal winner in the 40-year history of the World Athletics Championships, his second-round 88.17m securing first place ahead of Commonwealth champion Arshad Nadeem, whose silver-winning effort of 87.82m was a first medal of any colour for Pakistan. World leader Jakub Vadlejch of the Czech Republic had to settle for bronze with 86.67m.
“This is brilliant for the national team,” said Chopra. “I am proud to bring another title to my country. It was my dream to win gold at the World Championships.”
Inspirational Mahuchikh soars to first senior global outdoor high jump gold
For the magnificent Yaroslava Mahuchikh, gold in the women’s high jump final was always going to have a special meaning.
The 21-year-old Ukrainian, who was forced to flee her home in Dnipro in February last year, won the world indoor title in Belgrade soon after, but a global outdoor crown remained tantalisingly beyond her grasp when she was beaten on countback by Australia’s Eleanor Patterson at the World Championships in Oregon last year.
Second in Doha in 2019, and third at the Olympic Games in Tokyo in 2021, the former world U18 champion finally ascended to the top of the global pile in an outdoor arena on the closing night in Budapest.
The only woman to successfully negotiate 2.01m, Mahuchikh secured world outdoor gold ahead of Patterson, who had to settle for silver this time, and her compatriot Nicola Olyslagers, the bronze medallist. Both Australians cleared 1.99m.
“I am so proud to win this gold for my country,” said Mahuchikh. “I can’t wait to go back and show this medal to my coach.”
Yavi lands first global steeplechase gold
The women’s steeplechase final was another cracker on the track. Beatrice Chepkoech set out to recapture the form that took her to the world record in 2018 and the world title in Doha in 2019, leading from the gun at a cracking pace.
Only Winifred Yavi could keep within touch with the inspired Kenyan and, as the bell sounded, the Bahraini edged into the lead and forged on to build what proved to be a decisive gap. Yavi finished a clear winner in a world-leading 8:54.29, the fifth-fastest performance of all time, savouring her first global medal after fourth-place finishes at the 2019 and 2022 World Championships.
Chepkoech took the silver in 8:58.98 and her teammate, the 19-year-old world U20 champion Faith Cherotich, the bronze in 9:00.69 – a first podium finish in the event by a teenager
Kiplangat thanks absent Kiplimo for golden marathon inspiration
Victor Kiplangat’s victory in the early morning men’s marathon was inspired by the compatriot who opened Uganda’s global distance-running gold account for 2023.
Six months after Jacob Kiplimo’s win on the other side of the planet at the World Athletics Cross Country Championships in Bathurst, Australia, Kiplangat claimed the world marathon title on the streets of Hungary’s capital city, finishing 26 seconds clear of the field in 2:08:53.
“I need to thank Jacob Kiplimo,” he said of his compatriot, who was absent from Budapest because of an achilles tendon injury. “He has given me a lot of motivation and inspired me with his performances.
“I am so grateful as well for his advice and guidance. Without that, I couldn’t have won today.”
And without Joshua Cheptegei’s victory in the men’s 10,000m on day two, Uganda would not be celebrating a hat-trick of world distance running titles in 2023.
Behind Kiplangat, Israel’s Maru Terefi recovered from a nasty fall with 10km remaining to claim silver, pipping the tiring Ethiopian Leul Gebresilase.
It’s been a blast in Budapest – here’s to Tokyo in 2025
And so…viszont-latasra Budapest. It’s been an absolute blast here on the banks of the beautiful Danube.
Two years until we say konnickiwa Tokyo. Bring on edition number 20 of the wondrous World Athletics Championships.
We can’t wait.
Credit: World Athletics