BIRMINGHAM, May 4, 2018 - Nothing is impossible in athletics. Nothing is certain, either however. As the jam-packed crowd in the Arena Birmingham got ready for the final event on the tracks on Sunday, 24 athletes waited patiently on the side line, waiting for one final surge to glory. The men’s 4X400m relay, slotted as the final event of the roster, was anyway billed to provide an electrifying touch to the atmosphere.
Six athletes walked up, with another 18 hoping that nothing goes wrong. The female discipline had seen as many as three appeals being presented to the jury after the Jamaican team, who had finished with silver, was ruled out. Over the next three minutes, each of the athletes challenged each other to raise the bar and increase the fierceness.
When they did cross the finishing line though, the quartet from Poland had set a new world record with a timing of 3:01.77. The USA had led until the final stretch, with Fred Kerley, Michael Cherry and Aldrich Bailey covering the first three legs in 2:16.33. However, Jakub Krzewina put up a stellar show and edged past USA’s anchor Vernon Norwood in lightning speed. USA did get the silver though, with their timing of 3:01.97s, which too was inside the previous world record. This, thus, stayed only as a season’s best quite like Great Britain and Czech Republic who took the last two spots, respectively.
While Belgium finished third, Trinidad and Tobago ended fourth, both smashing their national records. None of the other finals, perhaps, had something to offer to all the participants.
In the women’s 4X400m relay final, it was a reversal of roles for the USA and Poland who took gold and silver respectively after Jamaica’s appeal was rejected by the jury. That prompted Great Britain to finish with a bronze to their name.
Renaud soars high
In the men’s pole vault final, it was Renaud Lavillenie of France who clinched gold in an unprecedented fashion, skipping his first two jumps of 5.45m and 5.60m before following it up with another miss at the 5.80m-mark. He cleared both 5.70m and 5.80m on his first go and only took a second attempt to go past 5.90m. USA’s Sam Kendricks, who had failed in his first two attempts to go clear of that mark, then had to push the bar higher at 5.95m owing to his previous failures, which would have handed over the medal to Lavillenie anyway. However, he couldn’t match the mark.
“I’m very, very happy. The competition was a real battle. The competition was very long and very intense as you can see with seven athletes trying to jump 5.90m,” he told reporters after his win. “I was a little disappointed to miss my first jump at 5.90m as I know I am able to get it. But to be able to secure one more gold medal in the world championships is a crazy feeling.”
British sprinter Andrew Pozzi sent the home fans into frenzy as he bagged the second gold for Britain, to help the nation finish fourth on the medals tally. Pozzi clocked a season’s best of 7.46s to just pip USA’s Jarrett Eaton in a photo-finish, the drama only adding on to the euphoria. The only other gold for Britain came through Katarina Johnson-Thompson, who won it in pentathlon on the penultimate day.
Paying tribute to the late Roger Bannister, who was the first athlete to run a mile under four minutes and passed away earlier on Sunday, the Brit stated: “Roger Bannister was an unbelievable athlete and unbelievable person. I'm very sorry that he has left us but I read one of his quotes today about a gazelle before heading down to the track. It said: ‘Every morning in Africa a gazelle wakes up and it knows it must move faster than the lion or it will not survive.’”
Among the other finals of the day, Serbia and Burundi climbed on to the medals tally owing to gold-medal finishes by Ivana Spanovic and Francine Niyonsaba. While the Serbian leapt 6.96m to edge past USA’s Brittney Reese and clinch gold in the women’s long jump, the 2016 Olympic silver medallist clocked 1:58.31s to bring home her nation’s first medal of the 2018 Indoor Championships.
Ethiopia dominated both the 1500m and 3000m disciplines with Yomif Kejelcha and Selemon Barega ensuring a one-two for the country in the latter event while Samuel Tefera ran to glory in the 1500m.
The three podium finishes also helped Ethiopia finish the championship in second place with five medals, including four gold, to their name. USA were a distant first, finishing with 18 medals — six gold, 10 silver and two bronze. The third place went to Poland, their second gold in the 4X400m men’s relay ensuring that spot with the hosts finishing fourth, despite with seven medals to their tally.