REVIEW: Lightning Bolt strikes late to light surprise-filled worlds
By John Bagratuni Sep 5, 2011, 11:08 GMT
Daegu, South Korea - The unlucky number 13 and a cover curse befell even the biggest name in athletics as Usain Bolt joined a long list of failures and disappointments at the world championships that on Sunday.
Bolt's false start disqualification in the 100 metres final was one of the biggest shocks in athletics history, but the Jamaican at least had the chance to redeem himself with gold medals in the 200m and the 4x100m relay, the latter in world record time.
'I ended the championship very well. I started on a bad note, but I ended on a good one,' said Bolt.
Bolt's final displays were rare moments of glory at the 13th edition of the showcase event, along with Sally Pearson's emphatic 100m hurdles success and David Rudisha's start-to-finish dominance of the 800m as part of the best showing-ever on the global stage by a Kenyan team.
South African double amputee runner Oscar Pistorius also took his first able-bodied big event by storm as the 'Blade Runner' got silver in the 4x400m relay after making the 400m semis. Compatriot Caster Semenya also impressed, returning from a gender controversy to get 800m silver.
IAAF president Lamine Diack spoke of 'extraordinary competition' although 'at times major athletes did not always get the results they wanted.'
Many were unlucky during the nine days in sticky Daegu as the worlds came to mainland Asia for the first time in the 13th edition of the showcase event.
Yelena Isinbayeva didn't no-height as in 2009, but sixth place was far below the expectations of the Russian pole vault queen. World and Olympic champion Steve Hooker of Australia no-heighted on the men's side.
Ethiopian distance running star Kenenisa Bekele limped out of the 10,000m, Olympic champion Dayron Robles of Cuba was disqualified after winning the 110m hurdles, compatriot Yargelis Savigne was stretchered off injured during the triple jump final and American sprinter Allyson Felix got only a relay gold instead of a first 200m/400m double.
Hooker, Bolt, Robles, Isinbayeva, Savigne, Felix (together with Carmelita Jeter), were athletes who failed to get gold after being on the cover of the daily programme magazine. Only Russian walker Olga Kaniskina, Pearson and Bolt on Sunday succeeded as cover athletes.
Even South Korea were not immune and became the worst hosts in championship history. Expectations were low, but one sixth and one seventh place in the race walks were below fifth place finishes from the other hosts that failed to medal, Sweden (Gothenburg 1995) and Canada (Edmonton 2001).
Korea's agony was complete when Kim Deok Hyeon advanced into the long jump final but then couldn't compete because he injured himself in triple jump qualifying.
That gave the crowd precious little to cheer on the home front, and may have added to the impression that the championships didn't really come alive until the final three days.
On Friday, Maria Abakumova of Russia missed Barbora Spotakova's javelin world record by a mere 29cm as she held off the Czech to win gold.
The next night, Pearson was just seven hundredth off the 100m hurdles world record to become fourth fastest woman over the distance, and 20 minutes later the fans roared their approval once Bolt had not false started and conquered 200m gold with the fourth-fastest time in race history.
The world record in the very last race topped it.
Less than half of the 2009 champions managed title defences, but the hot and humid Daegu days may have been the stepping stone for future stars.
Even Bolt admits that his young training partner Yohan Blake is a future force after taking the 100m, the 400m titles went to teenager Kirani James of Grenada and Botswana's Amantle Montsho, and young Ethiopian Ibrahim Jeilan chased down Mo Farah of Britain - who later bounced back to win the 5,000m - in spectacular fashion to win the 10,000m.
The US were familiar leaders of the final medal table with a 12-8-5 haul, but Kenya were not far behind on 7-6-4 in their best worlds showing, including sweeps in the women's marathon and 10,000m.
On another positive note, no failed doping test was announced by the ruling IAAF, which for the first time had blood-tested all 1,848 participating athletes from 200 countries.
The London Olympics in less than 11 months are the next big athletics gathering before the world championships have their 14th edition 2013 in Moscow.