WC / Day Eight:
Relay Madness:  4×1 Sweep For USA
Mondo’s Perfect Game Strikes Gold

2023 World Athletics Championships
Budapest, Hungary
August 26th, 2023

The relay races are very special.  They are not included in every track & field gathering.  But when they are, there is a certain unity among the relay team members.  There is a readiness that needs to accompany any successful relay team.  The quartet and the coach must work together to prepare for this infrequently-included special event.  Suddenly baton exchanges – not utilized in other track & field events – is a priority that has to be refined and quickened.  Why?  Because in the relay race, the victor is not necessarily the fastest team; the team gets the baton around the track the fastest!
Against this backdrop, the relay race can provoke an elevated level of excitement.  This is especially true in global championships.  Beyond the relay participants’ commitment, the fans get into the act as well. It explains why Jamaican fans wear green and yellow and bring earsplitting air horns to the venue.  It is why perfectly sane Norwegian fans wear Norse headgear with horns.
You can feel that special relay vibe here at the World Athletics Championships.  And tonight’s relay races will bring out the best in the athletes and the fans.
Mondo Duplantis, photo by Kevin Morris
mPV – Final:  Tonight’s vault competition – aka the Mondo Duplantis Show – always has a special flavor.  Mondo – the G.O.A.T. – is a patient gentleman, waiting his turn to clear heights that others only dream of.  In the early stages of the event, it is helpful, even critical, for athletes to conserve their energy for the higher, more difficult bars to come. Tonight when the bar was prepared to go higher after 5.85/19’4 1/2″, the 4 competitors working to chase Duplantis had already jumped as many as 5 times while Duplantis had vaulted only two clean jumps. When the bar was lifted to 6.00m/19’8 1/4″, France’s Thibaut Collet, USA’s Chris Nilsen, and Australia’s Kurtis Marschall all went out.  That only left EJ Obiena of the Philippines, who cleared at a new height to equal his Asian record.  But at that juncture, Obiena had 3 misses, had vaulted 9 times, and was left alone to face off against Mondo, who had vaulted only 4 times – all clean jumps.  At 6.10m/20′ 1/4″, Mondo, on only his 6th attempt, cleared cleanly while Obiena went out. Nilsen and Marschall shared the bronze medal, while Obiena took the silver – one step higher than his bronze from the prior year.  With his gold medal secure, Mondo made three valiant yet unsuccessful attempts at a new world record (6.23m/20’5 1/4″).  Nobody doubts that he will clear that bar someday.
Stadium, Budapest, photo by Kevin Morris
m4x400m Relay: Round 1:  The preliminary round of the men’s 4×4 relay brought great enthusiasm from yet another packed house in the stadium.  In Heat 1, the USA would go with former world championship 400m hurdle bronze medalist Trevor Bassitt; 4×4 mixed relay gold medalist Matthew Boling; Chris Bailey; and Justin Robinson.  After a solid lap by Bassitt, Boling, baton in hand, rocketed around the first turn and successfully snagged the all-important pole position. Bailey ran well to give the USA a slight lead but the India quartet would give USA a hard time.  Team USA had a slight lead on the final lap and Robinson worked hard to fend off the India anchor as the USA sailed on for the win in 2:58.47.  An excited India quad claimed 2nd with a time of 2:59.05.  In the 2nd heat, Jamaica (2:59.82) was the winner and clocked the only sub-3:00 time in that heat.  The final is Sunday.
Medals, World Athletics Championships
Budapest, Hungary
August 19-27, 2023, photo by Kevin Morris
w4x400m Relay: Round 1:  Jamaica (3:22.74) was the Heat 1 victor, followed by Canada (3:23.29) and the Netherlands (323.75) with world championship 400m hurdles gold medalist Femke Bol on the anchor.  Heat 2 was a disaster for the United States as 3rd leg athlete Quanera Hayes flubbed the pass to anchor Alexis Holmes.  Once settled, Holmes successfully chased down the Belgium anchor to lift USA into the 2nd spot.  But all was for naught as the USA foursome was subsequently DQ’d for passing outside the exchange zone.
Chase Ealey, photo by Kevin Morris
wSP – Final:  What a field.  Eight of the 12 athletes in the final were on the world leaderboard.  Capturing the gold was USA athlete Chase Ealey.  Ealey ranked #2 on the world leaderboard, threw a season’s best 5th round bomb of 20.53m/67’4 1/4″ that stood up the rest of the way.  2nd was Canada’s Sara Mitton.  3rd on the world leaderboard, Mitton earned the silver medal when she got the ball out for a season’s best mark of 20.08m/65’10 1/2″.  Finishing 3rd was China’s Lijao Gong.  The former world champion, #4 on the world list, threw 19.69m/64’7 1/4″ on her 6th and final attempt to claim the bronze.  USA’s Maggie Ewen, sitting atop the world leaderboard going into the World Championships, did not have the final she envisioned, throwing 19.51m/64′ 1/4″ in the second round to finish 6th.
Marco Arop, M 800 winner, photo by Kevin Morris
m800m – Final:  Canada’s Marco Arop made it look easy in the men’s 800-meter final.  The 8 finalists jockeyed for position and eyed each other as they passed 200 meters in 25.32 and then 52.68 at the bell with Kenya’s Emmanuel Wanyonyi up front and in control.  The field was still bunched as they reached the top of the backstretch.  With 200m to go, Arop started his drive while Wanyonyi and others joined in pursuit.  But Arop controlled the race, hitting the line in 1:44.24 for the win and the gold.  Wanyonyi (1:44.53), #2 on the world leader board, finished 2nd for the silver, while Great Britain’s Ben Pattison (1:44.02) was a surprise 3rd and captured the bronze.
Faith Kipyegon takes gold number 2 in the 5,000m, photo by Kevin Morris
w5000m – Final: This 5000 meter final assembled a top-flight field was a highly-anticipated showdown between Faith Kipyegon and Sifan Hassan.  The early pace was dawdling, with Kipyegon, fresh off her 1500 win,  leading the way.  The tempo was not materially different until about 600 meters, when real racing got underway.  At last, the Kipyegon / Hassan square-off was underway.  Showing 800m-like speed, Kipyegon and Hassan raced the final lap.  Kipyegon was the victor, crossing first in 14:53.88 to earn the gold and to complete her quest for the 1500m/5000m double. Hassan finished 2nd in 14:54.11 for the silver, with Beatrice Chebet (14:54.33) crossing 3rd and clinching the bronze.  Elise Cranny (9th) and Alicia Monson (14th) were the American finishers.
Pierce LaPaige takes the gold in the decathlon, photo by Kevin Morris
1500m – 10th event of the Decathlon:  The Decathlon is a challenging 2-day 10-event grind under the best conditions.  But when the weather conditions are humid, and the temperature is in the mid-90s, the event is downright brutal.  Through it all, the track & field gladiators nonetheless rang up impressive point totals.  Canada went 1-2 in the final tally, with Pierce LePage ringing up 8909 points for the win and the gold while his countryman Damian Warner grabbed the silver, notching 8804 points.  Third place and the bronze medal went to Granada’s Lindon Victor (8765 points).  USA’s Harrison Williams scored 8500 points to finish 7th.
Brandon Carnes to Fred Kerley, 4x100m, photo by Kevin Morris
m4x100m Relay – Final:  Although the baton exchanges were shaky, the USA men’s relay team was not.  While the trio of Christian Coleman (leadoff), Fred Kerley (2nd), and Brandon Carnes (third) remained unchanged from the preliminary round, Noah Lyles came off the bench to take on the anchor duties for this important final.  It proved to be the right move.  Coleman got his customary lightning start at the starting pistol’s crack.  At the first exchange, the baton pass could have been better as Kerley’s start was a tad late.  Kerley-to-Carnes was much better.  Carnes’ pass to Lyles was a little awkward, but the world 100m champion was not to be denied, roaring down the homestretch, ensuring the win, and flashing three fingers, signifying the 3 gold medals he has won at these championships.  Noah hit the line in 37.38 – the second fastest ever by a US relay team.  Italy (37.62) took the silver, while Jamaica (37.76) grabbed the bronze.  Great Britain (4th in 37.80) and Japan (5th in 37.83) also dipped under 38.00.
Women’s 4x100m relay, World Athletics Championships
Budapest, Hungary
August 19-27, 2023, photo by Kevin Morris
w4x100m Relay – Final:  Next was the ladies’ turn.  USA had assembled a strong contingent consisting of Tamari Davis, Twanisha “TT” Terry, 200m silver medalist Gabby Thomas, and 100m gold medalist and 200m bronze medalist Sha’Carri Richardson on the anchor for Team USA.  Resting on the days leading up to this final, Thomas and Richardson were newbies to the quartet; it proved to be the right move.  The USA needed that added firepower as Jamaica, with Shericka Jackson on the anchor, would be in the next lane.  All eyes were on the USA and Jamaica at the opening gun as the two teams battled through the first two legs.  Gabby Thomas, an excellent curve runner, gave the USA a meaningful advantage as she passed the baton to Richardson.  The world championship 100m gold medalist tore down the homestretch and hit the line unthreatened in 41.03.  An exuberant Richardson, showing no particular interest in sprint re-entry, powered forward to jump into the arms of the USA gold medal sprinters.  As Sha’Carri jumped up and down with the guys, she dropped the baton.  No one seemed to care.
/ Dave Hunter /