Gold and silver in the 4x400m finals bumps Britain’s medal haul to nine – their best ever at the World Indoor Championships
With shades of the epic GB win at the 1991 World Championships, the British women won 4x400m relay gold at the World Indoor Championships in Istanbul in an incredible race that will long live in the memory, adding to a record medal haul for Great Britain at the World Indoors with nine medals – two gold, three silver and four bronze, ending the weekend at second place on the medals table.
There were several parellels to the men’s 4x400m gold from the Tokyo World Championships 21 years ago – the highest finisher in the individual event went on the first leg; the country’s best hurdler went on the final leg; and, more importantly, Britain beat the USA in a dip finish.
In a dress rehearsal for the London Olympics, Shana Cox led off the full-strength team and her 52.82 leg put them in contention of the lead, handing over to Nicola Sanders who clocked a 52.48 split. Britain were still in third, but third-leg runner Christine Ohuruogu had some work to do – and work hard she did.
Ohuruogu, who in the past has been known for disappointing on the relay, ran the leg of her life and in 51.98 seconds she overtook long-time leaders USA and Russia, handing over to hurdles specialist Perri Shakes-Drayton in first place. The European bronze medallist kept her composure and held off the strong challenge from individual world champion Sanya Richards-Ross to win gold with a 51.48 split, the pair dipping on the line in an extremely close finish as just 0.03 separated them.
Their time, 3:28.76, was just 0.07 shy of the British record set at the 2007 European Indoors, but it was a world-leading performance and their first medal of any colour in the women’s 4x400m at the World Indoors. Russia, who won eight successive relay titles from 1995-2008, had to settle for bronze in 3:29.55. It was Britain’s first global 4x400m title since the 1991 World Championships.
The men’s 4x400m final was another USA v GBR battle, although most of the scrapping took place behind closed doors after the race. Conrad Williams had put Britain in the lead with his 46.23 opening leg, handing over to Nigel Levine (45.86). Michael Bingham surrendered the lead to USA with a 46.74 split, but – crucially – US anchor leg runner Gil Roberts jumped the queue in the receiving order for the baton.
Roberts went on to maintain the USA’s lead as Richard Buck ran a 45.89 leg to hold on to second place, clocking 3:04.72 to the USA’s 3:03.94. A track-side official spotted the rule infringement and after a long wait, Great Britain were announced as the winners. But several hours later the USA were reinstated as champions.
It is not often that a woman jumps over seven metres, indoors or out, but USA’s Brittney Reese sailed well past that barrier in today’s long jump final to successfully defend her title at the IAAF World Indoor Championships in Istanbul as Britain’s Shara Proctor took bronze.
In an exciting final, Russia’s Darya Klishina took an early lead with her opening jumps of 6.70m and 6.85m. Reese and Proctor both fouled their first two jumps, but in the third round Reese jumped 6.82m with Proctor following it with 6.86m to snatch the lead. US indoor champion Janay DeLoach also jumped into contention with her 6.78m.
Reese then improved to 6.92m in round four to take the lead, but in the final round DeLoach went one better and popped out to 6.98m. That lead lasted just a matter of minutes as Reese responded with an incredible 7.23m – the farthest indoor long jump since 1989, putting her at No.3 on the world indoor all-time list behind Heike Drechsler and Galina Chistyakova.
Proctor saved her best for last, improving her own British record to 6.89m, but it wasn’t enough to upgrade her medal and she settled for bronze. Hers was one of several medals won by the British team as Bleasdale took bronze in a pole vault final that saw Yelena Isinbayeva regain a global crown.
Isinbayeva waited until the bar had reached 4.70m before entering the competition – a height that only Bleasdale and Frenchwoman Vanessa Boslak had managed to clear. Isinbayeva sailed over it, while Bleasdale needed two attempts. Boslak and Bleasdale both then failed at 4.75m as Isinbayeva sailed over to 4.80m to secure the gold medal with Boslak taking silver and Bleasdale bronze, becoming the youngest ever pole vault medallist at the World Indoors.
Isinbayeva went on to attempt a would-be world record of 5.02m and had some close tries, but she was more than happy to simply come away with gold – her first major title since the 2008 Olympics.
There are two names that in recent years have become synonymous with indoor 3000m running – Meseret Defar and Bernard Lagat. Ethiopia’s Defar was out to win a record fifth successive World Indoor 3000m title, while Lagat was out to defend the title he won in 2010 and 2004.
The men’s 3000m was arguably one of the most competitive finals of the championships and was the only track event that boasted the three medallists from last year’s World Championships in Daegu, as Lagat – the 5000m silver medallist – was taking on world champion Mo Farah and bronze medallist Dejen Gebremeskel. There was also the non-insignificant challenge from Kenyan duo Augustine Choge and Edwin Soi.
The latter pair did much of the early work and dictated the pace to their liking. Farah sat back slightly, as did master tactician Lagat. Farah took up the running with a couple of laps to go, and as the pace increased so did the barging. As it came to the last-lap sprint, it was Lagat who was able to get into the best position and he kicked hard for home, chased by Soi, Choge, Farah and Gebremeskel.
The Briton closed hard, but ran out of track and could not quite catch his Kenyan rivals as Lagat won gold in 7:41.44. Choge took silver in 7:41.77, one hundredth ahead of Soi with Farah just another hundredth behind.
Moments later, Soi was temporarily disqualified for his mid-race obstructions, and Farah was temporarily upgraded to the bronze, but the Kenyan team appealed and Soi was reinstated.
Defar, like Lagat, is also known for her astute tactical awareness, but her title defence was not to be. The opening pace was slow, so Britain’s European indoor champion Helen Clitheroe took up the running for a few laps to stay out of danger. She was tracked closely by an African quartet, comprising Defar and team-mate Gelete Burka, and Kenyan duo Hellen Obiri and Sylvia Kibet.
They soon hit the front and dropped Clitheroe and with a few laps to go Defar was out in front by herself, seemingly en route to gold. But the bell sounded and Defar suddenly looked to be slightly running out of steam as Obiri began to close. The gap between the pair narrowed until Obiri passed Defar on the final bend and kicked on to win gold in 8:37.16.
Just over a second behind, Defar held on for silver ahead of team-mate Burka. Further down the field, Clitheroe dipped under nine minutes (8:59.04) for seventh place.
Four years ago, Sudan’s Abubaker Kaki became the youngest ever winner of a World Indoor title, taking 800m gold in Valencia. Today in Istanbul, Ethiopia’s Mohamed Aman won gold in exactly the same event, but at just 18 years and 61 days he did so at an even younger age than Kaki.
Even more surprising though was the fact that world leader Adam Kszcot, the Pole who has run 1:44.57 this year, was run out of the medals as Britain’s Andrew Osagie came through to win bronze. Kszczot had tried to control the pace and led for the first three laps, going through in 29.29, 56.29 and 1:22.56. But as the kick for home began, he was passed by Aman and Jakub Holusa of the Czech Republic.
Osagie, who had been near the back for much of the race, saved enough for the final 100m to stride past Kszczot. Up front, Aman won gold in 1:48.36 – the slowest winning time in World Indoor history – from Holusa (1:48.62) and Osagie (1:48.92) with Kszczot in fourth.
Unlike the men’s race, the women’s 800m final was a fast one as Pamela Jelimo signalled her return at the top of women’s middle-distance running. USA’s Erica Moore, a former heptathlete, did much of the early work and led the field through 200m in 28.13 and 400m in 57.69. Russia’s Yelena Kofanova then took up the running, but Jelimo was still in contact and the Kenyan kicked hard.
As Jelimo hit the front, Moore was still holding on for dear life as Ukraine’s Natalia Lupu was making up ground fast. Jelimo held on to win with a Kenyan record and world-leading time of 1:58.83 as Lupu took silver from Moore, 1:59.67 to 1:59.97.
After the withdrawal of Olympic champion Dayron Robles, China’s Liu Xiang was favoured to regain his world indoor title in the 60m hurdles. But he was upstaged in the final by US indoor champion Aries Merritt, who won gold in 7.44. Merritt has long been one of the best hurdlers on the circuit, but since winning world junior gold in 2004 he has never fulfilled that same promise on the senior stage – until now.
He reacted fastest of all finalists and could not be caught. Liu, visibly under pressure and not looking as smooth as he has done in the past, ran 7.49 to take silver as France’s Pascal Martinot-Lagarde won bronze (7.53). Great Britain’s Andy Pozzi, having clocked a PB of 7.56 in the semis to become the third-fastest European 19-year-old in history, produced his second-best run to date to finish fourth in 7.58 on his global senior championships debut.
Veronica Campbell-Brown had only raced twice this year before heading to Istanbul, but the sprinting world knows better than to discount the Jamaican. Leading into the World Indoors, Campbell-Brown had won eight individual global titles, including the 60m title in Doha two years ago.
Despite a poor start, Campbell-Brown successfully defended her title with a run of 7.01 – her second-fastest ever run. Murielle Ahoure of the Ivory Coast – who had been leading for much of the race – took silver with a national record of 7.04, while US indoor champion Tianna Madison got the bronze (7.09), becoming the first woman to win world indoor medals in both the 60m and long jump, following her 2006 gold in the latter event.
Britain’s Asha Philip came agonisingly close to making the final, missing out by 0.01 after running 7.24 to finish fourth in her semi final. World junior champion Jodie Williams was further off the pace, running 7.32 to place sixth in her semi.
Jumpers Will Claye and Christian Taylor are well accustomed to competing against each other. They have been college team-mates in Florida for several years and both made the triple jump final at last year’s World Championships, where Taylor took gold and Claye bronze. Claye beat Taylor to the US indoor title two weeks ago, and for a moment in today’s triple jump final it looked as though Taylor would exact revenge for that defeat.
Taylor opened the competition with an indoor PB of 17.63m, while Claye was under 17 metres on his first jump and followed it with two fouls. But then in the fourth round Claye came alive with a leap of 17.70m. He followed it with jumps of 17.63m and 17.53m as Taylor could not respond. In third, Russia’s Lyukman Adams jumped a PB of 17.36m to get the better of Italian duo Fabrizio Donato and Daniele Greco, both jumping 17.28m.
The men’s high jump final saw one of the most surprising winners of the weekend as Greece’s Dimitrios Chondrokoukis upstaged Olympic champion Andrey Silnov to win on countback, both clearing 2.33m. Defending champion Ivan Ukhov had to settle for bronze with 2.31m as Britain’s Robbie Grabarz cleared the same height to finish a respectable sixth on his global championship debut, tied with world champion Jesse Williams.