Heat victory for Wightman, while fellow Scot O’Hare struggles with foot problem in Birmingham
Both British athletes booked their places in the IAAF World Indoor Championships 1500m final in Birmingham on Saturday morning, but whether both can run on Sunday is another matter.
Jake Wightman secured his spot after a heat win in 3:47.23, while Chris O’Hare – struggling with a foot problem – finished fifth in his race, but progresses as a fastest loser.
Heat one started with a slow 63.06 opening 400m but then Ethiopian Aman Wote put in a split of 58.52 followed by a testing 56.65 400m.
Over the last 300m, it was Moroccan Abdelaati Iguider, who has finished in the top five the last three Olympics, who had the best kick and won in 3:40.13 from Wote’s 3:40.20.
Ben Blankenship and European indoor champion Marcel Lewandowski missed out on automatic spots but qualified for the final as fastest losers, like O’Hare in fifth.
The Scot had gone into the race unbeaten but was clearly not at his best after the foot injury which had kept him from the UK trials.
He lost contact in the last 400m and must have thought any chance of a final place had disappeared as the leading quartet went away and he finished fifth in 3:42.46.
“I thought the injury was going to be okay,” he said. “I’ve avoided the indoor track, and managed to do some good sessions on the outdoor track in the hope it would hold up for seven and a half laps. But at 800m I took a couple of steps where I was smashing that lateral chain and that sent that nerve shock up the spine. Then it’s just hard to shake that off and concentrate on the plan and when it picked up even more I tried to push through that leg and it wasn’t coming.
“At the end of the day it’s a world champs and you’ve got to be on your A-game to get through it. Unfortunately these last two weeks have been choppy but I’d hoped that I was good enough to get through it.”
Fitness permitting, @chrisohare1500 will be in the 1500m final as a fastest loser. Some comment after the heat on his foot problem, which he hoped would “hold up” after an encouraging couple of weeks #IAAFworlds @BritAthletics @scotathletics pic.twitter.com/28IFvYKKzh
However the second heat, while slightly quicker through 400m with 62.83, deteriorated into a mid-race dawdle and although Samuel Tefera eventually picked the pace up, the race was won in a slow 3:44.00 with Vincent Kibet holding off Ryan Gregson for the final spot, with the Aussie paying for not pushing on earlier.
The 2015 European indoor champion Jakub Holusa, normally a renowned kicker, was surprisingly eliminated in such a slow-paced race.
Aldershot’s Harvey Dixon set a Gibraltar record of 3:49.89.
While the second heat runners chose not to run a quick pace, it was a case of the vast majority of runners in a weakened heat three not being able to run fast.
They jogged through 800m in 2:06.49 and Wightman completed the third 400m in a barely faster 62.73 to reach 1200m in 3:09.22.
The Briton was in a race being commentated on by his father Geoff, who was impossible to hear over the crowd roar, and he shot around the last 300m in an electric 38.01 to win from Craig Engels in 3:47.23.
With two disqualifications, only the first three broke four minutes.
“That was all right,” said Wightman. “Back-to-back races are things I haven’t done too much of, but it’s good that it’s in the morning so I can go home and spend the whole day recovering.
“I felt pretty strong out there, probably had to work a bit harder than I thought I would because there were still three of us there on the last lap and that’s because the pace wasn’t that quick. When I hit the last lap in front, the crowd were roaring which is always going to help you keep your form down that home straight.”
Francine Niyonsaba of Burundi and Shelayna Oskan-Clarke of Britain led the women’s 800m qualifiers.
Oskan-Clarke won her heat in 2:01.76 and will line up in Sunday’s final against a tough field that includes Niyonsaba, Selina Buchel and Ajee Wilson, although one of the favourites, Margaret Wambui, was disqualified in her heat for a lane infringement.
Oskan-Clarke’s GB team-mate Mhairi Hendry did not progress, though, finishing third in her heat in 2:02.65.
Coleman, Baker and Ujah advance
In the men’s 60m, Ronnie Baker of the United States led the qualifiers in the first round with 6.57, while Brits CJ Ujah (6.59) and Andrew Robertson (6.74) also made it through – although the latter had a nervous time after a false start scare and then having to wait to see if he was one of the fastest losers.
World record-holder Christian Coleman also qualified comfortably in a heat that featured 41-year-old Kim Collins of St Kitts & Nevis lining up alongside the youngest athlete in the championships – 16-year-old Jacob El Aida of Malta – although neither progressed.
Heptathlon nears exciting conclusion
After dominating day one, world decathlon champion Kevin Mayer did not have things all his own way in the first event of day two in the heptathlon.
In the 60m hurdles, Damian Warner closed the gap courtesy of a fast 7.67 clocking with Mayer timing 7.83.
After five events, the score was Mayer on 4561 with Warner just four points back. Kaz Kazmirek moved into third on 4416 points with a 7.95 time as Maicel Uibo dropped to fourth on 4371.
With a pre-event 5.60m PB in the pole vault, Mayer was expected to pull well away from Warner, who had a modest 4.80m best. However, Warner excelled to clear a PB 4.90m and Mayer could do no better than his opening height of 5.00m and he exited at 5.20m.
This means the lead going into the 1000m is just 34 points and the pair look evenly matched with both having 2:37 best times.
Kazmirek retained third courtesy of a 5.20m vault though Uibo cleared 5.30m – along with equal best Eelco Sintnicolaas. The German has now scored 5388 to Uibo’s 5375 points and again the pair look very evenly matched at the five-lap event with 2:39 PBs.
In the men’s 4x400m the United States led the qualifiers with a time of 3:04.00. Behind, Great Britain also qualified courtesy of Owen Smith, Seb Rodger, Jamal Rhoden-Stevens and Grant Plenderleith, as the host nation team ran 3:05.29. Belgium and Poland also impressed ahead of Sunday’s final.
The winners in the women’s heats were United States with 3:30.54 and Jamaica with 3:32.01, as GB’s Amy Allcock, Anyika Onuora, Hannah Williams and Meghan Beesley combined to clock 3:32.57 and finish second in the first heat, also making the final. Joining them will be Ukraine, Poland and Italy.
» For full coverage, see the March 8 issue of Athletics Weekly