Matt Centrowitz and Vashti Cunningham among the winners on the final day of the IAAF World Indoor Championships in Portland
Host nation USA claimed a further five gold medals on the final day of IAAF World Indoor Championships action in Portland, with Matt Centrowitz, Vashti Cunningham and both 4x400m teams among those to take titles.
With a total of 13, USA claimed half of the gold medals on offer and added to that tally with six silvers and four bronzes. Second in the medal table was Ethiopia, with two gold, two silver and one bronze, while Great Britain was down in 16th with three medals – silver by Robbie Grabarz and two bronze medals by Lorraine Ugen and Tiffany Porter.
While certainly not the nation’s worst tally – no medals were claimed in Moscow in 2006, for example – there is a considerable difference to the nine medals claimed by GB in the last Olympic year. Athletes will be looking to make the most of the home advantage when Britain hosts the next edition of the World Indoors in Birmingham in 2018.
So there was plenty for the home fans to celebrate at the Oregon Convention Center on Sunday and one event to gain some of the loudest cheers was the men’s 1500m. After outdoor world silver and bronze medals claimed in 2013 and 2011 respectively, USA’s Centrowitz got gold and he did it in style.
Tracking New Zealand’s Nick Willis, Centrowitz had saved enough for a final surge and powered over the line in 3:44.22 as a fast-finishing Jakub Holusa dipped to deny Willis the silver – 3:44.30 to 3:44.37. It was another storming finish by Czech Holusa, who claimed the European title in similar fashion last winter. Britain’s Chris O’Hare clocked 3:46.50 for eighth.
After describing getting his first global gold on not only home soil but in his home city as a “double-whammy”, Centrowitz added: “It was awesome taking that victory lap and seeing a lot of family, a lot of friends, team-mates, even neighbours and familiar faces who have never been to a track race.
“I’m going to let this moment sink in and enjoy it. Outdoor track is very different than indoor track. I’ll use this momentum and carry it into outdoors, but I’ll understand fully that there are some other Africans who are waiting for us on the big oval.”
The winning high jump height might have been the lowest ever at the World Indoors but it was historic for another reason as 18-year-old American Vashti Cunningham became the youngest female winner at the event.
The new world under-20 indoor record-holder thanks to her 1.99m cleared in Portland the weekend before, Cunningham had four first-time clearances up to her winning height of 1.96m and therefore won on countback ahead of Spain’s Ruth Beitia, who in contrast was competing at her eighth World Indoor Championships. Poland’s Kamila Licwinko bagged bronze having also cleared 1.96m as Britain’s Isobel Pooley was unable to clear 1.93m and finished joint 10th.
Like in the men’s 1500m, there was a thrilling finish to the men’s 3000m which saw victory for Ethiopia’s world junior 5000m champion Yomif Kejelcha in 7:57.21 as US champion Ryan Hill made the most of the home support to move from fifth to second, securing silver thanks to a dip for the line to pip Kenya’s IAAF World Indoor Tour winner Augustine Choge 7:57.39 to 7:57.43. British champion Lee Emanuel placed sixth in 8:00.70.
Up in the next event on the track, Hill’s team-mate Ajee’ Wilson also worked hard in the closing stages to add another silver to the host nation’s tally. Moving ahead just after the halfway point, the Mark Rowland-coached Francine Niyonsaba of Burundi held her lead and finished in a world-leading 2:00.01 ahead of Wilson, who overtook Kenya’s Margaret Wambui in the final straight and clocked 2:00.27 to the Kenyan’s 2:00.44 PB. Laura Roesler just missed out on another medal for USA as she finished fourth.
World record-holder Genzebe Dibaba made easy work of her 3000m victory, cruising over the line in 8:47.43 to beat her Ethiopia team-mate Meseret Defar by over six seconds. Four-time champion Defar clocked 8:54.26 ahead of Shannon Rowbury’s 8:55.55, while Britain’s Steph Twell had a fine run to finish sixth in 9:00.38. Twell’s fellow Scot Josephine Moultrie ran 9:29.10 for 13th.
In the men’s 60m hurdles, Omar McLeod became the first Jamaican to claim a world indoor hurdles medal since 2004 and not only that – it was the gold. With a world lead-equalling 7.41 he took the title ahead of French duo Pascal Martinot-Lagarde and Dimitri Bascou with 7.46 and 7.48 respectively. Britain’s Lawrence Clarke had earlier finished sixth in his semi-final.
The men’s long jump title was claimed by the backwards baseball cap-wearing Marquis Dendy, who leapt 8.26m in the second round. Australia’s Fabrice Lapierre just missed out with his area indoor record 8.25m for silver, while the margin between third and fourth was almost as close as China’s Changzhou Huang denied Jeff Henderson another USA medal with his final jump, recording 8.21m to the American’s 8.19m. Britain’s Dan Bramble leapt an indoor PB of 8.14m for sixth, also bettering his previous best with 8.12m during the competition.
Ending the championships on a high for USA, both 4x400m teams claimed victory – the men’s quartet clocking 3:02.45 and the women’s team 3:26.38.
The events weren’t without incident, though, as Patricia Hall fell on the first leg to end Jamaica’s medal hopes in the women’s event and Robin Vanderbemden – the only non-Borlee brother on the Belgium team – seemed to be nudged in the men’s race and dropped the baton. With Bahamas claiming men’s 4x400m silver with a national indoor record time of 3:04.75, Chris Brown now has a total of 13 global medals.
» Earlier online coverage of the IAAF World Indoor Championships in Portland can be found here, while the March 24 edition of AW magazine will include in-depth reports, pictures and results