Day 4: Teenage Grenadan Kirani James Nips Merritt, Zaripova Takes Steeple Going Away

Jenny Simpson And Morgan Uceny Both Advance To 1,500m Final On Busy Evening

August 30, 2011
Daegu, South Korea

Men's 400m Final: Kirani James Dethrones Reigning Champ And Brings Glory To Grenada

18-year-old Kirani James moved ahead of defending world champion LaShawn Merritt in the final meters of the race to win Grenada's first World Championships medal of any type. Former NCAA 4th-placer Kevin Borlee said he hoped to make the final at these championships, but with a determined push at the end of the race, surged past Jamaican Jermaine Gonzales to earn bronze with his twin brother Jonathan taking 5th.

James has handled himself with the utmost class during the championships. "I have enjoyed being here representing my country," he said after the race, "And making everyone happy back in Grenada." He was joined in the final by countryman Rondell Bartholemew, who finished 6th.

Quick Thought #1 : The race was a testament to how good the NCAA is at sprinting for a number of reasons:

1. First, and this is our STAT OF THE WEEK: Did you realize it was harder to make the NCAA final this year than the Worlds final? Yes, that's right. At NCAAs, it took at 45.29 to get in on time. At Worlds, it took a 45.41. Supporting this point is the fact that Texas A&M's Tabarie Henry didn't even make the NCAA final this year and yet he was in the Worlds final.

2. 6 guys in the WC 400m final have NCAA ties.

Men's 400m Final

3. James' win reminded us in many ways of this year's NCAA final, where he seemingly willed himself to a come-from-behind victory in the final strides to repeat as champion by .04. Here, he willed himself to a .03 come-from-behind victory.

4. Kevin Borlee was only 4th at NCAAs when he competed for Florida State and now he has the bronze. He is still, however, the "slow" twin as his brother Jonathan (5th) still has the Belgium record.

Quick Thought #2: A couple of notes on LaShawn Merritt:
1. His reaction time in the final (shown below on the right) was 0.263, which was 0.126 slower than Kirani James'. The finishing margin was 0.03.
2. Merritt ran a 44.35 world-leading time in the first round and 44.63 in the final.

*Post-Race Comments From The Medallists

More From The LRC Boards: Kirani James: 18 years old and World Champion

Position Lane Bib Athlete Country Mark React
1 5 525 Kirani James GRN 44.60 (PB) 0.137
2 4 1099 LaShawn Merritt USA 44.63 0.263
3 6 171 Kévin Borlée BEL 44.90 0.182
4 3 594 Jermaine Gonzales JAM 44.99 0.138
5 8 170 Jonathan Borlée BEL 45.07 0.160
6 2 524 Rondell Bartholomew GRN 45.45 0.314
7 7 565 Tabarie Henry ISV 45.55 0.167
8 1 874 Femi Ogunode QAT 45.55 0.170


Women's Steeplechase Final: Zaripova Impressive, Ghribi Wins Silver For Arab Spring Tunisia, Kenya's Cheywa Bronze

Post-Race Press Conference With Medallists

Russia's 2009 WC silver medallist Yuliya Zaripova led through every 1,000 (3:00, 3:04, 3:02) and dominated a race many (including 90% of our prediction contestants) thought Milcah Chemos would dominate. Zaripova's finishing time of 9:07 represents a world lead that she did with almost zero help from other runners - a classic win. The Kenyan trio of Milcah Chemos Cheywa, Mercy Njoroge and Lydia Rotich tried to hang on for medals, but Tunisian Habiba Ghribi moved up to take a convincing silver ahead of the 2011 undefeated Cheywa. After the race, Njoroge and Rotich said they do not have much practice over barriers, and a Kenyan media member reminded us that in Kenya, the women's steeplechase is really only contested at the national level, not at a regional level, leaving very few opportunities for the top Kenyan steeplers to train over barriers (click here for a picture of a steeple in Kenya).

USA entrant Emma Coburn finished way back in 9:51, far off her 9:37 best, but good enough to best veteran GBR steepler Barbara Parker.

In post race comments, Ghribi mentioned that training this spring with the Arab Spring revolution going on in Tunisia. She said, "I still remember while I'm training in the stadium, there were fires everywhere as I was running." She eventually had to shift to training in France to complete her preparations. During the steeple final she thought of the struggles in her homeland: "I was thinking as I was running of the people who suffered a lot during the revolution. My objective was to give a gift to the people of Tunisia. I hope that I brought a smile to all Tunisian people." AP article on her here.

Quick Thought #1: (From a guy watching it on the internet in the US): What are these announcers talking about in that it's rare to break up the Kenyans? Do they realize that the Kenyan women are the opposite of the Kenyan men in the steeple? While the Kenyan men have never lost a Worlds or Olympic title, the Kenyan women have never won. In fact, some of their top steeplers don't even regularly train over barriers, as 4th placer Mercy Njoroge explains to us in the interview below.

QT#2: We are sure that a ton of people during the steeple were thinking, "Let's be sure there are drug testers at the finish line because two lightly-raced people are going 1-2."

Given the sport's history, that's a natural thought to have, but we're not sure if it's valid in this case. First of all, the silver medallist Ghribi did race twice in the Diamond League this year - in Rome and Lausanne. Someone who opens in 9:20 in May should be able to run 9:11 in August. All she did was basically run what she did in 2009. In 2009, she ran 9:12 and was 6th. She hasn't suddenly improved or emerged - the event has just gotten weaker this year.

The same is true for the winner Zaripova. In 2009 she ran 9:08.39 to get the silver. Here she ran 9:07.03 to get the gold. She has seen other Russians run 9:00 and under, so running 9:07 to her (and her teammate who we talked to briefly after the race) is no surprise.

QT#3: Jenny Simpson's 9:12.50 PR would have earned the bronze tonight, and Ghribi winning silver in '11 is the same Ghribi who finished behind Simpson in Berlin '09.

QT#4: Hindsight is always 20-20, but should Cheywa really have been such an overwhelming favorite? 90% of people in our prediction contest picked her to win. Yes, we know she was undefeated on the year and the world leader, but she hadn't run faster than 9:12 and that was back in May. In reality, we hadn't seen her really race non-Kenyans since the end of June. Her 2011 steeples appear below:

9:16.44   1DiamondDoha6 May
9:12.89  SB (1)
1GGalaRoma26 May
 9:27.29   1adidasNew York NY 11 Jun
1AthletissimaLausanne30 Jun
1h1NCNairobi14 Jul
1NCNairobi16 Jul
1AvivaLondon6 Aug

Yes, we know that she did beat a watered-down London field on August 6th, but in that race she only ran 9:22. We remember her looking over her shoulder on the backstretch. At the time we were thinking that glance could mean two things:
1. She is seeing who is near her so she can do as little work as possible.
2. She's really hurting and has nothing left.

Now, given her wins in tight race after tight race using her kick, it looks like it was more the latter than the former. Her fitness isn't and wasn't gold medal-worthy.

Women's Steeple Photo Courtesy Of

Women's Steeplechase Final Results

Position Bib Athlete Country Mark
1 791 Yuliya Zaripova RUS 9:07.03 (WL)
2 853 Habiba Ghribi TUN 9:11.97 (NR)
3 574 Milcah Chemos Cheywa KEN 9:17.16
4 584 Mercy Wanjiku Njoroge KEN 9:17.88
5 588 Lydia Chebet Rotich KEN 9:25.74
6 337 Sofia Assefa ETH 9:28.24
7 867 Binnaz Uslu TUR 9:31.06
8 646 Hanane Ouhaddou MAR 9:32.36
9 427 Gesa Felicitas Krause GER 9:32.74 (PB)
10 346 Birtukan Fente ETH 9:36.81
11 762 Lyubov Kharlamova RUS 9:44.14
12 725 Sara Moreira POR 9:47.87
13 927 Emma Coburn USA 9:51.40
14 402 Barbara Parker GBR 9:56.66
15 334 Birtukan Adamu ETH 10:05.10


Women's 1,500m Semifinals: Uceny And Simpson Impress, Favorites Burka And Langat Eliminated

American fans were certainly impressed with both semifinal heats of the women's 1,500, as Morgan Uceny (see her interview, right) easily qualified out of heat 1 and Jenny Simpson qualified with a bang out of a weakened heat 2 (Ethiopian powerhouse Gelete Burka DNFed after grabbing her hamstring and 2008 Olympic champ Nancy Langat finished last in 4:12 after dominating in 2010).

Heat 1 was slow, with early laps reading in the 70s, and was eventually won by 20-year-old European junior runner-up Turk Tugba Karakaya. Kenya's only final entrant finished second (Hellen Obiri), while places 3-5 represent the bigger names (Maryam Jamal, Kalkedan Gezahegne and Uceny). Heat 1 had zero time qualifiers, eliminating Spain's Nuria Fernandez. Once the pace picked up, American World Championships medallist Shannon Rowbury couldn't hang on to the main contenders, fading to 12th out of 13.

After the race, Uceny talked about the sprint finish: "I knew it was gonna get rolling ... and coming down the homestretch I knew I had an extra gear if I needed to go to it, but I really didn't want to go to that gear, because I want to save something for the final, but I had to do a little bit more work than I wanted to do just to secure that final spot."

Heat 2 was only slightly quicker than heat 1. However, the entire field was together at the bell. American Jenny Simpson was in last place. Yet down the homestretch, none other than Simpson was at the front, leading along with 2009 World Champ DQ Natalia Rodriguez all the way to the finish. Simpson looked great alongside Rodriguez, who won in Berlin in 2009 but was DQed  for fouling Burka.

Simpson will have to work on her tactics before the final, as although the 1,500m is wide open this year, no way in the final can someone be last with 400m to go and expect to do any damage.

As we mentioned earlier, Burka and Langat failed to advance out of heat 2, leaving room for some lesser-known names to advance to the final, including Norway's former UW competitor Ingvil Makestad Bovill, Hannah England (who had horrible tactics herself in heat 2) from GBR and Ethiopian Mimi Belete.

With at least 2 of the big names now eliminated, the obvious question for American fans regards the medal chances of their two entrants in the final.

We talked to Uceny after the race, and she told us in no uncertain terms that she had another gear left for the final, and would have to make sure she changed her mindset from grabbing a top 5 spot to grabbing the top spot. Then again, Nick Symmonds said the same thing.

Simpson's heat ended up being much easier name-wise than the first, but her kick leaves plenty of room for excitement.

Looking at the final entrants, it's actually quite easy to imagine another American 1,500m medal, given that there are only three big names: Rodriguez, Jamal and Gezahegne in front of the Americans. Looking back to earlier races, Uceny has earned wins over Jamal and Gezahegne, and also suffered a loss in Monaco to Jamal and Moroccan Btissam Lakhouad (who nabbed the 5th auto from heat 2). In the 4-flat Monaco race, Simpson was 5th. It's quite likely that the final will be slower, giving Uceny and Simpson a definite shot at medals. Simpson has not shown in 2011 she's at the level of Uceny, but Simpson looked good today and is a big meet performer.

Women's 1.500 Semi Heat 1 Finish Photo Courtesy Of

Heat 1

30 August 2011 - 20:35
Position Bib Athlete Country Mark
1 861 Tugba Karakaya TUR 4:08.58 Q
2 586 Hellen Onsando Obiri KEN 4:08.93 Q
3 347 Kalkidan Gezahegne ETH 4:08.96 Q
4 184 Maryam Yusuf Jamal BRN 4:08.96 Q
5 982 Morgan Uceny USA 4:09.03 Q
6 316 Nuria Fernández ESP 4:09.53
7 644 Siham Hilali MAR 4:09.64
8 887 Anna Mishchenko UKR 4:09.78
9 787 Olesya Syreva RUS 4:09.83
10 117 Kaila McKnight AUS 4:10.83
11 709 Renata Plis POL 4:11.12
12 973 Shannon Rowbury USA 4:11.49
13 752 Natalya Evdokimova RUS 4:11.70


Heat 2
30 August 2011 - 20:46
Position Bib Athlete Country Mark
1 327 Natalia Rodríguez ESP 4:07.88 Q
2 919 Jennifer Barringer Simpson USA 4:07.90 Q
3 906 Nataliya Tobias UKR 4:07.99 Q
4 688 Ingvill Måkestad Bovim NOR 4:08.03 Q
5 645 Btissam Lakhouad MAR 4:08.10 Q
6 388 Hannah England GBR 4:08.31 q
7 180 Mimi Belete BRN 4:08.42 q
8 577 Viola Jelagat Kibiwot KEN 4:08.64
9 773 Ekaterina Martynova RUS 4:08.67
10 858 Asli Cakir TUR 4:11.51
11 582 Nancy Jebet Langat KEN 4:12.92
342 Gelete Burka ETH DNF


Quick Thoughts On The Women's Pole Vault Final, Women's Heptathlon And Men's/Women's 400H Semifnals (Results Here)

Women's Pole Vault: No Medals For Isinbayeva, Suhr:

Former pole vault queen Yelena Isinbayeva (right) laves Daegu without a medal, marking her 2nd straight World Championships failure after dozens of world records and 2008 Olympic gold. After signing a huge endorsement deal with Chinese company LiNing in 2009, Isinbayeva eventually announced she had to take a break from the sport to regain her hunger. Now that she's back, she finds herself struggling to get back on top of the competition, including 2011 champion Fabiana Murer of Brazil. American Jenn Suhr, completing a long comeback of her own, just missed the 4.75m needed for a medal, finishing 4th in 4.70m.

Women's Heptathlon And 800m: 2:05 Wins It;, Ennis' Javelin Falter Leaves Her With Silver, Hyleas Fountain Gives Up In The 800m
Hyleas Fountain needed to defeat Jennifer Oeser in the 800m to earn bronze, but her fight with injury and Oeser's 2:10 PR convinced Fountain to DNF the 800. British gold medal hope Jessica Ennis also competed admirably but came up short of gold, settling for silver behind Russia's Tatyana Chernova. The women's heptathlon 800 was won in a notable 2:05 by Karolina Tyminska.

An admittedly better read from the LRC Boards: Hept Athletes Slapping Themselves?

Men's 400 Hurdles: USA Qualifies 2, But Returning Champ Clement Goes Home With Groin Injury
Kerron Clement announced after getting last in his heat that he has battled a groin injury all year but didn't tell anyone. Batman Jackson and Angelo Taylor (fighting a bad plantar injury) made the final for the US, joining two South Africans, Puerto Rican heat winner Javier Culson, DR's veteran Felix Sanchez, and impressive heat winner David Greene (GBR). The final should be a wide open affair.

More From LRC Boards: What is happening in the 400 hurdles?

Women's 400 Hurdles: Lashinda Demus Gets Another Shot At Gold
USA's Lashinda Demus qualified way ahead of the field, and will again square off against the best from Jamaica and Russia. Demus finished 2nd in 2009 but this year says, "I'm just going out there and listening to what my coach says," hoping she can avoid missteps that have kept her from individual gold in the past.

And to close out the fourth exhausting day in Daegu, our vote for "sprint thread title of the day":
Men's 100m - Gay ails, Carter mails, Powell bails, Bolt fails, Blake hails, Lemaitre trails, Dix sails, Collins nails


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