15 Thoughts Looking Back at The 2013 IAAF World Championships in Athletics

By LetsRun.com
August 26, 2013

After two plus weeks in Russia, the entire LetsRun.com staff is back in the US and adjusted to the eight hour time change. As a result, we’ve come up with 15 thoughts about the 2013 IAAF World Championships.

1) The Favorites Came Through:

In both the men’s and women’s action, the biggest story line was how the favorites all came through and delivered. You could have basically cancelled the world championships and handed out the gold medals ahead of time as the favorite won all of the mid-d and distance events except for one event in each gender.

Mohammed Aman (800), Asbel Kiprop (1500), and Mo Farah (5000 and 10,000) all delivered gold as favorites on the men’s side.

womens 800 odds 100/1 for Sum

In the women’s action, Abebe Aregawi (1500), Milcah Chemos (steeple), Meseret Defar (5000) and Tirunesh Dibaba (10,000) all delivered as favorites.

The two upsets came in the men’s steeplechase and women’s 800 and the women’s 800 was the only true stunner as there Kenya’s Eunice Sum stunned Russia’s Mariya Savinova. Sum came in at odds of 100/1 for gold according to Ladbrokes.

We’re not sure if the men’s steeple really should be considered to have been a big upset as the upset winner was only the reigning Olympic and World Champ Ezekiel Kemboi, and he and betting favorite Conseslus Kipruto had very similar odds.

2) Best US Performance – Jenny Simpson:

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Simpson pushed Aregawi to her limit

Mid-d and distance wise, the US won three silvers with Nick Symmonds (men’s 800), Jenny Simpson (women’s 1500) and Matthew Centrowitz (men’s 1500) and one bronze thanks to Brenda Martinez (women’s 800).

Which one of those medals was most impressive to us? While Nick Symmonds was the closest to winning gold time wise (.24 seconds), we were most impressed with Simpson.

Symmonds took advantage of David Rudisha and Nijel Amos being out. Simpson, on the other hand, competed very well against a woman, Abebe Aregawi, who just might be one of the all-time greats if you ignore the suspected dopers.

Simpson ended up just .32 behind Aregawi which is impressive. Everyone else in the field was left way, way behind. The bronze medallist was 1.19 away from Aregawi and fifth was 2.41 seconds in arrears. Simpson ran a tremendous race, she was just beat by a better runner.

3) Most Successful Worlds For US Mid-D/Distance Wise Ever:

Regardless of which medal was most impressive, all four deserve props for bringing home a medal for the US as it was the most successful World Championships ever for the US in the mid-d and distance vents.

US Mid-d/Distance Medals at Worlds
4 – 2013 (800 men/silver, 1500 men/silver, 800 women/bronze, 1500 women/silver)
3 – 2011 (1500 men/bronze, 5000 men/silver, 1500 women/gold)
3 – 2009 (1500 men/bronze, 5000 men/silver, 1500 women/bronze)
3 – 2007 (1500 men/gold, 5000 men/gold, 10,000 women/bronze)
2 – 1997 (800 men/bronze, 1500 women/silver*)
3 – 1983 (1500 men/silver, 1500 women/gold*, 3000 women/gold*)
1 – 1999 (1500 women/silver)
1 – 1991 (800 men/bronze)
1 – 1987 (1500 men/bronze)
0 – 2005, 2003, 2001, 1995, 1993.
*later convicted of doping offense

4) Biggest Flop (men) – Dejen Gebremeskel (Ethiopia):

The 23-year old ran a world leading 12:46.81 for 5000 last year and left London with silver in the men’s 5000 after running a last lap that was very similar to Mo Farah’s. This year, he came into Moscow with a world leading 26:51.02 in the 10,000. Could he possibly upset Farah?

No way. He fell off the pace before the racing even began and left with a 16th place finish.

5) Biggest Flop (women) – Genzebe Dibaba (Ethiopia):

Tirunesh’s little sister ran 3:57 for 1500 in May. She also ran 3:57 last year for 1500. Yet she ends 2013 with her highest ever finish at Worlds/Olympics being the eighth place she recorded in this year’s final (she went out in the first round last year after suffering a mid-season injury).

She had an excuse last year, not this year.

6) Biggest Surprise – Eunice Sum (Kenya):

We mentioned the 24-year old above but when a 100/1 to longshot wins, she deserves her own little section. Sum surprised herself as she admitted after winning that she didn’t even expect to be on the podium.

After Moscow, Sum showed her win was far from a fluke as she won the Stockholm Diamond League as well.

7) Biggest Surprise (US) – Ajee Wilson (United States):

Ajee Wilson ran stride for stride with Brenda Martinez for much of the final 200

There is no doubt that the 19-year old entered Moscow with plenty of accolades as after all there is a reason why she won the 2011 World Youth and 2012 World Junior titles, but she’d only broken 2:00 once in her life (1:59.55 to make the US team with a 3rd place showing in Des Moines) and it looked as if she was at least two years away from being ready to compete at the absolute highest level of the sport.

Instead, Wilson was on top of her game in all three races in Moscow (she ran 2:00.00 – the 2nd fastest time of her career in the very first round) and left with a sixth place result and huge 1:58.21 pb – a new American junior record.

1:58.21 makes Wilson the 12th fastest junior woman in history over 800. If you remove all of the Chinese/German names above her on the list, Wilson is #5 all time.

The All-Time Women’s Junior 800 List With All Germans/Chinese Removed
1. Pamela Jelimo – Kenya – 1:54.01
2. Caster Semenya – South Africa – 1:55.45
3. Francine Niyonsaba – Burundi – 1:56.59
4. Maria Mutola – Mozambique – 1:57.63
5. Ajee Wilson – USA – 1:58.21

After Moscow, Wilson, much like Sum, went to Stockholm and proved her result in Moscow was far from a fluke as she challenged for the lead late and ended up fourth in 1:59.96.

8) Comeback Athlete – Ibrahim Jeilan (Ethiopia):

Two years ago in Daegu, Jeilan upset Mo Farah to capture the men’s 10,000. He then proceeded to miss all of last year and his comeback this year started slowly.

In May, he was trying to out-kick American Ben True for third in New York. Two and a half months later, he was in Moscow snagging silver in the men’s 10,000.

Jeilan is a big, big talent as he won World junior xc gold in 2008 and world junior 10,000 gold in 2006. He’s still just 24. He’s our favorite for 2015 gold whether Mo Farah races or not. In 2015, Farah will be 32, Jeilan 26.

9) Pure Dominance – Asbel Kiprop (Kenya):

Kiprop won the men’s 1500 by exactly half a second. That may not seem like a lot, but trust us, in the super competitive world of men’s distance running it is.

To put in perspective for you, realize that silver medallist Matt Centrowitz finished closer to seventh (.43 seconds) than he did first.

That may seem hard to believe but at the world level, men’s distance running is super competitive. It’s hard to be significantly better than anyone else. Women’s running still isn’t nearly as competitive as men’s running as shown by the following chart.

One man stood out in the men’s 1500 – Asbel Kiprop

Difference in Time Between 1st & 5th Place at 2013 IAAF World Championships

Event Men Women
800 1.05 .67
1500 .75 2.41
Steeple 2.66 5.32
5,000 2.03 15.19
10,000 3.56 13.35

10) Biggest Heartbreak – Alysia Montaño (USA):

Watching it all unravel for her in the final 200 was hard to watch for many US fans. While we think Montano’s pacing is far from ideal, we do think she has nothing to be ashamed of.

She deserves credit for laying it all out there and the fact of the matter is she ran the 7th fastest time of her career and only didn’t medal because two people ran lifetime PBs to snag gold and bronze.

In many aspects, she ran the exact same race she did in last year’s Olympics (she ran 1:57.93 in London after a 56.31 400 and 1:26.6-7 600; she ran 1:57.95 in Moscow after a 56.12 400 and 1:26.49 600) except this one was more painful to watch as no one else went with her early in Moscow like they did in London. With the level of competition down in Moscow as compared to London, expectations were also much higher as many thought Montaño might be able to snag gold.

Criticizing Montaño’s pacing is something that should be done another day. In all sports, a team/individual shouldn’t suddenly change what got them to the sports biggest stage whether it’s the Wimbledon final, Super Bowl or Olympic/World Championship final.

11) Classiest Post-Race Interviews – Kirani James (Grenada) and Alysia Montaño (USA):

The sports with big-time money like say the NBA require players to do post-game interviews. You’d think that track and field, where many athletes survive on endorsement income, would require the same. Think again.

Many athletes who disappointed in Moscow practically ran faster through the mixed zone faster than they did in their races. Two people stood out.

Kirani James and Alysia Montaño.

James went into Moscow as the reigning World and Olympic champion and as the 2013 World leader. A silver medal at a minimum was almost assured as he and LaShawn Merritt had a monopoly on the top times on the year. Somehow, when the men’s 400 final was over, James left with a 7th place finish.

Did James act like disappointed three-year old and blow off the media? Nope, he did interview after interview, admitted he had no idea what had just happened and came across as a guy with total class. You can watch our video interview with him on the right.

If anyone could have been excused for skipping the post-raced mixed zone, it would have been Montaño who after falling to the track at the finish, just .04 away from America’s first ever World Championship medal in the women’s 800, she’d been unable to keep away the tears.

Instead, she tearfully talked to the press after a full-minute of sobbing (audio of our interview with Montaño here).

12) Biggest Boneheaded Move: Tie Between Isiah Koech (Kenya) and Amantle Montsho (Botswana):

We have no idea how people can get to a World Championship final and then not run through the line. In the case of Montsho, it cost her gold and a ton of money in the women’s 400 final. In the case of Koech, it cost him silver in the men’s 5000 final.

Run through the line and lean, 100% off the time. Our weekly free coaching advice.

13) Why Wasn’t Kemboi Fined/Disciplined?

Amidst all of the talk about Russia’s laws on homosexuality, it became clear that the IAAF and IOC don’t allow athletes to make political statements. As the secretary-general for the Swedes, Anders Albertsson, said, “The code of conduct clearly states the rules do not allow any commercial or political statements during the competition.”

Then can someone tell us then why Ezekiel Kemboi wasn’t fined or sanctioned for his very public political statement after winning the 2013 men’s steeplechase?

This is certainly a political statement

14) Sure the attendance was disappointing but the weather was sublime.

After Moscow, Rojo went to St. Petersburg for a few days of sightseeing, meaning he was in Russia for 2.5 weeks. Every single day almost was 70 degrees and sunny. Looking back, it’s clear the first few days of the World Champs were certainly unseasonably warm (it was very hot on the day of the women’s marathon) but based on weather, Russia would be a great place to have the Olympics. Unless you live on the West Coast, New England or upstate New York, many in the US fail to realize that the summer can truly be enjoyed outdoors without becoming drenched in sweat.

15) Shannon Rowbury and Molly Huddle Didn’t Blow Their Medal Chances By Not Going For It

After worlds, a mini controversy broke out when blogger Kevin Liao criticized US 5000 runners Molly Huddle and Shannon Rowbury for voluntarily choosing to not go with the leaders when they pace got hot in the middle of the women’s 5000.

Our thoughts? We have three and they are rather simple and to the point.

i) We understand why people like Liao thought this was the case as the BBC announcers and Rowbury both talked about it.

Many people watching the race live likely were doing so via the BBC stream and the BBC announcers during the race made a comment along the lines of you could almost see the Americans debating whether to go with the increase in pace or not. Then post-race Rowbury gave that line of reasoning support when she said in a post-race interview (embedded below), “In retrospect, with about five laps to go, the leaders, the top 4 kind of took off and I hesitated. I thought about going but didn’t and that’s where I think I took myself out of a shot for a medal.”

ii) The fact of the matter is no amount of guts would have allowed Rowbury and Huddle to stay close in the women’s 5000 once the top women from Africa decided to make an honest run of it about mid-way through the race.

Rowbury is a very successful elite athlete because she’s talented, works hard and believes in herself so it’s probably a little bit of a good thing that she’s a bit delusional when thinking about her medal prospects. In reality, Rowbury didn’t take herself out of a shot for a medal – the African runners shoving the pace down midway through the race eliminated Rowbury from medal contention.

Barring some weird combination of food poisoning/illness and/or falls for the top Ethiopian/Kenyan entrants, Rowbury had essentially no chance of a medal unless the pace stayed over 15:30 pace for the entire first 4k. Thus once the pace started going mid-way through the race, it was over for the Americans no matter how badly they did or didn’t want it.

The winning time ended up being 14:50 – very fast by American standards (Huddle’s American record is 14:44, Rowbury’s lifetime pb is 15:00) – even though the first half was run at a pedestrian 15:36 pace.

iii) Despite what people think, it was actually smart for the Americans to not go with the pace increase mid-way though the race.

The American record holder, Molly Huddle is more experienced in the 5000 than Rowbury. Thus it’s no surprise that we thought Huddle’s post-race comments were right on the money. When asked, if she thought about sticking with the pace increase to see what might happen, Huddle responded that she actually thought it was smart not to go with the pace.

“I think I’m realistic enough to know that if I’m going to break into the medals it’s going to be (the result of) someone else’s misfortune kind of,” said Huddle. “Not that I can’t do it. But I’m going to really have to hunt and be smart about it. I think I know my PR level is probably mid 14:30s and they can run 14 teens so you really have to use what you have wisely.”

Huddle knew that if she was going to medal, someone else would have to make a mistake. Sometimes, particularly when it’s hot, runners bite off more than they can handle. If Huddle runs smart, and they blow up, maybe she steals a medal like when Wesley Korir came from basically a minute back to win Boston in 2012.

In the end, that didn’t happen but Huddle still did end up with the highest finish every by an American woman at Worlds in the 5000 (6th).

Molly Huddle Post Race
Shannon Rowbury Post Race

*Shannon Rowbury Post-5000 Interview

*Molly Huddle Post-5000 Interview


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