By Jonathan Gault
July 9, 2020
The most exciting part of today’s Weltklasse Zürich Inspiration Games, which took place across six countries and 10 time zones, featured Noah Lyles running 185 meters on a track in Bradenton, Fla., a sentence that would have been downright bizarre to write six months ago but seems perfectly normal in this most unusual of track seasons. The distances are odd, the athletes are spread all over the globe, and while everyone in the sport is doing their best to get creative, this season is never going to be normal. So you may as well embrace the weird.
Unlike the rest of the meet, which featured races at 100 yards, 150 meters, and 300 meters (hurdles), Lyles, the reigning world champion, was scheduled to run his specialty distance of 200 meters, and briefly set off a firestorm on track Twitter when he won his race in the fantasy time of 18.90 seconds. That was later revealed to be too good to be true (Lyles started from the wrong line, meaning he ran 15 meters less than he should have), but it provided a brief spark of excitement in a meet largely bereft of them.
With 400 hurdles world record holder Dalilah Muhammad a late scratch, the other big story of the day was Allyson Felix’s victory in the women’s 150 meters, as the 34-year-old upset Olympic 400 champ Shaunae Miller-Uibo and 2019 Worlds 200m bronze medalist Mujinga Kambundji of Switzerland, running 16.81 to Miller-Uibo’s 17.15 and Kambundji’s 17.28 — though there is some uncertainty about that race as well.
Other winners included Andre De Grasse in the 100 yards, Sam Kendricks and Sandi Morris in the pole vault, and Pedro Pablo Pichardo in the triple jump.
Full recap below.
Men’s 200: Noah Lyles runs 18.90!!! (for 185 meters)
Lyles got a great start, jumping out to a huge lead over competitors Churandy Martina and 2016 Olympic bronze medalist Christophe Lemaitre almost immediately. Tearing down the home straight, he stopped the clock at 18.91 (later corrected to 18.90).
At which point, all hell broke loose.
“That cannot be right!” Steve Cram exclaimed on the broadcast. “That cannot be right! 18.91? That cannot be right, can it?”
Turns out, Cram was right. And though the time was right, the distance was wrong: Lyles started at the wrong spot and actually ran only 185 meters, meaning Usain Bolt’s 11-year-old 19.19 200m world record lives on.
Of the two men who ran the full distance, Lemaitre got the win, running 20.65 to Martina’s 20.81, though Lyles’ performance was clearly superior. Lyles ran into a significant 3.7 m/s headwind, running 20.43 pace for a full 200. Factor in the wind, and that’s a strong performance — even if he ran 15m short.
Timing says Noah Lyles ran 18.90 seconds for 200 meters. Lyles is fast, but that can't be right. Usain Bolt has the world record of 19.19. pic.twitter.com/BgaptvQTkD
— Nick Zaccardi (@nzaccardi) July 9, 2020
Women’s 150: Felix surprises
On paper, this race seemed to be a two-horse race between Miller-Uibo and Kambundji. But it wound up as a comfortable victory for American Allyson Felix, racing on the brand-new track at the renovated Hilmer Lodge Stadium at Mt. SAC. She earned the win in this 150-meter race in 16.81 over Miller-Uibo (17.15) and Kambundji (17.28).
Allyson Felix wins a 150-meter race, sprinting solo in California. Opponents Shaunae Miller-Uibo and Mujinga Kambundji were in Florida and Switzerland. pic.twitter.com/Mk4AIjgcoL
— Nick Zaccardi (@nzaccardi) July 9, 2020
Quick Take: Felix looked strong, but we have some questions
Though Felix has the fastest 100 (10.89) and 200 (21.69) pbs of the trio, she’s also by far the oldest at 34 and has moved up to focus on the 400 in recent years — where she failed to break 51 seconds in 2019. So to see her run 16.81 on a curve is impressive — it’s much faster than the 17.37 she clocked for a straight 150m in Manchester last year, and not far off the 16.63 she ran in 2015 after winning the 400m world title (remember, a straight 150m is faster than one on a turn).
In fact, according to PJ Vazel, it moves Felix to fifth on the all-time list for 150 on a curve:
New women 150m race all-time list
16.46 Ottey 🇯🇲 Trapani 1989
16.67 @ajletta🇨🇭Meilen 2020
16.73 Bacoul 🇫🇷 San Diego 1984
16.73 Ryemyen 🇺🇦 Amsterdam 2013
16.81 @allysonfelix 🇺🇸 Walnut 2020
16.93 @dafneschippers 🇳🇱 Amsterdam 2013
16.99 @J_Prandini 🇺🇸 Melbourne 2017@Diamond_League https://t.co/crL0Xt3MLj
— PJ Vazel (@pjvazel) July 9, 2020
The problem with a virtual meet like this, however, is that conditions aren’t equal for the competitors — Felix was in California, Miller-Uibo in Florida, and Kambundji in Zurich. The wind for Kambundji was negligible (+0.3) but stiff for Miller-Uibo (-2.5). And this is where the question comes in: the results for Felix list a wind of -2.6 m/s.
Something doesn’t add up here. A 34-year-old Felix, running into a huge headwind, ran faster times than two of the top sprinters in the world?
One of three things is true: a) Felix is in way better shape than anyone could have imagined; b) the new Mt. SAC track is incredibly fast; c) the wind reading for Felix was off. It’s just not clear which one is the case here, but my bet is on the latter.
Men’s 100 yards: De Grasse wins into a big headwind
This was the one event where all three athletes competed at the same venue, so there were no doubts about who was best today: Canada’s Andre De Grasse, who claimed the win over the rarely-run 100-yard distance in Florida. De Grasse ran 9.68 to defeat France’s Jimmy Vicaut (9.72) and Jamaica’s Olympic 110 hurdles champ Omar McLeod (9.87), but the times weren’t impressive, due in part to a massive 3.4 m/s headwind — 9.68 for 100 yards (91.44m) is just 10.59 pace for 100 meters.
Women’s 300 hurdles: Moline wins it after Muhammad scratches
While this race lost some star power with the withdrawal of 400 hurdles world record holder Dalilah Muhammad, the result was a closer competition, with Muhammad’s replacement, American Georganne Moline, running 39.08 at Mt. SAC to edge out Switzerland’s Lea Sprunger, who clocked 39.25 in Zurich. This was a strong comeback effort for the 30-year-old Moline, who had foot surgery last year and had not competed in a hurdles race since August 2018.
Women’s 3×100 relay: USA wins it
The US squad of Candace Hill, Tianna Bartoletta, and Felix took this one in 32.25, ahead of Switzerland (32.50) and the Netherlands (32.94).
Men’s triple jump: Pichardo defeats Taylor
Christian Taylor has been unbeatable in global championships in recent years, but he looked rusty today, finally getting things together with a heavily wind-aided 17.27m (+4.2) in the final round. That was only good enough for second, however, as Portugal’s Pedro Pablo Pichardo leaped 17.40 (+2.3 wind) in round two to earn the victory.
Men’s pole vault: Kendricks cruises
Kendricks, competing in Florida, cleared a best of 5.81 to defeat fellow 2019 Worlds medalist Piotr Lisek (5.66) and Frenchman Valentin Lavillenie, who failed to clear a bar.
Women’s pole vault: Morris wins it
This was a fairly underwhelming contest, with the indoor world champ Sandi Morris navigating windy conditions in Florida to win with a best clearance of 4.66m. That was all she needed, however, as rivals Angelica Bengtsson (4.46) and Katerina Stefanidi (NH) struggled today.
Discuss the meet on our messageboard here: Official 2020 Weltklasse Inspiration Games Discussion Thread