Wowcher’s Very Loose Summary of the IAAF World Championships

IAAF-Champs

 

The World Championships puts the best of the best on display. Men and women at the top of their game, who have worked every day of their lives to make themselves (harder) better, faster, stronger, all to stand atop a podium and look down on the mere mortals they vanquished on their quest towards immortality. How fitting then that I should be the one to judge their performances. I’ll give it my best, and, if nothing else, you could say that I’m passionate. In Year three, having been chosen for the beanbag race instead of the revered 100m, I cried so much that my teacher had to swap everyone around. Was it worth it? Well, I fell over at the start of the race and once again cried on my way to a respectable 7th place. Needless to say, you’re in good hands.

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A Bolt from the Blue

There’s only one place to start really isn’t there? Heading into the 16th edition of the IAAF World Championships, one name dominated all water-cooler conversations (topped only by the classic, “Oooh isn’t it hot? Too hot, if anything”). Usain Bolt – eight-time Olympic gold medallist, eleven-time World Champion, and perhaps the greatest athlete the world has ever seen – was to call time on his illustrious career. The world hoped for one last victory, one final hurrah for the GOAT (it means greatest of all time! What’s the point in these fancy acronyms if I have to explain?). WELL THE WORLD IS A CRUEL PLACE AND DREAMS NEVER COME TRUE. But we’ll get to that in due time. Having struggled through the heats at a sedentary 10.07s (people run faster to grab a toaster on Black Friday), Bolt complained about the starting blocks. Too loose apparently. Same thing happened to me in year three. In the semis, he was beaten by American Christian Coleman (9.97s) by 0.01s. The cheek of it!

Then, the final. The crowd, nay, the ENTIRE WORLD fell silent. A friend muttered, “Imagine if he lost, imagine if Gatlin won”. Oh you fool. Bolt started slowly before turning on the jets to catch Coleman in what looked a two-horse race with 15 metres to go. But who’s this stealing up on the outside to snatch the gold? Why it’s Justin Gatlin, twice banned from athletics for the same reason everyone gets banned from athletics. My heart! Bolt, beaten in a major final for the first time since 2007, and by the pantomime villain of all people! Fans didn’t know whether to gasp, faint, cheer Bolt, or boo Gatlin. So, they did them all. CURSE YOU CRUEL WORLD! Fortunately, he still had the 4x100m relay to come…

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Silver-lining for golden boy Farah

Now onto Sir Mo Farah, also retiring from the track in 2017. *A single silver tear falls to the page*.  The most successful British track athlete in modern Olympic history, 5000m and 10,000m gold medal winner in 2012 and 2016, and creator of the “Mobot”, this man has done it all. The first of his two events was the 10,000m, in which Uganda’s 20-year-old Cheptegei raced to the front and set a brisk pace while Farah sat back in the pack. Whenever Farah made a move for the lead, his adversaries countered. The plan was clear. Stop Mo. But it simply wasn’t enough. As the crowd cheered on his every step, Farah fought his way into gold-medal position, with the chasing pack so close behind that he stumbled on two occasions.

Rounding the final bend, Farah turned on the boosters and tore away as he ostensibly always does and gave Great Britain its first gold of the Championships. All that was left to do was claim another 5,000m victory and we could all live happily ever after. Wait, who’s Muktar Edris and how is he running that fast? COME BACK! YOU’RE RUINING EVERYTHING! The race was going so well. Everyone was waiting on Britain’s great hope to attack. No one upped the pace. Then, as the bell rang for the final lap, everyone ganged up on poor Mo to box him in on the inside lane. Farah gave everything he had on the straight, but the gap proved insurmountable as he fought back to claim a silver medal. Edris won, having completed the final lap in 52s, and celebrated with the Mobot. Et tu Brute? Meanwhile, Farah curled up into the foetal position. I was already there. Somebody hold me.

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We’re actually Relay good at this now!

With our chances of more individual medals all but gone, British Athletics went through something of a mid-championship crisis. We were meant to be aiming for six to eight overall, instead we had two. We don’t really like sport anyway do we? Great hope Laura Muir finished an agonising fourth-place in the 1500m, as did Dina Asher-Smith and Nethaneel Mitchell-Blake in their respective 200m races. What now? Step up the relay teams. First up were the 4x100m women Asha Philip, Desiree Henry, Daryll Neita, and Dina Asher-Smith, the latter having recovered just in time from a broken foot which threatened to end her season prematurely. The race started well for Great Britain and they kept pace with the USA, though they had to settle for an impressive silver as Tori Bowie anchored the favourites to gold to add to her individual 100m success.

Then, the men stepped onto the track, with the cheers for Team GB’s Danny Talbot, Adam Gemili, Nethaneel Mitchell-Blake and CJ Ujah topped only by those for Bolt in his final race. Great Britain led from the start, and powered by baton exchanges smoother than Marvin Gaye on a crisp autumn afternoon, took a shock gold medal from under the USA’s nose. As the British men celebrated euphorically, eyes turned back to the track, where a defeated Usain Bolt limped towards the line having cruelly pulled his hamstring. A wretched way for the fastest man in history to end his career. But Great Britain also claimed a bronze and silver in the men’s and women’s 4x400m relay, so swings and roundabouts really…

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The Hero the Championships both deserved and needed

There was at least one bright spark that never dimmed throughout the championships, one source of hope and inspiration for all watching. Hero the Hedgehog shot itself into the hearts of the nation as it rolled its way round the track as the planet’s greatest athletes tried their best to fulfil their lives’ ambitions. It tried to take on a high-beam routine on one of the steeplechase hurdles. It fell with its legs on either side. It offered signs of “encouragement” for competitors as they whizzed past (“Always give 100% except when giving blood” was a personal favourite). It was kicked out. It rained. The hedgehog went for a swim in the steeplechase water jump. This is what sport should be! Move over sonic, there’s a new hedgehog in town.

Photos by Emma Griffiths