World Champs under way

...Six Jamaicans take centrestage in today's start of the medal hunt in Doha

BY HOWARD WALKER
Senior staff reporter
walkerh@jamaicaobserver.com

Friday, September 27, 2019

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The long-awaited, much-anticipated International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF) World Athletics Championships gets going today with six Jamaicans competing.

Long jumper Tajay Gayle will be the first in action for Jamaica at 8:30 am (Jamaica time) inside the Khalifa International Stadium in Doha, Qatar.

Notably for Jamaica, young starlet Briana Williams will not face the starter tomorrow in the women's 100-metre event after she was withdrawn from the championships. Williams was yesterday exonerated after facing doping charges. She is replaced by Jonelle Smith.

A galaxy of stars, including approximately 2,000 competitors from 200 countries, will converge on the oil-rich Arab state for the 17th edition of the World Athletics Championships, with approximately US$7.5 million up for grabs, along with the title of being crowned the best in the world.

In the 2017 edition, Jamaica secured four medals, which was their worst tally in 30 years, dating back to 1987, when they also picked up four medals. Their worst performance was at the first edition in 1983 with three medals.

The small but powerful Caribbean island of nearly three million people, known as the sprint factory, will be hoping for a much better display in this, the post-Usain Bolt era.

Jamaica's best medal haul was in 2009 in Moscow, where athletes garnered 13 medals, highlighted by seven gold. In 2015 in Beijing, Jamaica won seven gold in a 12-medal haul.

This year's edition marks the first time in 12 years that Jamaica will be at the World Championships without Bolt. This team is seen as the most balanced unit in terms of the possible spread of medals, both on the track and in the field.

Jamaica could surpass its best ever medal tally of 13 but will have real difficulty bettering the seven-gold haul. President of the Jamaica Athletics Administrative Association (JAAA), Dr Warren Blake and head coach Maurice Wilson both told the Jamaica Observer that this team is a more rounded team.

“It shows that Jamaica's track and field has matured a bit, whilst we are not just a team with sprinters, but we are a team that also has people that are good in the field events,” Dr Blake emphasised.

Wilson had high praises for the week-long training camp, which he deemed a success, as the athletes have acclimatised well to the humid conditions.

“The camp has been a success and I would use that to judge mainly how the athletes have adapted. For the first two days, the heat was unbearable and I said to myself this is going to be very difficult for us,” Wilson told the Observer.

He added: “But over time, it seems to me that the athletes have adapted somewhat and most importantly, the climate itself is not as difficult as it was before.

“So we have been training consistently, the team camaraderie has been one of the best I have seen, and I think maybe that is because the athletes are given the opportunity to come to the camp with their individual coaches and also, not necessarily, if they are in an individual event, they can stay with their coaches and then come into the camp.

“So I think it has worked well and I am very pleased with what I have seen so far and I am just hoping that we can really put this down on the track starting on Friday.”

Long jumper Gayle will try to qualify for the final, when he starts in Group B of the twoflight preliminary round.

Having won the IAAF Diamond League in Shanghai and a third-placed finish in the Diamond League final Gayle can be considered a dark horse for a medal.

But with a personal best of 8.32m, he will have his hands full against world leader and favourite Juan Miguel Echevarria of Cuba, the South African pair of defending champion Luvo Manyonga and Ruswahl Samaai, along with American Jeff Henderson and Jianan Wong of China.

The little warrior Natoya Goule will be Jamaica's only hope in the women's 800m, as she is drawn in heat four and should advance to the semi-finals easily.

Next up will be the men's 100m blue riband event and Jamaica will only have two entrants, as Rasheed Dwyer, who was named in both the 100m and 200m, will only be competing in the 200m.

Andre Ewers, who was named as a reserve for the 100m, will also concentrate on the 200m, and that leaves Yohan Blake and Tyquendo Tracey to carry the fight to regain Jamaica's title of having the world's fastest man.

Blake's season's best of 9.96 will not inspire much confidence, but if he can get anywhere near his lifetime best of 9.69, done seven years ago, then that would put him in good stead for the gold medal.

It is not beyond the 2011 champion to snatch a medal. Tracey, who has a personal best of 9.96 and a seasonal best of 10.00, will have to really lift his game if he is to even make the final.

They are expected to join the action in the quarter-final stage at 10.05 am, following the preliminary round that is scheduled to begin earlier at 8:35 am.

The men's triple jump, slated for 11:25 am, will see Jamaica's Jordon Scott in action from Group B, while Kemar Mowatt is the only Jamaican in the men's 400m hurdles set to begin at 12.35 pm.

He is drawn in heat one and will run from lane nine. Mowatt's seasonal best of 48.70 makes him the third fastest in the field, and he should be able to navigate his way to the semi-finals.

Norway's Karsten Warholm should win this heat, as he enters in tremendous form and with a seasonal and personal best of 46.92, which is just outside Kevin Young's world record of 46.78 established in 1992.

Today's schedule
8:30 am — men's long jump
(qualification)
8:35 am — men's 100m
(preliminary)
8:40 am — women's hammer
throw (qualification)
9:10 am — women's 800m
(heat)
9:30 am — women's pole
vault (qualification)
10:05 am — men's 100m
(heat)
10:10 am — women's hammer
throw (qualification)
10:40 am — women's high
jump (qualification)
10:55 am — women's 3000m
steeplechase (heat)
11:25 am — men's triple jump
(qualification)
11:45 am — men's 5000m
(heat)
12:35 pm — men's 400m
hurdles (heat)
3:59 pm — women's
marathon (final)


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