World Athletics Championships 2023: Jamaica in the hunt for medals until the final day
The World Athletics Championships, a biennial athletics competition organised by World Athletics alongside the Olympic Games, represents the highest-level championships of senior international outdoor athletics competition for track and field globally, and this year Budapest, Hungary, takes centre stage.
Jamaica, with fewer than three million people, has for decades registered major performances at global track and field championships, but this installation of the 40-year-old competition got off to a woeful start last Saturday (August 19), with them crashing out of the Mixed 4X400m relay on day one. The quartet of Demish Gaye, Natoya Goule-Toppin, Malik James-King, and Stacey Ann Williams could only manage fifth place in their heat and failed to qualify for the final later the same day. The final was won by Team USA with representatives Justin Robinson, Rosey Effiong, Matthew Boling, and Alexis Holmes finishing with a world record 3:08.80 seconds, with Great Britian and the Czech Republic setting national records at 3:11.06 and 3:11.98 seconds, respectively, for second and third place.
That result would set the stage for a mixed bag of outcomes which would ultimately affect the medal ambitions of the Jamaican contingent. Most notable was the crash of Rasheed Broadbell into the penultimate barrier during heat 3 of the men’s 110m hurdles on Sunday. The Jamaican and Commonwealth champion — and fastest in the world this year — had been among the medal favourites, but his tangle with the barrier dispelled any hope of that being a reality. His compatriot, Hansle Parchment had safely won heat 1 and went on to place second in the final on Monday, behind Grant Holloway of the United States — both registering season best times of 12.96 and 13.07 seconds, respectively.
The women’s 100m event was another in which expectations were very high for Jamaica, in which a gold and silver medal for the island felt like a sure bet going in. Leading up to the final on Monday, and about 85 metres into the race, the result seemed a foregone conclusion, but USA sprinter Sha’Carri Richardson, running in lane 9, made up the deficit and finished in scintillating form, with a championship record 10.65 seconds. The Jamaican sprinting duo of Shericka Jackson and Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce finished second and third, respectively, with the Olympic bronze medalist earning silver in 10.72 seconds and the two-time Olympic gold medallist (and last year’s 100m champion) claiming bronze in a season-best 10.77 seconds.
A Jamaican talent on the rise, Jaydon Hibbert suffered a hamstring tear on Monday, forcing him to withdraw from the men’s triple jump contest. The 18-year-old World U-20 champion has made significant strides this year, improving his personal best by 60 centimetres, achieving 17.87m in May and also winning the NCAA title with 17.56m, plus the Jamaican national championships with 17.68m. Again, a lot was expected from this young standout at this tournament, but the injury is not considered serious and there will be lots of time for his potential to be realised.
In contrast, on Wednesday, Jamaica’s Wayne Pinnock soared to a world-lead and a new personal best of 8.54m on his opening effort in the men’s long jump. The 22-year-old former Kingston College athlete finished ninth in the 2022 World Athletics Championships but only needed one jump to qualify for the final yesterday from Group A. However, things were not as easy for teammate Tajay Gayle, the 2019 champion in Qatar with a huge leap of 8.69m, who needed his last jump to qualify. Gayle was sitting in ninth position in Group B and in danger of missing out before a leap of 8.12m got him through with the eighth-longest jump on the day. Carey McLeod topped Group B with 8.19m to finish with the fourth-longest jump in the round and ensured that Jamaica had three men in the long jump final of a major global event for the first time.
The final was won yesterday by Miltiadis Tentoglou from Greece in a season-best 8.52m, with the Jamaica trio of Pinnock, Gayle, and McLeod following with commendable leaps of 8.50m, 8.27m, and 8.27m, respectively.
The men’s full-lap events provided substantial hope for the future of Jamaica in the 400m flat and 400m hurdles events. On Monday Roshawn Clarke recorded a second-place showing in his 400m hurdles semi-final with a new Jamaican senior record of 47.34 seconds. The 19-year-old, in his World Championship debut, bettered his World Under-20 record and established the world’s 16th best time behind Norwegian Karsten Warholm, who went through as the fastest qualifier at 47.09 seconds. Warholm went on to win his third World title on Wednesday morning at 46.89 seconds after finishing out of the medals last year, and Clarke finished fourth with 48.07 seconds, just ahead of Brazilian Alison Dos Santos. A promising future lies ahead of Clarke.
In the men’s 400m semi-final on Tuesday, Jamaica’s Antonio Watson turned heads, winning semi-final one with a massive personal best of 44.13 seconds to qualify with the fastest time into the final. The 21-year-old finished second at the Jamaica National Trials and entered the race ranked 24th in the world with a previous best of 44.54 seconds. This new time elevated his world ranking to fifth, making him the joint third-fastest Jamaican of all time alongside Nathon Allen and behind Rusheen McDonald (43.93 seconds) and Akeem Bloomfield (43.94 seconds).
The world record holder, South African Wayde Van Niekerk, ranked number one in the world, finished third with 44.65 seconds and had to wait for confirmation as a non-automatic qualifier for the final. Watson was joined by Sean Bailey — the younger brother of Jamaican great Veronica Campbell-Brown — in the final, with the eighth-fastest time of the semi-finals.
Watson finished the final yesterday with a slower time of 44.22 seconds, but it was enough to cop the gold medal ahead of Matthew Hudson-Smith (44.31 seconds) from Great Britian and Quincy Hall (44.37 seconds) from the USA. Bailey finished fifth with a creditable 44.96 seconds and Van Niekerk could only manage seventh place (45.11 seconds).
The games conclude on Sunday, August 27, with Jamaica in the hunt for medals until the final day.
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