The Oregon World Athletics Championships in retrospect
Gold medallist Tobi Amusan of Team Nigeria poses with a check for setting a world record in women's 100m hurdles on day 10 of the World Athletics Championships Oregon22 at Hayward Field on July 24, 2022 in Eugene, Oregon. (Photo: AFP)

Last Sunday (July 24) saw the conclusion to the World Athletics Championships 'Oregon22', the first World Championships held in the USA. A record-breaking 29 countries won gold medals, compared to the previous highest of 26 in London 2017. Additionally, more countries than ever before had athletes that reached the finals of their respective events — 81 countries achieved the milestone, with Liberia, Niger, Pakistan, Samoa, the Philippines, and Guatemala reaching a final for the first time in World Championships history.

It was an enthralling 10 days featuring the best the athletics world has to offer, and the final two days saw three athletes taking home US$100,000.00 each for registering world records. This prize, offered by Japanese electronics company TDK and World Athletics, is in addition to the individual cash awards for the top eight athletes in each event: The gold medal winners took home $70,000, the silver medallists $35,000 and the bronze medal winners received $22,000. The lesser placings received $16,000, $11,000, $7000, $6000 and $5000 US dollars, respectively.

The three world records had one new title holder and two 'multiple-repeat offenders': Tobi Amusan, who was fourth at the Tokyo Olympics last year and at the World Championships in 2019, set an African record of 12.40 seconds in the 100m hurdles on Saturday (July 23) to win her heat (the fastest first-round time in World Championships history), then obliterated the world record in the semi-finals on Sunday (July 23), before moving on to claim Nigeria's first-ever world title less than two hours later.

Amusan's record-setting 12.12 seconds in the semi-finals erased the previous best of 12.20 seconds set by American Kendra Harrison in London (2016), and registered the largest time drop for a world record in the event in 42 years. Harrison was also in the same semi-final, finishing second with a season-best 12.27 seconds, while five of the eight women in the race set personal bests with a 0.9 metre per second tailwind —The maximum allowable tailwind for record purposes is two metres per second. The Nigerian went even faster to win the final — 12.06 seconds — but the clocking will not be recognised as a world record, due to a strong tailwind of 2.5 metres per second.

Jamaica's Britany Anderson secured the 100m hurdles silver medal in the final at 12.23 seconds but had set a personal best and broken the national record in winning her semi-final earlier the same day, while besting the reigning Olympic gold medallist, Jasmine Camacho-Quinn (12.32 seconds). Anderson's time of 12.31 seconds surpassed the previous national record of 12.32 set by Danielle Williams at the Muller Anniversary Games in London in July 2019. Puerto Rico's Camacho-Quinn place third in the finals with the same clocking as Anderson but was adjudged to be a fraction behind the 21-year-old Jamaican.

Williams, the 2015 Beijing World Champion, entered the final as a non-automatic qualifier after finishing third in Amusan's semi-final with a season's best 12.41 seconds, but so quick were the times that Olympic bronze medallist Megan Tapper's personal best of 12.52 in the third semi-final was not good enough for her to advance to the final — Williams finished in sixth place with a time of 12.44 seconds.

Team USA's 22-year-old Sydney McLaughlin eclipsed the women 400m hurdles world record last Saturday, for the fourth time in the last 13 months and secured her first World Championship gold medal with a shattering run of 50.68 seconds, becoming the first woman to run under 51 seconds in the event.

Before these championships, McLaughlin set a world record of 51.90 seconds at the 2021 US Championships, then went to the Tokyo Olympics where she snatched gold and a world record with a run of 51.46 seconds. She returned with 51.41 seconds at the US Championships in June this year before slashing 0.73 seconds off that time in the championship final. Far behind in second and third were Femke Bol from The Netherlands and former World champion American Dalilah Muhammad at 52.27 and 53.13 seconds, respectively.

McLaughlin supplanted Usain Bolt (by a matter of days) as the second-youngest athlete in track and field history to own the three biggest accolades in an individual event —Olympic gold, world title and world record. Only Ethiopian distance runner Kenenisa Bekele held all three at a younger age. McLaughlin also matched Edwin Moses' feat of breaking the 400m hurdles world record four times over a career, though Moses took seven years to achieve it.

Sweden's 22-year-old Mondo Duplantis raised his own pole vault bar in the last event of the championships by breaking the world record for the fifth time overall last Sunday. Duplantis secured gold with a first-time clearance of six metres — none of his rivals managed higher than 5.94m — then capped off his brilliant performance with a world-record clearance of 6.21m (more than 20 feet, 2 inches), beating his own world record of 6.20m — set at the Belgrade Indoor Meeting this March.

It was the third time this year that Duplantis has set a world record after breaking Frenchman Renaud Lavillenie's 6.16m (2014) world mark with a clearance of 6.17m in February 2020, and his success on Sunday marked the first time the record has been set outdoors since the legendary Ukrainian Sergey Bubka cleared 6.14m for the first time in Sestriere, Italy, in 1994. Bubka still has the most world records set by any individual in athletics — during the course of his illustrious career (1984-1994), he set 17 outdoor and 18 indoor pole vault world records, 35 in total, losing outdoor only once.

Duplantis has now filled his collection, making him the first pole vaulter to have won gold at the Olympics, World Championships, World Indoor Championships, World Junior Championships, World Youth Championships, and European Championships.

On the local front, Team Jamaica managed to decorate themselves with third place in the medal standings (10 in total) and second place in points, trailing only the USA. The Jamaican men claimed the 4x400 silver medal on Sunday with the quartet of Akeem Bloomfield, Nathon Allen, Jevaughn Powell and Christopher Taylor in a season's best 2:58.58 seconds, after having their female counterparts dominate the spotlight in Eugene, but all eyes are now focused on the Commonwealth Games in Birmingham. The Jamaica Athletics Administration has reportedly named a 47-member team that includes Hansle Parchment but is devoid of Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce and Britany Anderson. The events start today, and the expectation is that our medal haul will be a lot better than we had in Oregon.

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