World Champs: Barshim falls short of medals in high jump

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Frustration: Barshim.

Qatari world indoor champion Mutaz Essa Barshim refused to blame the wet conditions for his shock fourth-place finish in the high jump at the World Championships in Beijing on Sunday as Canada’s Derek Drouin took gold in a cliff-hanging contest.

Barshim, the world leader this season with a 2.41m jump and owner of the second-highest leap of all time with a 2.43m achieved less than a year ago in Brussels, was considered a shoo-in for the podium at the Bird’s Nest. But torrential rains swept the venue in the hours leading up to the final, and made for conditions Barshim is known to have struggled with in recent meets in Wuhan, Oslo and Stockholm.

Drouin topped the podium by clearing 2.34m while Ukrainian defending champion Bohdan Bondarenko shared silver with home favourite Zhang Guowei, after posting best jumps of 2.33m. Barshim, who also cleared 2.33m, finished outside the medals having taken two attempts to clear 2.29m which meant he didn’t make it to the jump-off.

“I’m sorry that I couldn’t win a medal today but I will be looking out for it the next time,” said a disappointed Barshim, who had won Worlds silver in Moscow 2013.

“Everything is good. I had some good sessions and I just made some technical mistakes. I’ve got the height but will have to look into it. I have to go and check with my coach and see what I have to do and keep going.”

A delighted Drouin, the reigning Commonwealth Games champion, said: “I knew I was in good shape but hoping to win and making it actually happen are two different things.”

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Meanwhile, Jamaica finished the Championships with a bang, storming to the women’s 4x400m relay title to match Kenya’s gold tally at the top of the medals table.

Anchor leg Novlene Williams-Mills pulled out an eye-popping last 50m to catch Francena McCorory in a dramatic race as the Jamaicans clocked this year’s best time of three minutes, 19.13 seconds to pip the United States on the line.

“I came out here with a Jamaican ruff neck,” said third leg Stephenie Ann McPherson, using Jamaican slang for ‘street thug’, adding: “My team-mates did a great job.”

The Americans hit back to take the men’s 4x400m, veteran LaShawn Merritt passing Carl Lewis as his country’s most decorated male World Championships athlete with 11 medals.

American star Allyson Felix looked to have dug the Olympic champions out of an early hole with a blistering third leg to give McCorory a lead into the last lap, until Williams-Mills kicked coming into the home straight to win it for Jamaica. Britain took the bronze medal in 3:23.62.

“That’s when you have the heart of a champion,” Williams-Mills said of her lung-bursting pursuit of McCorory.

In the men’s race, Merritt, David Verburg, Tony McQuay and Bryshon Nellum finished in 2:57.82 to extend a remarkable winning streak dating back to Helsinki in 2005. Trinidad and Tobago claimed silver in 2:58.20 with Britain taking bronze in 2:58.51. 

Kenya demonstrated their middle-distance brilliance again when Asbel Kiprop completed a world title hat-trick in the men’s 1,500m to add to the 800m gold won by David Rudisha earlier in the competition.

Kiprop surged home in 3:34.40, just edging out Elija Manangoi. Morocco’s Abdalaati Iguider darted past Algeria’s Olympic champion Taoufik Makhloufi to take bronze.

Germany’s Kathrina Molitor broke Chinese hearts by winning her first major javelin title at 31, with Lyu Huihui taking silver.

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Almaz Ayana leads Ethiopian medal sweep at World Athletics Championships

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An Ethiopian clean sweep.

Almaz Ayana led an Ethiopian medals sweep in the women’s 5,000m on Sunday as 1,500m winner Genzebe Dibaba had to settle for bronze at the world championships in Beijing.

In cool conditions after heavy rain, Ayana ran a championships record 14min 26.83sec to win comfortably from Senbere Teferi, who put on a late surge to pip Dibaba by seven-hundredths.

Dibaba, younger sister of 5,000m world record-holder Tirunesh, had already won the 1,500m, but Ayana’s pace over the last five laps put paid to her hopes of a double.

“I had to win the gold medal!” said Ayana. “It was a hard race and a hard competition in general. It is great for our country that we won gold, silver and bronze.”

Dibaba said she was “not disappointed” with bronze and added that she had been hampered by a heel injury since winning her maiden world championships gold in the 1,500m.

“My country won three medals, I can only be pleased about that,” Dibaba said.

“It was a really hard race. I’ve had so many races recently and after the 1,500m final, my left foot started to pain me — I have a heel spur that hurts a lot.

“This race was so tough for me because of this injury. My shape (fitness) was at its best.”

Dibaba, whose world record in the 1,500m in Lausanne last month was the fourth she currently holds, looked comfortable for the first half of the race.

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Japanese pair Misaki Onishi and Ayuko Suzuki raced out to an early lead, tracked by Dibaba in the 12-and-a-half lap event.

The chase group comprised the Ethiopians Dibaba, Ayana and Teferi, Kenyan quartet Viola Kibiwot, Mercy Cherono, Irene Cheptai and Janet Kisa, and Ethiopian-born Bahraini Mimi Belete.

With seven laps to go, the Japanese were dropped and an Ayana surge, tracked by Dibaba and Cherono, strung out the 15-woman field. Some 800 metres later and the Ethiopian duo were out by themselves.

Ayana, who was only competing in the 5,000m, kicked again and built up a 50-metre lead on Dibaba, her eyes glued to the big screen as she monitored her pursuer’s position.

Ayana hit the bell for the last lap even further ahead and she maintained her advantage for a comprehensive victory. Dibaba’s woes were compounded when a fast-finishing Teferi caught her at the line to take silver in 14:44.07.

“The tactics were not prepared but three Ethiopian girls on the podium is very important for our federation and athletics in our country,” said Teferi.

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