The big men of athletics are impressive just walking into a room, let alone stepping into the ring.
In their case, that’s a throwing circle and three of them – Joe Kovacs, Ryan Crouser and Tom Walsh – combined to put on the greatest shot put competition in World Championships history tonight in Doha, trading blows in the final round that bludgeoned the world all-time list.
New Zealand’s defending champion Walsh took an early lead with an Oceanian record of 22.90m which lifted him to fourth on the world all-time list and was the biggest throw for 29 years. He led until the final round, when Kovacs unleashed a mighty throw of 22.91m to take the narrowest of leads.
Olympic champion Crouser then let fly with a personal best of his own, equalling Walsh’s effort, but surpassing him on a countback.
Walsh had one last chance to respond but fouled his attempt, leaving Kovacs as the new champion and all three men within one centimetre and within the top seven on the list of history’s biggest throws.
Even they could barely believe the outcome.
“I just cannot be happier to get the gold medal,” Kovacs said after recapturing the global title he first won in 2015. “This is definitely the final that made history.”
It was another extraordinary night of athletics at Doha’s Khalifa Stadium as Kenya’s Hellen Obiri successfully defended her 5000m title, after annexing the world cross-country title in March in Denmark, and Dutchwoman Sifan Hassan completed a unique double, adding the 1500m title to the 10,000m crown she claimed a week earlier.
Between them, Obiri and Hassan have dominated most of the key distance races from 1500m to 10,000m this year. Hassan’s decision to choose the 1500m as her second event rather than the 5000m meant they did not meet here but instead put on consecutive displays of brilliance.
Hassan went first and completely dominated the 1500m, leading from gun to tape, crossing the finish line ten metres clear in 3:51.95, rising to sixth on the world all-time list.
She won by more than two seconds from defending champion Faith Kipyegon, who returned after the birth of her first child to set a Kenyan record of 3:54.22. Ethiopia’s bronze medallist Gudaf Tsegay (3:54.38) hacked more than three seconds from her previous best as eight women bettered the previous championship record.
Obiri was similarly imperious, setting the pace for much of the race, then pouring on the pressure on the last lap to win comfortably in a championship record of 14:26.72.
Her teammate Margaret Kipkemboi came through to take the silver in 14:27.49 from Germany’s Konstanze Klosterhalfen (14:28.43) as 11 women in the field set personal best times.
Venezuela’s Yulimar Rojas was another champion who reinforced her global supremacy, winning a second consecutive triple jump world title with a best leap of 15.37m, 45cm clear of the silver medallist Shanieka Ricketts of Jamaica, while the Olympic champion Caterine Ibarguen, last year’s World Athlete of the Year, had to content herself with the bronze (14.73m).
The double was the theme of the day, as women’s 100m champion Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce, men’s 100m champion Christian Coleman and 200m champion Noah Lyles claimed their second gold medals in Doha, in the 4x100m relays.
The Jamaican women were supreme as Natalliah Whyte, Fraser-Pryce, Jonielle Smith and Shericka Jackson combined to circle the track in 41.44. World 200m champion Dina Asher-Smith claimed her third medal of the championships, spearheading the British team to silver (41.85) ahead of the US team (42.10).
Coleman and Lyles joined forces with 100m silver medallist Justin Gatlin and Mike Rodgers to reclaim the men’s sprint relay title for United States for the first time in 12 years. They set a US record of 37.10, with Great Britain second (37.36) and Japan third (37.43).