Keeping the faith
Another global athletics championships comes to an end, leaving us with a fine stack of memories to add to the pile
And so another global athletics championships comes to an end, and the winners and results and memories get added to that growing pile of brilliance, disappointment, inspiration and deflation, unfulfilled hopes and unexpected triumphs. Another BBC montage brings a lump to my throat, and still, despite everything - the doping, the lack of enthusiasm by most of the rest of the world, the multitude of issues dogging the sport - no other spectacle moves me quite like track and field. Those moments, when years of effort come bubbling to the surface down that home straight, legs flailing, eyes wide, some finding themselves transcending, others finding themselves sinking. The unreserved joy after crossing the finish line, the agony, the exhaustion, the bemusement, the tears. It’s like I’m in my own little world of bubbling emotions watching it. Someone will walk by … “Is that the athletics?” Or, “What race is that?” As though I’ve just turned on the news to catch the headlines. As though it’s nothing. As though these aren’t the greatest athletes in the world, pouring their souls into one last, make-or-break effort, grabbing their one moment on the greatest stage. If you had one chance, one opportunity …
So, what to do but take a flying look back at a few of the memories that most stand out. The star of the show for me was Faith Kipyegon. In world championships, often the distance races, from the 800m to the 10,000m, without pacemakers, come down to a last lap burn-up. The 800m is a last lap burn-up by design. But without someone willing to go for broke and try to win from the front, which is rare, then all the other races come down to that big last lap. With the exception of the women's 3,000m steeplechase, and to a lesser extent the men’s 5,000m, every other distance race at these championships came down to that one big last lap. And nobody does a big last lap quite like Kipyegon.
In women’s running, to run the last lap in under 60 seconds is incredibly fast. In the 10,000m, Ethiopia's Gudaf Tsegay came pummelling past Sifan Hassan so quickly that Hassan fell over. Tsegay’s last lap was around 59 seconds. In the 800m, Mary Moraa charged to gold with a 60-second last lap, fast enough to take her past one of the biggest names in the sport, Athing Mu.
Yet Kipyegon blasted an incredible 56-second last lap in both the 1500m and the 5,000m, to leave two world class fields trailing helplessly in her dust. Three world records and now two world titles. What a year she has had.