BEIJING -- It was a banner night for Team USA Thursday evening, as Olympic champion and 2011 World champion Christian Taylor shattered the American record in the men’s triple jump and Allyson Felix extended her legacy as the most successful female athlete in IAAF history with her gold medal in the women’s 400m. Justin Gatlin earned his second piece of hardware in Beijing, taking silver behind Jamaica’s Usain Bolt in the men’s 200.
Taylor threatens world record
The 2015 triple jump season had seen Taylor (Fayetteville, Georgia) and Pedro Pablo Pichardo of Cuba battle all year, head and shoulders above the rest of the world. Both men had twice exceeded 18 meters, with Pichardo having topped the list.
Thursday evening, it was Taylor alone above the world, stunning the crowd and the field with his sixth-round, American record jump of 18.21m/59-9. The mark broke Kenny Harrison’s previous AR of 18.09 m/59-4.25, set in winning the 1996 Olympic gold medal - a mark that still stands at the Olympic record and which, prior to Thursday night, was the second-farthest jump in history. Now a television commentator, world record holder Jonathan Edwards of Great Britain could only shake his head in disbelief, his global mark of 18.29 surviving a serious scare.
The 2011 World and 2012 Olympic champion, Taylor had a tentative first attempt with his jump of 16.85m/55-3.5. With a tremendous second “step” phase, he was able to produce 17.49m/57-4.75 on his second attempt to move into second overall, and his third jump matched Pichardo’s then-best of 17.60m/57-9, leaving Taylor in second because the Cuban’s next-best jump was superior to Taylor’s.
To win, he’d have to surpass Pichardo.
Taylor wasted no time doing just that, soaring 17.68m/58-0.25 in round 4 to take the lead. Two rounds later, he uncorked his 18.21m, despite leaving roughly 8 cm on the take-off board to spare. He added World Championships and stadium record to his list of accolades on the night.
Omar Craddock (Killeen, Texas) jumped 17.14m/56-2.75 on his first attempt, a distance he matched in round 4. In the fifth round of jumping, he produced a marked improvement, 17.37m/57-0 to move into third place, medal position.
Jumping third-from-last in the sixth round ahead of only Taylor and Pichardo, Nelson Evora of Portugal was the only person who could unseat Craddock. Evora delivered, his mark of 17.52, displacing Craddock from the podium.
Felix reigns supreme
Forsaking her favored 200 meters to focus on the 400 in Beijing, Felix (Los Angeles) approached the women’s 400m final with stern determination. That determination expressed itself immediately out of the blocks. Running in lane 6, she made up the stagger on 2008 Olympic gold medalist Christine Ohuruogu of Great Britain in lane 7 before the first curve was over.
Ohuruogu and the field began to close around the 200m mark, but Felix quickly put on a surge and pulled away for the win in 49.26, a 2015 world leader, stadium record and personal best. Shaunae Miller of the Bahamas was a well-beaten second in 49.67, with Shericka Jackson of Jamaica third in 49.99. Team USA’s Phyllis Francis (Queens, New York) was seventh in her first World Championships final, finishing in 50.51 after running a personal best 50.50 in the semifinals.
Gatlin grabs silver in 200
Perhaps the second most-anticipated race of the championships after only the 100, the men’s 200 saw a rematch between 100m champion Bolt and runner-up Gatlin (Pensacola, Florida). Bets were on as to whether Bolt, who won the 100 by only .01, could withstand Gatlin’s demonstrated 200m dominance of 2015.
With Gatlin in lane 4 and Bolt in 6, both men charged around the curve, clearly leaving nothing on the track. But coming out of the curve, it was clear that the night was Bolt’s. The Jamaican giant strode hard to the finish in a world-leading 19.55 seconds, perhaps an unexpectedly fast time given he had not broken 20 seconds in the 200 heading into Beijing. Gatlin finished second in 19.74, with Anaso Jobodwana of South Africa third in 19.87.
Merritt, Oliver primed for battle in hurdle final
The semifinals of the men’s 110m hurdles saw Team USA’s top two poised well for the final. In heat 2, world record holder Aries Merritt (Atlanta) ran a superb technical race, winning in a season-best 13.08, the fastest time of all three semifinal heats. In heat 3, defending world champion David Oliver (Kissimmee, Florida) overcome a somewhat sluggish start, making up ground to place second in 13.17. Aleec Harris (Atlanta) hit the first six hurdles in heat 1 and was fourth in his race in 13.29. He did not advance to the final.
McGrone and Tarmoh set for 200 final
Candyce McGrone (Indianapolis, Indiana) ran a great curve in the first semifinal and was close behind Jamaica’s Elaine Thompson down the final 100m to finish second in 22.26 and qualify for the final. Jeneba Tarmoh (San Jose, California) and Britain’s Dina Asher-Smith were even off the curve in the final semi, with Tarmoh running well enough to the finish to hold off double Olympic champion Veronica Campbell-Brown and snag the final automatic qualifying berth in 22.38. Jenna Prandini (Clovis, California) came off the curve back in the field in the second semi, leaving too much ground to make up with only the top two advancing. She ended fifth in 22.87 and did not advance.
Fast 800m semis prove challenging for American duo
Running in heat 1 of the women’s 800 semis, Brenda Martinez (Rancho Cucamonga, California) ran in the middle to back of the pack throughout most of the race and could not produce a kick to get her into the top finishers, placing sixth in 2:00.27. In heat 2, Molly Ludlow (Worthington, Ohio) positioned herself in second, just off the shoulder of the leader at the bell lap, but she fell back over the final 200 and finished seventh in 2:00.43. Neither woman advanced.
Bingson ninth in hammer
In the women’s hammer final, American record holder Amanda Bingson (Las Vegas, Nevada) was in contention for a top-eight finish with her 72.35m/237-4 in the opening round, but she was edged out in round three and ended ninth. Amber Campbell (Indianapolis, Indiana) had a tough night in the circle, as she was unable to produce a legal mark with two sector fouls and a foot foul.