Aotearoa at the 2017 IAAF World Champs

Nick Willis – 1500m

It wasn’t prime time Nick Willis that we saw in London, fair to say. He never appeared all that comfortable in his heat despite getting in for an automatic qualifying spot in fifth and he spoke afterwards about feeling tired. Then in the semis he was again back amongst the plebs, only coming in sixth and relying on being one of the two fastest non-automatic qualifiers – which he was, running in the faster heat (his time in semi number two was faster than anyone in the other one). But we’ve seen Nick Willis coast into finals before, those long strides easing him down the final straight with plenty of energy still remaining.

In the final, however, he just couldn’t quite keep up. It wasn’t a bad run at all, the pace was quick and he logged a 3:36.82 which is nothing to be ashamed of. But the Kenyan duo of Elijah Manangoi and Tim Cheruiyot led almost all the way and Willis wasn’t able to catch up having spent the first couple laps stuck in the pack. Instead it was Norway’s Filip Ingebrigtsen who stormed to a famous bronze, with Manangoi taking gold. Eighth place was fine for Willis. Perfectly commendable. It just wasn’t a medal is all.

We didn’t learn until afterwards that Willis had had surgery on a sports hernia weeks after the Olympics, which he assumes played a part in a few injuries he suffered in the build ups. It’s not so much that he’s running through pain now, he reckons he’s 100%, more that he couldn’t have the best build up. Remember he struggled even qualifying for the Worlds at all, only scraping in with a good enough time in the final race he had scheduled before the cut-off date.

So no World Championship medal for Willis still and at 34 years old he might not get another chance now. But we haven’t seen the last of Nick yet – sounds like he’s planning on taking on not only the 1500m but also the 5000m at the Gold Coast Commonwealth Games next year (as he also did in 2014).

Eliza McCartney – Pole Vault

An Olympic bronze medal earns you a certain about of expectation – it did for Tom Walsh. And just like Walshy, McCartney has also improved since Rio, setting a PB of 4.82m back in February. Problem was her preparation for London was severely hampered by an Achilles injury so while Timaru Tom was in prime shape to compete for a medal again at the Worlds, Eliza’s fate was a little more speculative. On one hand (/foot) her heel had cleared up something close to 100%. On the other hand (/foot) she’d lost out on plenty of reps and was coming in rusty.

The hope was obviously for the fitness to win out over the rustiness but when she only just snuck into the final, short of the automatic qualifying mark, it was obvious that she wasn’t at her best. Just lucky that her 4.50m mark was enough to creep into the top dozen – American Jenny Suhr wasn’t so lucky. She failed to clear the bar at all after leaping straight in on the 4.55m mark meaning that the third best clearance of 2017 wouldn’t be represented in the final at all.

This wasn’t much of a field. For whatever reason, the women didn’t see any big heights cleared with the exception of Ekaterini Stefanidi of Greece, the Olympic champ who is clearly the best in the business right now. She topped out at 4.91m for the best height of 2017 and a comfortable gold while Sandi Morris (USA) took silver with 4.75m and Robeilys Peinado (Venezuela) was a surprise bronze with a personal best of 4.65m.

To put that in perspective, there are 13 vaulters who have gone higher than that this year and 4.65m would only have gotten seventh in Rio (McCartney’s bronze was earned with a 4.80m clearance). And as for Eliza Mac, she had no trouble hurdling 4.45m but would need two goes to make it over 4.55m. As seven others all cleared 4.65m, Eliza soon found herself overmatched and she’d catch the bar all three times and finish ninth overall on countback.

It’s not a great result but circumstances being what they were, no dramas. At 20 years old she’s still very young for a top level pole vaulter (it’s a sport you can continue into your 30s) and of the finalists she was still two and a half years younger than anyone else there other than 19 year old Peinado while Yelena Isinbayeva (aka The GOAT) only stopped competing last year at age 34 because of the Russian doping ban. Having had huge unexpected success already at a major meeting, McCartney’s now felt the other side of that, which is also a valuable lesson to learn. A medal is very definitely on the agenda for the Commonwealth Games.

Tom Walsh – Shot Put

Oh you wanna know how Tommy Walsh won his World Championship Gold Medal? Just the third New Zealander to ever medal at the IAAF Worlds? The only kiwi to medal in these 2017 games? Well lucky for you we’ve already written a whole separate thing about Walsh and his win over here:

Jacko Gill – Shot Put

Ah but Walsh wasn’t the only New Zealander in the shot put ranks. Just as Tom Walsh came out and hurled a one and done qualifying put, so did Jacko Gill – 20.96m to sail on into the final. Unfortunately for Jacko he couldn’t repeat that come the big day and after two poor efforts to begin he was left with a third throw needing to rise a couple places to stay in contention as the bottom four putters in the field were cut. He braced himself, he went through his processes and he sent one soaring through the London air… but only for 20.82m which meant he missed out on the top eight by seven centimetres. Ninth place at the Worlds for Jacko.

That’s about what you’d expect of him, however. The 22 year old’s personal best is 21.01m and that wasn’t gonna get him close to the medals. It’s one place below where he finished at the 2015 World Champs but to be fair he was also 71 centimetres better than ’15. The depth in men’s shot put is getting better and better and Gill should be coming into his best years soon.

Joseph Millar – 100m & 200m

The fastest man in Aotearoa has broken both his 100m and 200m personal bests in 2017, taking NZ records with them both. It was quick enough to get himself into both at the Worlds – it’s been a few minutes since we last had a NZer running the sprints, aye?

But the novelty of that didn’t help him into the semis. He comfortably got himself through the 100m prelims with a 10.29 second run but a 10.31s dash in the heats wasn’t good enough to progress. His personal best (10.18s) would’ve qualified him for the next round, with 10.24s ending up as the cut-off mark, but the race he ran was only good for fifth in the heat and that was that. You already know about the final there where Justin Gatlin gassed past Usain Bolt for the gold, big dramas.

It’s not like Millar was plotting world domination in either event but finishing sixth out of seven in his 200m heat – coming in at only 20.97s on the stopwatch – was far from what he was hoping to flex in London. Especially with the form he’s been in this year. Probably tired from also running the 100m, Millar faded around the bend after a decent start. It’s all good experience for a sprinter at his first major international tournament though. Shout out to Ramil Guliyev who stunningly on the final for Turkey with a 20.09s time, narrowly beating South African star Wayde van Niekerk.

Angie Petty – 800m

Back for another go at another World Championships, Angie Petty had about the roughest time of things in London. Drawn in the same heat as Caster Semenya, Petty had the benchmark right there to race against but Semenya cruised and Petty was left needing a big push towards the finish line as she rounded the last bend but didn’t quite have it in her. The target will have been something close to if not under two minutes but instead she came through fourth in her heat at 2:01.76, edging Jamaica’s Natoya Goule at the line.

So no automatic qualification but that still left Angie in with a shot at a fastest non-automatic shot. With six extra runners going through to the semis, Petty was second in those standings going into the sixth and final heat… where seven of the eight runners beat her time – meaning Petty missed out on the semis by 0.03 of a second to Gena Lofstrand of South Africa.

Lofstrand then came last in the slowest of the three semis, which was also the only semi in which Petty might have had a genuine chance of making it through. Then the final was won by Semenya with some serious pace, crossing the line in 1:55.16 for gold. Realistically the semis were as far as Angie Petty might have made it so it was pretty harsh to see her miss out by the tiny margins that she did. It’s bad luck that she missed out in the way she did but she also ran within her capabilities, which is a bit of a shame.

Ben Langton Burnell – Javelin

Coming in with a PB of 82.44m, Langton Burnell was always a longshot to make it out of qualifying at the Worlds. The automatic qualifying mark for the final was 83.00m and the gusty conditions didn’t really help a first time competitor like BLB. Also, going in the second group meant he’d already seen Germany’s Johannes Vetter sail through with 91.20m – almost five metres further than anyone else would manage in the preliminary stage.

And this was a fairly tough pool of athletes too. Five topped the qualifying mark in group A before a further eight made it through from BLB’s group. Aussie lad Hamish Peacock went 82.46m and still got sent packing.

For Benny, his first attempt was his best attempt. 76.46m, which was followed by 73.47m and 74.46m so not even close to making the final but that’s fine. This was more about the experience for the lad as he prepares for the World Uni Games and the Commonwealth Games. Bound to be something to work on from this and he’s now had a taste of competition amongst the very best.

Camille Buscomb – 5000m & 10,000m

Not so good from Buscomb here, who got onto the track nice and early with the women’s 10km track race one of the first to take place… but she spent most of it lingering towards the back of the pack. And as she fell behind, things only got harder. She pretty much ended up running the last third or more of the race all on her lonesome as Almaz Ayana sped around lapping all the stragglers and winning gold with ease – backing up her Olympic gold from Rio.

Ayana’s winning time of 30:16.32 was 46 seconds clear of second place (Tirunesh Dibaba - Ethiopia) and waaaay clear of Buscomb’s 33:07.53 which was good enough for 30th out of 33 runners… two of which didn’t finish. The only runner to come in slower was Paraguay’s Carmen Patricia Martinez who at least set a national record. Buscomb’s best is a 31:45.02 in California back in May – repeat that and she would’ve come 14th.

But in her own words, Camille just wasn’t feeling it. She didn’t have the gas in the tank for whatever reason, be it burn out or something else. It’s extremely hard to maintain a rapid pace for five-six months of the year as she had to do after breaking through with that race at Stamford. Hey, so it goes.

Buscomb then had to consider whether to run the 5000m or not, eventually deciding that she may as well, already being there and all. And, you know, initially she looked pretty sharp. Buscomb led at the 1km mark with a 3:04.59 split. She was still up with the leaders beyond the 3km milestone but it was then that she began to fade, as the best in her heat began to up the tempo.

Hellen Obiri went on to coast into the final just ahead of Almaz Ayana while Buscomb (who has a PB of 15:19.81 set only a couple months back) disappeared all the way to the back of the heat where she tumbled over the line with the 30th best time across the 32 competitors in London. She was 15 seconds behind the next person in her heat – although since she was running by herself she didn’t really push it at the end.

The final was then a masterclass as Obiri and Ayana blew out to a big lead and it was all a matter of which could then finish stronger. Having run in the slipstream the whole way, it was the Kenyan Obiri who blitzed her way around the final lap to win it easy.

Zane Robertson – 10,000m

Zanedog also had his troubles in his lone event. Although the Running Elvis has been more about the half-marathons these days he’s still a feature in plenty of different distances and after setting the NZ record in the 10,000m at the Olympics there was a bit of hype about him coming into London. But it didn’t work. Robertson couldn’t seem to find his pace and ran near the back of the pack the whole distance, edging up to 16th by the final line.

His time of 27:48.59 was nothing special – almost a full minute behind the winner Mo Farah and well off his time from Rio. Farah came in with the fastest time of 2017 so far and he was pushed all the way to the end, this was a fast race and Zane hadn’t really prepared specifically for this distance, at least he hadn’t run too many 10kms recently. He also didn’t speak to the media as he came off the track, instead heading off to get treated for cramping around the hips which probably goes a long way to explain the result. It happens, and there’s plenty more to come from Robbo who then went straight back into his training overseas afterwards.

Marshall Hall - Discus

One of a few kiwis here at their first World Champs, Marshall Hall didn’t qualify for London automatically but got the nod as they rolled back the best throws of the year to make up an even 32 competitors. So expecting anything other than a good time here was desperate. Still, Hall might have been a bit shanked not to have given a better account of himself.

The qualifying mark was set at 64.50m which is five centimetres within his personal best. However after fouling his first attempt he could then only manage a best of 56.64m in his next two. Not even close to making the final – in fact it was the lowest marked distance in either qualifying pool (though two jokers didn’t set a mark).

By Hallbags’ own opinion, he tried too hard to do something special and kinda lost his rhythm. All good prep for the Comm Games (did you know the Comm Games are coming up and that these athletes are all prioritising them?). Andrius Gudzius (Lithuania) won gold with a throw of 69.21m in the final.

Julia Ratcliffe – Hammer Throw

Ratcliffe was another one who couldn’t but her best foot forward at the Worlds, unfortunately. She bowed out in qualifying with a best of 64.72m which had her finish 26th out of 32 competitors. Nothing much to brag about there and she was over five metres short of her personal best – a 70.75m effort in London last July. That’s disappointing but even if she’d matched that PB then she’d still have only just snuck into the final. No dramas, Julia’s another one who is targeting the World Uni Games and next year’s Commonwealth Games where the field will be a lot more generous to her. Poland’s Anita Wlodarczyk won the gold with a best of 77.90m.

Quentin Rew – 50km Race Walk

The second to last NZer to compete was old mate Quentin (Nick Willis closing proceedings for Aotearoa), a veteran of multiple Olympics and a man whose athletic prowess is probably overshadowed by the unglamorous nature of his sport. Like… just being honest there. But you should know his name, not only because of his Olympic past but also because of what he did in London the other day.

Rew was never gonna be walking towards a medal. That woulda been something outlandish and anyway nobody came even close to Frenchman Yohann Diniz – the world record holder in the 50km event (and briefly in the 20km event once upon a time as well). Diniz fainted multiple times in the Rio 2016 50km race walk and still finished eighth. On a day like he had in London when he was really feeling it, there was nobody could touch him as he completed the race in 3:33:12, one of the fastest races ever… walked. Second place Hirooki Arai (Japan) was more than eight minutes behind him.

But Quentin Rew managed to stroll in with a time of 3:46:29. That's not only his new personal best but a national record too and he destroyed Craig Barrett’s 2001 time by a minute and 34 secs. Not at all shabby there, my man. It was good for twelfth place at the Worlds. Having Aussie Jared Tallent withdraw through injury helped, naturally, though Rew was actually a couple places worse off than his tenth in 2015 (granted he was a couple minutes quicker too). One of those under the radar success stories right here.

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