World Champs: 10 things we’ve learnt from the first few days

LONDON, ENGLAND - JULY 23:  Spectators arrive at the stadium during day two of the Muller Anniversary Games at The Stadium - Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park on July 23, 2016 in London, England. (Photo by Stephen Pond - British Athletics/British Athletics via Getty Images)
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World Champs: 10 things we’ve learnt from the first few days

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London is most certainly open: London is open. London is open. LONDON IS OPEN! How many more times? That was the long and short of son-of-a-bus-driver, London Mayor, Sadiq Khan’s, opening, unengaging PR gambit on Friday. Life and soul it most certainly wasn’t.

Race like it’s your last if you want to achieve anything: If only everybody could adopt Jess Judd’s ‘f*** it’ mentality to get where they need to be. Jess’s ballsy show in the first round of the 1500m was a joy to watch. Personal best front-running on the biggest stage of your career so far – it really didn’t matter what happened in the semi-final. Jess made all the big-hitters in her heat run much quicker than they might have liked. We’d like to think it’s a clever bit of team tactics too. Repeating the trick in the semi-final, a clever ploy of tiring out teammate, Laura Muir’s, main medal rivals would be a rather cool story.

Brendan gets it right: Farah’s win on Friday night was far from the procession of previous years. It was closest thing we’ve seen to a bonafide attempt to beat Farah in years. Plugging in for Brendan’s last dance with Farah over 25 laps, he delivered a line that will go down as one of his more insightful observations over the years. ‘A lot of men in this field think they can win this. Only one man knows he can win this.’ True – and just as well perhaps given the collective meltdown 24 hours later.

Pantomime villain should be cast as saviour: Justin Gatlin winning the 100m final was the best thing that could have happened on Saturday night. Perfect script it most certainly wasn’t, thank goodness. But if you don’t want particular athletes winning your championships, don’t let them run in the first place. Without Gatlin, in particular, coming out on top, the embarrassingly persistent doping problem could have been conveniently sidelined in favour of the blind reasoning of relevance and entertainment.

But see the meltdown, the anger, the conversations, embarrassment and debate – not least led by the supreme Michael Johnson on the BBC sofa. To spin Steve Cram’s words on their head, Justin Gatlin may have just saved his sport.

Flying Scot never fails to impress: Why is it that every time Callum Hawkins races, we’re surprised at how well he does? There’s a letter in his bag every time. Yet, we’re still amazed with every new boundary Callum pushes. Forget the excuses that Brits can’t compete over 26.2 miles. Forget Mo, too. Callum is the great British marathon hope. Let’s just hope his progress and successes aren’t dwarfed by the inevitable hype.

Personal bests matter less when you lead out the world’s best: Leading the world championship marathon for the best part of two hours in front of a home crowd with a smile on her face. We’re pretty sure Aly Dixon wouldn’t swap that experience for anything else. She gave everybody something to cheer. Who needs personal bests when you lead out the world’s best? You could see how much she enjoyed her more-than fifteen minutes of fame. Saying that, Charlotte Purdue absolutely nailed it. Top Brit and a personal best on the world stage. She delivered at the right time – which is more than can be said for a host of Brits so far.

South Koreans are winning on style if not silverware: Our favourite kit of the world championships so far? The chequered Asics number sported by the likes of Japan, France and Belgium. The South Koreans are wearing it best though. Their baby blue and red outfit is something of a cross between classic ’90s football strips.

There are echoes of the famous Croatia shirt circa Euro ’96, the diamonds of West Germany in the mid-90’s and *niche appeal alert* the Coventry City home kit sported around the same time. Check it out, it’s a winner – even if the athletes sporting it aren’t.

The 800m isn’t over until it’s over: From near-zero to absolute hero, seeing Kyle Langford dust himself down after finishing fifth of six fastest losers in the heat to automatic qualifier in the semi is the type of turnaround few expected. While Guy Learmonth exceeded expectations and Elliot Giles probably didn’t, Langford at least ensures there’s British interest in tomorrow’s wide-open final.

South Africa tops the anthem charts – as well as most inspirational backstory: Speaking of favourites, our number one national anthem so far surely has to be South Africa’s jaunty little xylophonic, Disney theme park ride number. We mightn’t have watched his winning leap, but Luvo Manyonga’s victory in the long jump ensured the tune got its first airing this champs. From crystal meth addict to long jump world champion, Manyonga’s golden redemption tale rivals that of Aries Merritt’s kidney transplant for most remarkable back story of the champs.

Toni Minichiello is wasted on BBC commentary: By that, we mean he’s excellent. Not only does he talk a lot of sense but he also gives technical insight that’s accessible for everyone watching. He has experience, opinions and insight that matters. Maybe he’s one of those characters that ruffles a few feathers, which is why he’s not embraced by British Athletics more closely. Whatever, his knowledge and medal winning success ought to be brought into the fold.

Words by Bo James
Image from Sue Gyford (Scottish Athletics)