Dina Asher-Smith insists she is not feeling the pressure to follow her 100m silver with a 200m world title – even though her biggest rivals are dropping like flies.
The 23-year-old Briton finished fastest of all in the first round of the 200m, running a crisp 22.32sec, and is now a huge favourite for gold. But she warned: “Championships are inherently unpredictable and it’s just about how you handle the rounds, how you recover, how you sleep and make sure you execute each race.”
It is natural that she wants to play down her chances. But not since Moses parted the Red Sea has a more dangerous looking passage suddenly become so sedate. First the world’s best 200m runner, Shaunae Miller-Uibo, was unable to double up because of scheduling problems and stuck to the 400m. Then Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce, the greatest female sprinter in history, withdrew on the advice of her coach after winning the 100m.
On Monday more potential dangers fell by the wayside as the 2015 champion, Dafne Schippers, and 2017 silver medallist, Marie-Josée Ta Lou, withdrew with injuries – and Blessing Okagbare, one of the few to run faster than the Briton in 2019, was disqualified for stepping out of her lane in a heat.
That leaves only Elaine Thompson, the Olympic champion, as a clear and present danger. However, the Jamaican revealed after finishing fourth in the 100m final that an Achilles tendon hurts every time she puts pressure on it. Two other Britons, Jodie Williams and Beth Dobbin, also made it safely through to the semi-finals.
In the men’s 200m Adam Gemili is hoping to land his first major individual medal after winning his semi-final in 20.03. “People have always said I should have medalled years ago,” he said. “People always say ‘potential’ with me. I don’t like that word. I’m 25 years old now. I need to start performing on a world stage. There’s no real excuses. My body’s healthy. I’ve done the training.”
However, there was disappointment for Britain’s other two athletes as Zharnel Hughes failed to qualify after running only 20.30 and Miguel Francis pulled out with a quad strain.
The organisers have been heavily criticised for poor crowds during the first three days but the thousands of army staff and migrant workers who were bussed in on Monday created a cracking atmosphere, particularly in the men’s 5,000m, which turned into a classic.
From an early stage it was clear it would be a battle between the 19-year-old Norwegian Jakob Ingebrigtsen and a pack of fearsome Ethiopians. Surprisingly it was Ingebrigtsen who struck for home first but around the final bend it became clear he had nothing left. That left the 2017 champion, Muktar Edris, to spring a surprise by retaining his title in 12:58.85. His compatriot Selemon Barega took silver while Canada’s Mohammad Ahmed claimed bronze. A spent Ingebrigtsen, meanwhile, swallow-dived over the line to finish fifth.
There was greater joy for Norway in the men’s 400m hurdles as Karsten Warholm retained his title with a thunderous display of front-running to come home in 47.42 sec. Rai Benjamin of the USA pushed him all the way and won silver in 47.66, while the home favourite Abderrahman Samba took bronze.
The women’s high jump final turned into an extraordinary battle between the reigning champion, Mariya Lasitskene, from Russia, and the 18-year-old Yaroslava Mahuchikh of Ukraine, with both clearing 2.04m before the Russian, competing as a neutral, won on countback. Vashti Cunningham of the US claimed bronze.
In the women’s 3,000m steeplechase, meanwhile, Beatrice Chepkoech led from gun to tape to win in 8:57.84, ahead of the reigning champion Emma Coburn from the US, with Germany’s Gesa Krause third.
Finally the post-Caster Semenya era in the women’s 800m began with a shock as the Ugandan Halimah Nakaayi took gold, with the pre-race favourite Ajee Wilson having to settle for bronze.
Meanwhile Laura Muir, who begins her 1500m campaign on Wednesday, insists she is fit enough to go for gold despite missing six weeks of running after tearing her calf in late July. “It’s not been the most ideal preparation over these past couple of months so to win a medal, especially gold, would be an even bigger achievement,” she said. “That’s definitely still on the table.”
The 26-year-old also revealed that she has kept fit by cross-training in the pool twice a day and that her fitness is “still pretty good” after running some “really brutal training sessions”.