Day Eight - Friday, October 4th
By James O'Brien, reporting from Doha
Everybody Loves a Home Town Hero
From an NYAC perspective, this is a light day at the World Track and Field Championships. The only Club athlete in action is Valarie Allman, who is contesting the final of the women’s discus. Allman qualified on Wednesday, advancing by virtue of a mark of 62.25m/204’2”, the 12th best of the early rounds. Among others she will face in the final is the mighty Cuban duo of Yaimé Perez and Denia Caballero. Still, everybody starts from zero; that’s why it’s called competition.
As I await that final, it’s interesting to note that tonight is the first occasion on which the stadium has come remotely close to being full. The reasons are, most likely, two-fold: 1) the local organizers have distributed 25 gazillion free tickets (an approximate number), in an attempt to fill the stands, and 2) tonight’s men’s high jump final features Mutaz Barshim, the only Qatari competing in these championships who is a medal candidate. That said, Barshim will have to pull one out of the bag if he is to get on the podium; but, it’s always gratifying to see the host nation claim some hardware.
As the women’s discus gets underway, so does the final of the women’s 400m hurdles. The USA’s Delilah Muhammad is always a pleasure to watch, seeming scarcely under pressure, even when the race is at its most intense. (Very similar to Matthew Centrowitz in the men’s 1500m). In this evening’s final, Muhammad stormed away with the title; I mention it here because she also broke her own world record, clocking 52.16 seconds, an improvement of 0.04 seconds on her own mark set in July of this year. So far, that’s the only world record of this meet. Plus, you’ve got to say, two world records and one world title in the span of a few months - that’s what you call a good season.
Back in the discus cage, the NYAC’s Allman was having a tough time. Coming into the meet with a seasonal and all-time best of 67.15m/220’3”, she struggled in the circle this evening, logging four fouls in her six attempts. Her best throw, coming in the second round, reached 61.82m/202’10”, far below her aspirations, installing her in an eventual seventh position. For the record, the crown went to Perez with a mighty 69.17m/226’11”.
So, a comparatively quiet NYAC day today, though far from it in the stadium. The general enthusiasm for Barshim in the men’s high jump clearly served good purpose, the Qatari taking the gold medal in a competition that brought the Khalifa Stadium to light in a way it has not seen all week. Which, when you think about it, is reason enough to love a home-town hero.