Day Four - Monday, September 30th

Khalifa Catches Fire

By James O'Brien, reporting from Doha

I discovered today that every adult male in Qatar receives US$100,000 annually. Free bunce! For nothing! Straight into your hand! Dosh! My source was reliable, so I’m taking this as gospel. It made me seriously consider staying here full time. Then I found out that you actually have to be Qatari. The devil is in the details, inevitably. So, out of curiosity, I googled “becoming Qatari.” Seems you have to live here first for 25 straight years, be able to speak Arabic and be of good moral character. I’ve got one of those sorted; yes, I can speak Arabic. Joking. Anyway, my point being two-fold: 1. $100K a year! For nothing!, and; 2: you learn some curious things when you’re out and about.

As I write these words, I’m also looking at a TV feed from the warm-up track here in Doha. In the midst of the world’s finest athletes hurtling along at warp speed, there’s a cat, just sitting trackside, watching the proceedings, and with not much interest, if the look on its face is anything to go by. So, point 3: you also see some curious things. And hear; now they’re playing “Jingle Bells” in the stadium.

Back to the matter in hand, that being the IAAF World Championships, being held this week in a blisteringly hot Doha. The women’s 20K race walk commenced at 11:59pm last night. All the road events (men’s and women’s marathons; men’s and women’s 20K and 50K race walks) were scheduled to take place at night in order to avoid the heat. Referring to the aforementioned devil and his details; the night-time start may avoid the sun, but it does very little to avoid the heat, which hasn’t gone below 90 degrees at any time, day or night, so far this week.

Rachel Seaman, competing for Canada, was the NYAC’s representative in last night’s race. Truth be told, it was a hard day’s night. (If you have to ask if I made that phrase up on my own, well….there is no hope). With China sweeping the top three positions, Seaman labored hard but crossed the line in 34th position in a time of 1:45:40, well shy of her all-time best of 1:29:54 and her season’s best of 1:33:10. It is not an injustice to state that, as much as conditioning, competitiveness and tactics, the conditions were a determining factor in the results of this event.

In the stadium this evening, NYAC action was handled by Kara Winger in the qualifying rounds of the women’s javelin and Sam Mattis in the final of the men’s discus. Distances were inexplicably short across the board in the javelin, but Winger qualified safely with a throw of 62.13m/203’10” in round three of the second group. Her final takes place tomorrow, Tuesday, October 1st.

For Mattis, it was always going to be a challenging day. He was facing titans of the order of Sweden’s Daniel Stahl, the silver medalist from two years ago. Mattis’ all-time best of 67.45m/221’3” ranked him eighth in the field of 12, meaning that it would take the performance of his life to get amongst the hardware.

A foul on the NYAC man’s first attempt did nor augur well, but a 63.15m/207’2” in round two put him on the board, albeit in ninth position. He would need to be among the top eight after three rounds in order to secure three further attempts and a shot at a medal. A third round mark of 63.42m saw an increase in distance but a drop in position, as Mattis finished that round in 11th place, bringing his world championships to an end. A valiant effort, for sure, and more to come, also for sure.

As mentioned in previous blogs, crowds have been sparse in the Khalifa Stadium. Tonight saw a marginal improvement - possibly two-thirds full - and they certainly made some noise. Then again, they had plenty to make noise about: magnificent finals in the men’s 5000m, women’s high jump, women’s 3000m steeplechase, women’s 800m and men’s 400m hurdles, not to mention the aforementioned men’s discus - all thrillers. If you missed any of it, it’s worth your while to go to or YouTube to re-live the action. When a major championship finally catches fire, you may take me at my word that there is absolutely nothing like it.

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