By Will Downing
Ciara Mageean may have finished tenth in the World Athletics Championships in Doha, in a startling 1500m final, but the City of Lisburn AC athlete still comes away from Qatar with a sparkling new lifetime best in the blue riband middle-distance event.
A mark of 4:00.15 saw Mageean surpass her previous best of 4:01.21 clocked at the Herculis Diamond League meeting in Monaco in July, as winner Sifan Hassan fielded a series of pointed questions about her banned coach Antonio Salazar, hit with a four-year ban this week for facilitating doping, and her status within the now-tainted Nike Oregon Project.
10000m world champion from earlier in the week, Hassan completed an incredible 1500-10000 double with an astonishing time of 3:51.95 – a new Championship record, almost four seconds inside her previous lifetime best, putting her sixth on the all-time list.
It’s a breathtaking double never before achieved at any major Championship by a man or woman.
Only world record holder Genzebe Dibaba of Ethiopia (3:50.07, Monaco 2015), and Chinese quartet Qu Yunxia (3:50.46, Stuttgart WC 1993), Bo Jiang (3:50.98, Shanghai 1997), Lang Yinglai (3:51.34, Shanghai 1997) and Wang Junxia (3:51.92, Stuttgart WC 1993) have run faster in history.
Hassan’s previous best also came in Monaco in July – 3:55.30.
Twice European champion over 1500m (once indoors, once outdoors), Hassan took up the running after a lap, with European champion Laura Muir deciding to take the opening 400m pace steady, perched right at the back.
With the Dutchwoman accelerating rapidly, Muir and the rest of the field were unable to respond, with Hassan clocking a time almost four seconds inside her previous lifetime best of 3:55.30.
A new Kenyan national record saw Faith Kipyegon in second in 3:54.22, with Gudaf Tsegay of Ethiopia third in a PB of 3:54.38.
Shelby Houlihan clocked a North American continental record for the USA in 3:54.99 in finishing fourth, with Muir fifth on 3:55.76.
Mageean took over a second off her own lifetime best, but narrowly missed out on breaking the famous four-minute barrier.
Sonia O’Sullivan’s Irish record from 1995 stands at 3:58.85, and only would have earned ninth place in this final.
Afterwards, Mageean told Athletics Ireland: “To come tenth in the world, I’m absolutely over the moon.
“I came out here ranked around 14th or 16th, and I’ve gone out and come top 10 in the world. For a wee girl from Portaferry, that’s not too bad.
“It was a class race. I went out and thought it might be steady and then pick up. I saw Hassan coming on the outside and thought we’re in for a treat now.
“It was going to be a tough one. I knew I had to run hard.
“I went out there with the aim of staying in touch and seeing if some would fall out the back a wee bit.
“But I’m tough and I wasn’t going to lose my head, and in that last lap, I would give it absolutely everything.
“So – tenth. Happy with that. I went out there and said every vest I can get, it’s a little peg to getting every closer to where I want to be.
“Tenth in the world shows me that there’s a big gap between me and number one.
“It shows me the work that I have to do to, and work hard to close that gap, I want to be up there competing for medals in the future.”
With prize money only going to the top eight finishers in each event, Brendan Boyce is the only Irish athlete that will receive an IAAF cash prize for his efforts in Doha – with US$6000 (approx. €5500) set to be his reward for finishing sixth in last week’s 50k walk.
Each world champion receives €55,000, with world records earning a $100,000 bonus on top – just over €91,000.
In the aftermath of the four-year ban slapped onto Hassan’s coach Antonio Salazar, plus the extra focus being put on his controversial Nike Oregon Project – where Hassan is based – the Dutch athlete gave a series of combative interviews following her win.
Hassan told Swedish television channel SVT: “Look, I just focused on this race and I haven’t thought about it (her coach’s ban) because the people were making me crazy.
“If it didn’t give me a crazy time (this week), I could have run a world record. I ran by my own hard emotion from the week.
“I’m not an emotional person. I cried. I don’t like to act so arrogant, but I did it (ran so fast) because I was so angry with what people were saying. I wanted to show that hard work can beat anything.
“It looked like this was hard work for me, but it took so much hard work.”
Speaking subsequently to the BBC, Hassan railed: ““I have been clean all my life. This makes me so mad. I have been clear all my life.
“You cannot see my body. I have been such a good athlete since 2014. Now people start talking all this bullsh*t. I am sorry for my language.”
In another interview with the Olympic Channel, the double champion declared: “I’m clean. I do my best. I get on with the testing. I was clean, I will stay clean. If they want to, they can test me every single day.”
When asked who would coach her now that Salazar has been caught and banned, Hassan replied: “Look, I haven’t thought about it because I was focused on this.
“This just happened in the middle of the Championships. He is the one who always put his athlete before his family, before his life.
“He is the hardest-working coach I’ve ever seen. Alberto is always in my heart, he works very hard.”
Stephen Scullion finished 43rd in the post-midnight men’s marathon in a time of 2 hours 21 minutes 31 seconds, as Ethiopia nabbed the top two positions through Lelisa Desisa and Mosinet Geremew.
In temperatures of 29 Celsius – but crucially less humidity than the other road races this week – Paraguay’s Derlis Ayala set the early pace and led at once stage by a full minute, but faded at the halfway point and bowed out.
Silver-medallist in the same event at the 2013 Worlds in Moscow, Desisa won by four seconds in 2:10.40, ahead of London Marathon runner-up Geremew, with Kenya’s Amos Kipruto third and Britain’s Callum Hawkins fourth thanks to a late surge.
Hawkins, who collapsed during the Commonwealth Games marathon in Gold Coast last year while leading and who missed out on bronze by six seconds here, commented: “Gutted. Maybe I just gave too much in the middle stages but I couldn’t give any more.”
Scullion commented to Athletics Ireland: “I had prepared for 80-85% humidity, but instead it was 50-55%.
“I think a lot of people coped far better than they otherwise would have if conditions were harder.”
Another Championship record went in the women’s 5000m as Hellen Obiri of Kenya pipped team-mate Margaret Chelimo Kipkemboi with a winning time of 14:26.72, as Germany’s Konstanze Klosterhalfen took bronze, being the only athlete of the top seven not to run a lifetime best.
The United States regained the men’s 4x100m relay crown in a world lead 37.10 seconds, as Britain in second, Japan in third and Brazil in fourth all ran continental records.
Jamaica won the women’s 4×100 in a world lead 41.44, ahead of Britain and the US.
An incredible men’s shot put saw one solitary centimetre divide the top three, with the gold and silver-winning throws coming right at the end.
Defending champion Tomas Walsh of New Zealand sent out a blistering Oceania record throw in the opening round of 22.90 metres that looked to have won it.
But with his final throw of the competition, 2015 world champion Joe Kovacs of the USA – knocked down to silver by Walsh in London two years ago – reached 22.91 to go joint-fourth on the all-time list, with the longest throw seen anywhere since 1990.
Adding insult to injury for long-time leader Walsh, Kovacs’ American team-mate Ryan Crouser matched the Kiwi’s 22.90 to nick silver on countback.
Randy Barnes holds the world record of 23.12m set in Westwood in 1990.
Venezuelan Yulimar Rojas successfully defended her women’s triple jump crown with a thumping second-round leap of 15.37 metres, just 13 centimetres off Inessa Kravets’ world record of 15.50m set at the 1995 World Championships in Gothenburg.
Rojas, who already cleared 15.41m earlier this year, said: “Wow. I have no words. It’s been a long and successful year. Another world title for Venezuela. I came out to break the world record. I tried in the first three rounds. I then felt tired and my legs did not respond as I wanted. This is my second-best performance ever.”
It may not have been Ireland’s best World Championships ever, but Boyce’s dramatic capture of sixth-position in last weekend’s 50km walk, Mageean’s 10th place in the 1500m along with Thomas Barr’s 11th spot overall in the 400m hurdles are a vast improvement on the calamitous showing across the board that Ireland endured two years ago in London, with Rob Heffernan’s eighth-place finish in the 50km walk providing the Irish team with their sole top-16 placing.
Since then, Barr has won bronze at the European Championships in Berlin, Mark English and Mageean followed suit at the European Indoors in Glasgow, and a string of medals have come in the underage European and World Championships, suggesting a bright future is possible – provided those athletes stick it out for the long-term.
IRISH RESULTS AT DOHA 2019
Brendan Boyce – 6th, 50km Walk (m)
Ciara Mageean – 10th, 1500m (w)
Thomas Barr – 11th, 400m hurdles (m) – out in semis
Michelle Finn – 30th, 3000m steeplechase (w) – out in semis
Alex Wright – 31st, 20km Walk (m)
Mark English – 32nd, 800m (m) – out in first round
Phil Healy – 37th, 200m (w) – out in first round
Stephen Scullion – 43rd, marathon (m)
IRISH MEDALS AT WORLD ATHLETICS CHAMPIONSHIPS
1983 5000m Eamonn Coghlan GOLD 13:28.53
1993 1500m Sonia O’Sullivan SILVER 4:03.48
1995 5000m Sonia O’Sullivan GOLD 14:46.47
2003 20km Walk Gillian O’Sullivan SILVER 1:27:34
2009 20km Walk Olive Loughnane GOLD 1:28:58
2013 50km Walk Robert Heffernan GOLD 3:37:58