Preview – World Athletics Championships

What is it?

It’s a biennial competition to work out who are the best athletes on the planet. It first took place in 1983, and the 2017 competition to be held in London will be the 16th edition. It takes place from the 4th-13th August, in the London Stadium (previously known as the Olympic Stadium, but rebranded following West Ham’s takeover).

Who are the main athletes to look out for?

  • Nafissatou Thiam (Belgium) (Heptathlon) – The UK are holding out for Katarina Johnson-Thompson to come of age (see below), but standing in her way is the formidable figure of Nafissatou Thiam, who announced herself on the world stage by winning gold at the Rio Olympics. Earlier this year, she became only the fourth woman to pass the 7,000 points mark for the heptathlon, and at only 22, has a fantastic chance to break the world record held by the USA’s Jackie Joyner-Kersee.
  • Caster Semenya (South Africa) (800m and 1,500m) – The South African will double-up at the World Championships this year, as she looks to compete in the 1,500m as well as her recognised event, the 800m. Semenya remains a world-class athlete, but will understandably continue to draw headlines for reasons other than her performances on the track, as she continues to be made an unwilling poster-girl for hyperandrogenism. Those discussions are even more likely this week in light of the new rules and regulations which were announced by the IAAF last month (look out for a future post on this, once I’ve got my own thoughts in order, and found the time to write it).

25490332424_9d617dd198_zDafne Schippers (picture courtesy of Filip Bossuyt)

  • Dafne Schippers (Netherlands) (100m and 200m) – Schippers is that relative rarity: a world-class white sprinter. Schippers started out as a heptathlete, and was very successful, particularly at junior level, before making the decision to focus on the sprint events from the 2014 season onwards. Her breakthrough came in the 2015 World Championships in Beijing, where she won a silver medal in the 100m and a gold medal in the 200m. She then backed up these performances at the Olympics, although was disappointed to finish second behind Jamaican rival Elaine Thompson. With Thompson also competing in London, Schippers will be looking to avenge that Olympic defeat, as well as defend her world title.
  • Kendra Harrison (USA) (100m Hurdles) – Another woman with scores to settle, Harrison was the standout sprint hurdler in 2016, but will forever be remembered for having missed out in the American Olympic trials, where she finished sixth, and therefore did not compete in Rio. Shortly after missing out on Olympic qualification, Harrison broke the long-standing 100m Hurdles world record, which had been in place for 28 years. Coming to the World Championships will not hold happy memories for Harrison, who was disqualified for a false start in the semi-finals in Beijing, and she will be looking for a breakthrough at a major championships to put some of her demons to bed.
  • Allyson Felix (USA) (400m) – Felix is one of the most-decorated athletes of all time, but her record is a bittersweet one, with the majority of her gold medals at Olympic level coming the way of relays. In individual events, Felix is the defending 400m world champion, but lost out in the 2016 Olympics to Shaunae Miller of the Bahamas.
  • Usain Bolt (Jamaica) (100m) – OK, so you may have spotted he’s not a woman, but I can’t let this one pass by. It will be his last ever appearance on a track, and he is arguably the greatest athlete who has ever lived, and certainly the fastest sprinter we have ever seen. Don’t miss the men’s 100m final on Saturday.

What about the British hopes?

  • Laura Muir (1,500m and 5,000m) – Muir had been flying under the radar with her quiet improvement over the past few years, right up to the point that she broke the 1,500m British record, and in doing so set the fastest time in the world during 2016. Winning over 1,500m will be difficult, but Muir will go into the championships full of confidence and ready to spring a surprise.

7712282072_944c3a9489_zKatarina Johnson-Thompson (picture courtesy of David Pilbrow)

  • Katarina Johnson-Thompson (Heptathlon) – Widely touted as the heir to the British heptathlon legacy of Denise Lewis, Kelly Sotherton and Jess Ennis-Hill, ‘KJ-T’ has struggled to align her best performances with major championships. Having finished in an impressive fourteenth place at the London Olympics, great things were expected at the 2015 World Championships, only for Johnson-Thompson to record three fouls in the long jump and finish a disappointing 28th. That was followed up with another disappointing performance in Rio, finishing sixth (although she did record a high jump that would have won gold in the individual high jump event). She has since split with her coach and moved to Montpelier, and will be hoping her change of scenery can inspire her to the upper reaches of the international circuit.
  • Holly Bradshaw (Pole Vault) – Another British hope who will aim to fly under the radar. Bradshaw has finished sixth and fifth in the last two Olympic Games, and was seventh at the World Championships in Beijing, but with none of these performances representing what she feels is a top drawer performance. She will hope that she can hook up a few of her best jumps in London, and if she can she will definitely be in the running for a medal.
  • Dina Asher-Smith (100m and 200m) – Asher-Smith’s main successes to date on the track have come as part of the British 4x100m Relay team, which won bronze medals at the 2015 World Championships and the 2016 Olympics (and will be hoping to emulate that here). Asher-Smith will also feel she has a chance to make an impact as an individual in the 200m, having finished fifth in Rio.

What is the schedule, and which are the events to look out for?

  • Friday 4th August
    • No women’s finals
  • Saturday 5th August
    • 10,000m Final
    • Heptathlon – Day One (Thiam and Johnson-Thompson)
    • Men’s 100m (Bolt)
  • Sunday 6th August
    • Marathon
    • Pole Vault (Bradshaw)
    • Heptathlon – Day Two (Thiam and Johnson-Thompson)
    • 100m (Asher-Smith)
  • Monday 7th August
    • Hammer
    • Triple jump
    • 1,500m (Muir)
  • Tuesday 8th August
    • Javelin
  • Wednesday 9th August
    • Shot put
    • 400m (Felix)
  • Thursday 10th August
    • 400m Hurdles
  • Friday 11th August
    • Long jump
    • 3,000m Steeplechase
    • 200m (Schippers and Asher-Smith)
  • Saturday 12th August
    • High jump
    • 100m Hurdles (Harrison)
    • 4x100m Relay
  • Sunday 13th August
    • 20km Race Walk
    • Discus
    • 5,000m
    • 800m (Semenya)
    • 4x400m Relay

Where can I watch it (UK only)?

BBC are showing coverage of the event.


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