Saturday, 15 July 2017 20:47

Olympic champions collide in Rabat

Rio 2016 winners in the women’s 400m and 800m go head to head over one lap in Diamond League clash

Olympic 800m champion Caster Semenya steps down to 400m to take on a strong one-lap line-up in Rabat as the IAAF Diamond League series moves to Morocco on Sunday.

Semenya faces Olympic 400m champion Shaunae Miller-Uibo of the Bahamas, plus Quanera Hayes and Natasha Hastings of the United States in a fascinating sprint clash.

With the IAAF World Championships only a month away, Olympic 100m and 200m champion Elaine Thompson will also be sharpening up in Rabat. Seven days after she won at the Diamond League in London wearing “splats” (a combination of racing flats and spikes), the Jamaican races 100m against a line-up that includes Briton Daryll Neita.

Thompson also won in Rabat 12 months ago when the Moroccan venue became the first Diamond League event to be held on African soil.

Elsewhere, Canadian sprint star Andre de Grasse tackles a 200m field that includes Briton Zharnel Hughes.

The 100m, meanwhile, sees former world champion Yohan Blake of Jamaica take on Britons Nethaneel Mitchell-Blake and CJ Ujah.

Further Brits in action in Rabat include Laura Weightman in the 1500m, Eilidh Doyle in the 400m hurdles and Robbie Grabarz in the high jump.

Blake plays down groin injury fears

Jamaican Yohan Blake, the 2012 Olympic 100 and 200 metres silver medallist, is downplaying the seriousness of a groin problem which ruled him out of Sunday's 100m at the Diamond League meeting in Rabat, Morocco.

"It is not an injury, I felt some discomfort in the groin area," Blake told Reuters from the North African country on Saturday.

"With three weeks to go to the World Championships I am being cautious," added the youngest world 100m champion from 2011.

Blake, who posted 9.90 and 19.97 seconds to win the sprint double at Jamaica's national trials last month in Usain Bolt's absence, is among the medal contenders for the sprint events in London.

The second fastest man of all time, with 9.69 and 19.26 seconds respectively, is scheduled to get an assessment from German doctor Hans-Wilhelm Muller Wolphart in Munich on Tuesday.

Jamaica enjoy double sprint success at World Under-18 Athletics Championships

Jamaica enjoyed double sprint success as the World Under-18 Athletics Championships continued at the Moi International Sports Centre in Nairobi today.

De'Jour Russell headlined Jamaica’s day, winning the men’s 110 metres hurdles in a Championship record time of 13.04sec.

He was followed across the line by Chinese Taipei’s Hao-hua Lu and Thomas Wanaverbecq of France, who completed the podium in times of 13.41 and 13.55 respectively.

Russell’s achievement came shortly after his compatriot Antonio Watson earned victory in the men’s 400m, triumphing in a personal best time of 46.59.

He was pushed closely by Daniel William of Guyana and Turks and Caicos’ Colby Jennings, who posted personal best times of 46.72 and 46.77.

Jennings would take bronze on a photo finish with Jamaica’s Anthony Cox, who matched his time of 46.77.

The top four athletes in the women’s 400m would also set personal bests, with the Czech Republic’s Barbora Malíková coming through to win gold in a time of 52.74.

Kenya’s Mary Moraa ended as the runner-up in front of a home crowd by clocking 53.31, while Brazil’s Giovanna Rosalia dos Santos edged out Bahamas Doneisha Anderson for bronze by crossing the line in 53.57.

The host nation would celebrate double gold on the third day of competition, with George Meitamei Managoi and Caren Chebet earning victories.

Managoi won the men’s 1,500m in a time of 3min 47.53, with Ethiopia’s Abebe Dessassa claiming silver in 3:48.64.

The podium was completed by Dessassa’s team-mate Belete Mekonen in 3:50.64.

Chebet emerged as the winner of the women’s 2,000m steeplechase, achieving an under-18 world leading time of 6:24.80.

Fellow Kenyan Mercy Chepkurui and Ethiopia’s Etalemahu Sintayehu completed the medal positions, having clocked times of 6:26.10 and 6:35.79 respectively.

There was success for Ukraine in field events, with Mykhaylo Kokhan winning the men’s hammer throw with a distance of 82.31 metres.

India’s Damneet Singh and Germany’s Raphael Winkelvoss earned podium places by throwing 74.20m and 71.78m respectively.

Yaroslava Mahucikh then triumphed in the women’s high jump, with the Ukrainian managing a clearance at 1.92m.

Poland’s Martyna Lewandowska ended as the runner-up with 1.82m, while Germany’s Lavinja Jurgens jumped 1.79m for bronze.

In response to security fears in Kenya in the build-up to the event, the country's Government has imposed extra cordons around the venue.

All vehicles travelling to the facility must undergo security checking more than 100m away from the stadium, while additional police officers are in attendance.

There are of concerns of escalating violence across Kenya prior to the country's Presidential elections in August, while the threat of terrorism also remains high.

Six countries - the United States, Australia, Britain, Switzerland, New Zealand and Canada - all withdrew prior to the event due to security fears.

I was close to quitting admits Kadeena Cox

KADEENA COX has revealed she did a U-turn on her decision to quit athletics at the last IPC world championships in 2015.

The 26-year-old became the first Briton in 32 years to win Paralympic titles in two different sports at the same Games in Rio last year.

But a year before, she had contemplated turning her back on ‘first love’ track and field as she struggled to accept her times were slower than before her multiple sclerosis diagnosis in 2014, when she was a promising non-disabled sprinter. ‘I went from being able to do one time to being a lot slower. Even though I was better in the world, I found it quite hard to deal with mentally,’ she said.

‘It was just before the 2015 world championships I was going to quit athletics and never go back. I was going to retire and become a full-time cyclist. Then I went out there [in Doha], performed well [winning two world titles] and remembered exactly why I love it. Having the combination of the cycling, that I’d never done before and had nothing to compare to, with athletics brought back the love for athletics.’

Cox begins her campaign in London tomorrow as she aims to win gold in the T38 200metres before making a defence of her 100m and 4x100m T35-38 relay crowns.

'I WILL NEVER FAIL' Mo Farah once again shrugs off questions over doping as he races home to win the 3,000m at the Anniversary Games

The 34-year-old four-time gold medallist has also revealed how he is sick of having to defend himself ahead of next month's World Championships

MO FARAH shrugged off the latest questions over doping to win his final race before he defends his two world titles back at the Olympic Stadium next month.

Farah clocked 7:35.15 to win the 3,000m at the Anniversary Games – well outside the British record of 7:32.62 he set in Birmingham last year.

But he said: “Everything is going alright. I’m ticking boxes. Grafting. The usual. The last five years has been the same routine.”

He has now never lost at race at the Olympic Stadium – the scene of his biggest moment at London 2012 – and he is determined to keep that record when he competes over the 10,000m and 5,000m titles back at the venue in less than a month.

They will be the final track races of his career before he steps up to the marathon later this year.

He said: This (stadium) is home. This is where my life has changed. This is where I made my name. This is where it went from normal to ‘I’m Mo’ overnight.

“When anyone asks ‘what memories do you have of London? – it’s not about Big Ben. Meeting The Queen obviously was a special thing in my life but second is this track.”

The double-double Olympic distance champion was one of a number of athletes flagged up on a suspicious list after a test in November 2015, according to documents made public by the Russian hacking group Fancy Bears last week.

A later document from April 2016 then put the British star, who plans to step up to the marathon event after London 2017, in the clear.

International athletics chief Seb Coe was also forced to apologise for the leak.

But Farah, whose controversial coach Alberto Salazar is still being investigated by USA anti-doping chiefs, said: “I’m sick of repeating myself.”

“I love what I do and I will never ever fail a drugs test. I work hard at what I do.

World Championships Wonders - Tom Pappas

In the latest in our World Championship wonders series we look back on Tom Pappas’s glorious decathlon success at the 2003 edition in Paris.

BEFORE It is somehow fitting that former decathlon star Tom Pappas today runs a CrossFit gym only a mile from the iconic Hayward Field in Eugene.

For it was through the accomplishments of older brother, Paul, a former multi-eventer at the University of Oregon – which boasts Hayward Field as its home - which acted as the catalyst for Pappas’ involvement in the decathlon.

Inspired by his older brother, the former high jump and long jump specialist started his multi-events journey in 1995.

A quick learner just two years later the 1.95m tall American started to make his mark under the coaching of Bill Webb at the University of Tennessee.

“This is when I started to mature and develop and I realised that some of the marks I was hitting in training were as good as some of the best decathletes in the world,” he explains.

Just two years later at the age of 22 he qualified for the US team at the 1999 IAAF World Championship in Seville. However, badly compromised by injury – which was to curse so much of his career – he no-heighted in the pole vault and failed to finish in southern Spain.

Nonetheless, he refused to be scarred by the experience. “The biggest thing I took away from that meet was I realised the top guys were just human and I was capable of competing with them.”

His new-found confidence was not misplaced. At the 2000 Sydney Olympics, he finished fifth with 8425pts – just 42pts short of his PB set when winning the US title two months earlier.

Shoulder surgery derailed his ambitions to compete at the 2001 World Championships in Edmonton but in 2002 he further improved, posting a new PB of 8583pts to place second at Gotzis behind Czech great and world decathlon record holder Roman Sebrle.

In 2003 and under the guidance of coaches Webb and Brian Brophy, Pappas had enjoyed an injury-free build-up and felt ready to challenge.

Training out of Knoxville, Tennessee, he started the year with a bang causing a big upset to strike gold in the heptathlon at the World Indoor Championships in Birmingham two places ahead of Sebrle.

“Looking back, I might physically have been in the best shape I’ve ever been in,” he says of competing at the 2003 World Indoors. “I went in not even projected to finish on the top five but after winning, it gave me the confidence I could beat Roman at the 2003 World Championships.”

Not even an early season defeat to Sebrle by more than 200pts in Gotzis could dent the Oregon native’s confidence. Better conditioned than an any point in his career he had made particularly exciting progress in the long jump as evinced by his performance when setting a lifetime best score of 8784pts later that year to win the US title, which include stunning breakthrough leap of 7.96m.

“I had been a long jumper in the 7.35m to 7.45m range but it was a huge confidence boost to jump 7.96m,” he explains. “I knew in Paris, if I was firing on all cylinders and competing well it was going to be between me and Roman.”


It proved a prescient prediction.

After opening with a solid 10.80 in the 100m, Pappas made a huge statement in the long jump by leaping 7.62m - within 2cm of his Czech rival.

“Roman was typically an 8m jumper, so for me to jump around the same mark was a victory,” he says. A 16.11m shot further extended his advantage over the Czech.

After a disappointing 2.09m in the high jump --“I thought I was capable of 2.20m”-- he responded in outstanding fashion to wipe 0.64 from his 400m PB to run 47.58.

At the end of a satisfying first day he sat second on 4546pts – 53pts adrift of surprise overnight leader Dmitriy Karpov of Kazakhstan – but with a 123pt buffer on third placed Sebrle.

With “less room for error” on the technical second day he was relieved to run close to his PB with a 13.99 in the 110m hurdles followed by a “respectable” 46.94m in the discus. Holding a 146pt advantage from Sebrle, the tall American dared to dream after seven events -- “At this point I started to think it was mine to lose.”

Although it should be worth noting he was still second overall after seven events trailing Karpov by some 67pts, albeit with his weakest events - the pole vault and javelin - to follow.

Pappas finally assumed leadership of the overall competition for the first time after the pole vault gaining more ground on Sebrle after clearing a best of 5.10m compared to 4.80m.

However, Sebrle was an outstanding javelin thrower and the American - who was watching Sebrle throw in the first pool (Pappas was throwing later in qualification pool two) from the Nike hospitality tent - received a huge fright. Sebrle had nailed a 69.79m effort in round two only to launch the spear out to what appeared to be 75m in round three.

“My heart leapt (when I saw the throw) but luckily he fouled,” says Pappas.

Pappas responded superbly in the second pool, hurling the spear out to 65.90m – a PB by almost a metre-and-a-half.

“I then crunched the numbers in my head and realised I had a 28-second lead on Roman going into the 1500m,” he says. “I knew I could run 4:45 but I felt I could run 4:35, so I thought Roman needed to run around 4:05 to beat me.”

Despite starting aggressively, Sebrle slowed on lap three and at 1200m Pappas knew gold was his. He crossed the line in a PB of 4:44.31 – a little under ten second behind Sebrle, the silver medallist.

“It was hard to explains my emotions,” he says of the wake of winning gold. “My mind was racing, although I recall thinking a lot about all the people who helped me in my journey. I was very thankful for them.”


The following day he went sightseeing around Paris with his family and girlfriend and now wife, the US heptathlete Kim Schiemenz – not that the experience lasted long.

“The day after a decathlon is often rough. I remember feeling so sore, I just wanted to lay down and relax,” he says”

Unfortunately, Pappas could not follow up his golden year of 2003 as persistent injuries dogged the remainder of his career. He DNF’D at both the 2004 Athens Olympics and 2008 Beijing Olympics because of foot injuries and also failed to finish at the 2007 World Championships in Osaka. After placing second at the 2010 US Championships he retired from the sport aged 33.

Around the time of his retirement he was introduced to the sport of CrossFit through his younger brother, Billy. A self-confessed “weight room junkie” he felt a “natural attraction” to the high-intensity fitness regimen and in 2012 he and Billy opened Lane 5 CrossFit in Eugene.

“I love it,” says Pappas of his current role. “We have a great membership and it is fun to be around energetic people, achieving their goals. It is very rewarding.”

Pappas also personally competed in the highly-competitive 2015 and 2016 CrossFit Games after his team won the Western Regional competition, although this year he is taking a break to devote more time to his family life.

Married to Schiemenz, the 2003 World Championships heptathlete, and father to four children - Kinley, 11, Kendall, 7 and five-year-old twins, Max and Tucker - his life is understandably full.

Yet despite the years of injury torment the 40-year-old American looks back with pride on his career. “It was all worth it,” he says. “There were all those years when it didn’t go my way but to win those two world titles in 2003 are memories I will cherish for a lifetime.”