American veteran Lashawn Merritt showed all his experience to bag a third successive 4x400m gold at the IAAF World Relays, as Canadian Andre de Grasse underlined his credentials as Usain Bolt's most likely successor.
The all-powerful US team followed up on victories on Saturday in the women's 4x800m and men's 4x100m relays by clinching gold in both the men and women's 4x400m and men's 4x800m to easily top the medals table.
Merritt, whose first senior relay gold dates back to the Helsinki worlds in 2005, had teammates David Verburg, Tony McQuay and Kyle Clemons to thank for putting him out in front.
But he hadn't counted on 18-year-old Botswanan sensation Karabo Sibando, who caught the 30-year-old American up before Merritt battled down the home stretch to hold on for a nerve-racking win in 3min 02.13sec from the Africans, Jamaica taking bronze.
"We have a great group of guys here tonight," said Merritt. "They did what they had to do and I did what I do best, that's 'bring it home,' my third time here and third gold!"
- On the rise -
Canadian De Grasse, who won three medals at last year's Rio Olympics, underlined his coming of age as Jamaican legend Bolt's own tip as world sprinting's next dominant figure by laying down a startling third leg in the 4x200m relay.
It was enough to wrest back control for Canada, teammate Aaron Brown holding off American Ameer Webb for a scintillating victory in the 4x200m relay, Jamaica taking bronze.
Canada's victory, with Gavin Smellie and Brendon Rodney running the first two legs, was the first time a country other than the US or Jamaica had won a sprint relay and made up for the disappointment of not finishing the 4x100m.
"It was a great run by all of us," said De Grasse, 22. "We came together collectively, we just wanted to keep the stick around. We told ourselves to trust each other and be patient."
Canada's win was followed by another upset as Germany picked up an unexpected gold in the women's 4x100m, Alexandra Burghardt, Lisa Mayer, Tatjana Pinto and Rebekka Haase combining to outpace Jamaica with their winning time of 42.84sec.
The US presence in the race came to an abrupt halt after first leg Tianna Bartoletta tumbled nastily to the floor before baton passover.
But otherwise, the US team shone, with self-proclaimed 'relay queen' Natasha Hastings adding yet another gold to her trophy cabinet as she ran in the anchor leg in the 4x400m in the footprints of teammates Phyllis Francis, Ashley Spencer and Quanera Hayes for victory in 3min 24.36sec, Poland taking silver ahead of Jamaica.
And Olympic bronze medallist Clayton Murphy bolted with 150 metres to run in a tactical men's 4x800m to claim an impressive win for the US team also including Brannon Kidder, Erik Sowinski and Casimir Loxsom over a strong Kenyan quartet.
The experienced Ferguson Cheruiyot Rotich had hit the final lap out in front, but Murphy gradually reeled him back in and went wide on the corner into the final straight to outpace the Kenyan.
"I took a little risk on the corner but it worked out okay," said Murphy, teammate Sowinski adding: "We know we have the best anchor so we just tried to keep it close for him so he could bring home the gold."
The race also saw the World Relays debut of the Athlete Refugee Team, comprising four runners who fled South Sudan to Kenyan refugee camps, applauded by one an all despite coming in more than a minute off the US team's winning time.
"We've never run this type of relay before so it was all new," said Paulo Amotun, who ran the second leg for the refugee team.
"We didn't run that well but with this experience we'll go home and keep working and everything will be good."
- Mixed race a success -
There was a fantastic, groundbreaking event to wrap up the two-day event in a mixed 4x400m, never better scripted as host nation the Bahamas won it in dramatic fashion.
With two women and two men competing for each team, running order was at their discretion, meaning that for the final two legs there were men chasing down women on the track, to the raucous delight of the crowd at the Thomas A. Robinson stadium.
After two rip-roaring legs by Steven Gardiner and Olympic champion Shaunae Miller-Uibo, Anthonique Strachan was tracked down by American Paul Dedewo, but Michael Mathieu was on hand to do the same on Claudia Francis to perhaps offer of a sight of mixed track events to come.
AFP -- OmRiyadat
UPDATE @ 1:10 p.m. (April 24)
Ethan Roser, the 2016 Mason High School graduate who died as a result of an accident at a Wheaton College track and field event over the weekend, was struck by an errant throw during warmups of the hammer throw event, Wheaton Police Deputy Chief Bill Murphy told the Associated Press today.
Roser, 19, was volunteering at the event to mark the distances that were thrown by the competitors and he was standing off to the side from where the tethered metal balls land when he was struck in the head by an errant throw, according to AP’s report.
The fatal incident remains under investigation, but there is no indication of criminal negligence, according to AP’s report.
Ethan Roser grew up in Zimbabwe where his parents were missionaries and transferred in January to Wheaton College where he played soccer, according to AP’s report.
EARLIER (April 23)
A Mason High School graduate and freshman at Wheaton College died in an accident while volunteering at a track and field event.
It happened late Saturday afternoon at the college near Chicago. Ethan Roser, 19, was struck during the hammer throw event in which competitors throw a weighted, tethered iron ball, Wheaton College released in a statement.
Roser was rushed to a local hospital where he was pronounced dead, according to the statement.
Ethan was a 2016 graduate of Mason High School where he played soccer, according to MaxPreps.com.
"Our hearts are heavy as we absorb the news about this tragedy. All of Ethan's family and friends are in our thoughts as we mourn together," Mason City Schools Spokeswoman Tracey Carson said in a statement to our news partner WCPO-Ch. 9 in Cincinnati.
Wheaton College President Philip Ryken’s statement reads, “We are deeply grieved, but, because of our faith in Christ, not without hope. We ask people to pray for Ethan's family, his friends, and our campus community.”
Honestly, it feels like therapy,” Anyika Onuora says with a light laugh. Ninety minutes after she began her incredible and previously unknown story, the Olympic medal-winning 400m runner sounds relieved. “I’ve been hesitant to talk about this for such a long time because I don’t like sympathy or attention. I’ve always just got on with things.”
Onuora did not tell her Great Britain team-mates in the 4x400m relay, with whom she won bronze at the Rio Olympic Games last year, that she had been so ill with malaria 10 months earlier there were concerns she might die. “I still haven’t. No one, apart from my family and closest friends, knows. I don’t know how people are going to react now. But I knew that, eventually, I had to tell my story.”
Her resolve becomes even more admirable when the 32-year-old explains how she fell so ill in October 2015 she “had to learn to walk again”. She had been infected during one of her regular visits to her late father’s village of Nri in Nigeria. As a Liverpudlian of proud Nigerian heritage, Onuora is wary of any negative depiction of Africa because malaria can be found in most tropical climates. She also offers evocative descriptions of how much Nigeria means to her. But raw emotions emerge as she describes the pain and fear of malaria.
After returning from Nigeria she and her boyfriend went on holiday to the Dominican Republic. “That’s when I started to feel dizzy,” Onuora remembers. “At night I’d start shivering and go from hot sweats to cold sweats. Two days before we left my urine was very dark. I started to get really concerned. I emailed our doctor at British Athletics and he said he would cc Dr Noel [Pollock], our chief medical officer.”
Onuora chuckles incredulously. “I went back to Loughborough and actually started training the next day. The workout was very tough and afterwards I saw Dr Noel and he said: ‘Let’s do a blood and urine sample.’ I did that and when I got home I had the shakes and sweats.
“I remember lying in bed listening to a Champions League game, thinking: ‘Just focus on the background noise. Don’t panic.’ It helped but I woke up and the bed was covered in sweat while I was so cold. Dr Noel rang me that morning and said: ‘Your results show there’s something wrong with your kidneys. You need to see a specialist in London.’”
Unable to find anyone to take her to London at short notice, Onuora managed to drive from Loughborough to the hospital in St John’s Wood. She collapsed as she got out of her car. “It’s a two-minute walk to the hospital but it took me 15 minutes. I collapsed again at reception. A doctor examined me and said: ‘We need to admit you straight away.’ I was like: ‘Can’t you just give me medication? I’ve got training to do.’ But over the next few hours I got worse and worse. The lights were so bright they burned my eyes. My brain and forehead were so sore. I wanted to cry but it was too painful. And then my body started shaking uncontrollably. I honestly thought: ‘I’m going to die.’ It was scary.
“I remember the MRI and all these different injections. All they could give me was water and I was just shouting. My boyfriend arrived and he called my mum and put her on speakerphone. It reminded me of my dad dying in Liverpool. The last time I spoke to him in 2012 I was in London and my mum put him on speakerphone so I could hear his voice. It was traumatic and I thought: ‘Am I going to die in the exact same way?’”
Onuora was shocked when malaria was confirmed. She had taken anti‑malaria tablets while in Nigeria but had still fallen ill. “The doctor could only give me medication once it was delivered from another hospital but they had to bring down my fever first. It was 11.30pm and my temperature was 39 degrees. The doctor said: ‘If it reaches 40 degrees within the hour it could be life-threatening.’ They gave me two options – throw me in an ice bath or fill my bed with ice packs.
“The pain was unbearable and I couldn’t even think about moving. So a nurse threw bags of ice all around the bed. It was excruciating but after a while became tolerable. I was also exhausted but wasn’t allowed to sleep in case I lost consciousness. It was 2am before my temperature stabilised and I could try to sleep.”
“I wanted to cry but it was too painful. I started shaking uncontrollably. I honestly thought: ‘I’m going to die.”
Onuora was transferred to a tropical diseases unit at UCL hospital. “For the next few days I was heavily medicated. I was in so much pain. I couldn’t eat, I couldn’t sleep and every hour I had blood taken from me. I ended up just leaving my arm hanging out of the bed. After a while they couldn’t find any veins.
“I was very lucky to survive. There are four different types of malaria and the parasite I had, falciparum, is the most life-threatening of all. That’s why it’s even more fortunate for me to not just be alive but to keep doing what I love – running.”
Onuora takes a deep breath before explaining how she moved from such a serious illness in hospital to the Olympic podium in less than 40 weeks. “I should have been preparing for the 2016 Olympics but all I could see were four walls of the hospital room. It almost killed me. I literally had to learn how to walk again because I’d been in bed – unable to move. My closest family and friends were with me and they said: ‘Let us tell people what happened.’ I said: ‘No. I don’t want anyone knowing.’ But after everyone left I felt so lonely and lost. I thought: ‘I’m very fortunate to be alive but what happens if I don’t make a full recovery?’”
She pauses and, then, the defiance in Onuora’s voice rings out. “I was like: ‘No. I will get better.’ I remember trying to walk. At first they would only let me go 15 metres. I’d count that as a 15-metre drill. I would walk laps of the ward but I was so exhausted and obviously had the drip in me the whole time. I remember gazing out my window every day and seeing how beautiful London looked. I thought: ‘I don’t remember what fresh air feels like.’”
After she had been discharged, Onuora received another warning. “Two days later I went back to the infectious disease specialist. He checked my blood levels – and they were still not right. I got anxious because, as a professional athlete, this is your career. He said: ‘You’re very lucky to be alive, so you must be careful. You’re actually lucky your kidneys are intact because you were so close to being put on dialysis. That would’ve ended your career.’ I broke down then.”
Onuora moved back to her mum’s house in Liverpool and avoided questions as to why she was not training in Loughborough. Beyond her doctors and coaches almost everyone thought she had switched her training base to her home city. Onuora’s training consisted of trying to walk and “feeling like I was collapsing again. I forgot you lose all your strength. I literally lost everything but I always tell myself: ‘I’ve overcome that so I can overcome this.’”
In late November 2015, she jogged a few steps. “I felt more optimistic. It took many weeks but then I could start doing 150m, 200m, 350m. The medical team were really impressed but they said: ‘Don’t rush. Your health is more important.’”
Did any of her Olympic team-mates suspect anything? “The only one who knew was Martin Rooney [the 400m runner] because we were training partners. Martin would check up on me but no other GB athlete knew until I also told Shara Proctor [the long jumper].”
As she was fighting for her individual place Onuora chose not to divulge her condition as she built herself back to full fitness the following summer. “The Olympic selection was hard. I finished third at trials and then they called it a race-off between me and Christine Ohuruogu [at the European Championships]. I beat Christine but they still selected her. But the Europeans were special because only I knew what I’d overcome. I was so emotional because of what I’ve been through. Regardless of selection, I had my first individual 400m medal [as Onuora had been a sprinter before switching to the longer distance in 2015].”
Did they select Ohuruogu ahead of her because of her experience in winning gold and silver at the Olympics in Beijing and London? “Yeah. They’re always going to select who they feel is right. But it tested me a lot. I had mixed emotions going into Rio because relay was always my second option. But I said: ‘I’m not coming back empty‑handed.’ It was my third Olympics and I felt I’d be on that podium no matter what happened.
“I just wanted to run the race of my life and forget about everything. Thankfully I helped the team succeed in getting bronze, which still feels incredible. I ran the second leg, after Eilidh Doyle, and then passed [the baton] to Emily Diamond and on to Christine. I knew no one would pass Christine. We were always finishing top three. But it meant even more because of my awful disease. I chose not to share it with anyone and thought: ‘Let me deal with this and let me win the race of my life’ … which is what happened.”
When did her achievement resonate most? “There were two moments. On the podium and when I got back to my room in the village. I’d been up all night and I was creeping around because Shara was asleep. I picked up my medal, stared at it for 90 seconds and started crying. I went to the bathroom because I didn’t want to wake Shara. I had to let it all out. I’d overcome so much and I wished my dad could have been there. He would have been so proud of me.”
In the Bahamas, where she tells her story, Onuora is part of the GB squad who competed in the World Relay Championships last weekend. She hopes to run in a fourth Olympics in 2020 and insists that, in terms of her individual aspirations, “I’ll get my moment. It’s the world championships in London this year and I’m definitely motivated. I’m hungry for more because the 400 is a challenge – and I love a challenge.”
Onuora will “definitely” return to her father’s village in Nigeria feeling unburdened by sharing her story. There is lightness in her as, having unshackled the truth, the runner who overcame such fevered odds reflects proudly. “There have been world No1 athletes, who were world or European champions, but they never won an Olympic medal. I’m in that small percentage of people who have done it. And I did it after malaria.
“If I didn’t get that Olympic medal I wouldn’t have been able to talk about it. That would not have been good for me. I also want to raise awareness about malaria because it can happen to anyone – and be overcome. I did it. And it really feels like a fantastic achievement.”
Russia's track and field federation says veteran marathon runner Albina Mayorova has been banned for four years for doping.
The All-Russia Athletics Federation said Monday that the suspension was handed down by the Court of Arbitration for Sport after the two-time Olympian tested positive for excess testosterone in a test taken last year.
The ban is likely to spell the end of the 39-year-old Mayorova's competitive career.
Mayorova's best result at a major championship was eighth at the 2012 Olympics in London. She has also been a top-10 finisher at the London, Boston and Chicago marathons.
AP -- OmRiyadat
Canada survived a scary moment in the heats before going on to deliver a stunning win ahead of the United States and Jamaica in the men's 4x200 meters at the IAAF World Relays on Sunday.
Germany produced another surprise an hour later when they won the women's 4x100 after U.S. leadoff runner Tianna Bartoletta slipped and fell.
Despite that disappointment, the Americans still ended the two-day competition in Nassau with the most gold medals, five.
A strong leg by Olympic silver medalist Andre De Grasse and a solid exchange with anchor Aaron Brown put the Canadians out front in the men's 4x200 and Brown raced home for the year's best time of 1:19.42.
Brown said the team had been determined to make up for a dropped baton that knocked them out of Saturday's 4x100.
"It did not go well yesterday," said Brown. "But I'm glad we were able to break the curse, get the monkey off our backs and show the world what we are able to do in the relays."
The win, the first in the event by a non-U.S. or Jamaican team at the World Relays, came after Canadian leadoff runner Gavin Smellie was called for a false start in the heats.
“There was maybe a little twitch, but I didn’t move,” said Smellie. “I was asking the officials to watch the video to see there was no false start.”
The officials agreed and the red card was withdrawn.
The United States, running without Justin Gatlin, were second in the final in 1:19.88 and Jamaica took third (1:21.09).
In the women's 4x100, anchor Rebekka Haas held off Jamaica's Sashalee Forbes to give Germany their first World Relays victory in 42.84 seconds
"We were just hoping to get a medal, but we got gold," said German leadoff Alexandra Burghardt.
The United States won three of Sunday's other finals.
Olympic bronze medalist Clayton Murphy outdueled Kenya's Ferguson Rotich in the men's 4x800 as the United States came home in 7:13.16 with Kenya running 7:13.70.
Olympian LaShawn Merritt anchored the Americans to a narrow victory over Botswana in the men's 4x400, the Americans winning in 3:02.13, just 0.15 seconds ahead of Botswana.
There was no such drama in the women's 4x400 where the Americans came home in 3:24.36, nearly four seconds ahead of Poland.
"These ladies blew that thing open for me," said American anchor Natasha Hastings.
Host Bahamas finally struck victory in the finale of the night, the mixed 4x400, in 3:14.42.
The top eight finishers in the 4x100 and 4x400 for men and women automatically qualified for the IAAF world championships in London in August.
Reuters -- OmRiyadat