July 29 2022 – Evan Reed
Well, this season’s biggest track and field competition of the year has come and gone. For the first time ever, the World Championships were hosted on American soil at Hayward Field to determine who was the best of the best this year. From the outside looking in, Eugene, Oregon wouldn’t be most people’s first thought as an American host city for an event of this caliber. Afterall, it is only the 151st largest city in America. However, after an incredible 10 days that saw multiple world records fall and great competition across the board, Eugene proved once again why it is considered Tracktown, USA. Without further ado, let’s get into what I will remember most from the 2022 World Championships.
Before getting into individual events, I must make note of how the home team performed. Buoyed by the crowd’s support, Team USA ultimately won 33 medals. This is the most in the history of the World Championships. Americans walked away with 13 gold medals, 9 silver medals, and 11 bronze medals. The next closest nation (a three-way tie between Ethiopia, Jamaica, and Kenya) won 10 total medals total. These numbers were boosted by Team USA sweeping the podium and winning all three medals in three events. After this result, the world might hesitate to give the United States home track advantage again.
As mentioned before, Team USA accounted for three sweeps themselves. The first occurred on the second day of competition when Fred Kerley, Marvin Bracy-Williams, and Trayvon Bromell swept the 100m finals. Kerley looked dominant in the semis and backed it up in the finals to win his first gold medal after taking the silver in Tokyo behind Italy’s Marcell Jacobs. Bracy-Williams spent three years away from the track after the Rio Olympics pursing a football career before ultimately returning in 2020. He’s clearly back and better than when he left. Bromell was the youngest person in history to break 10 seconds in the 100m when he did so in high school. He tore his Achilles at the Rio Olympics and has faced a long recovery process where many, including himself, wondered if he would ever reach this level again. Rounding out the American performance was reigning World Champ Christian Coleman who finished 6th.
Closely related to the 100m, the Americans also swept the men’s 200m competition. This time it was Noah Lyles winning with (Kung-Fu) Kenny Bednarek edging out 18-year-old phenom Erryion Knighton. Most expected another close finish between Lyles and Knighton as they have battled back and forth all year long. Typically, Knighton gets out quicker and leads coming into the straightaway before Lyles closes the gap. That was not how this one played out. Lyles was the first around the turn before unleashing his unmatched top-end speed. He dominated the race from the start and ran 19.31 to set an American Record. The former record of 19.32, set by Michael Johnson, stood for an incredible 26 years and was the World Record until Usain Bolt came around. Knighton is the youngest person in history to win a medal in the 200m. American men swept both the 100m and 200m with six different men, showing that American sprinting is back to being the best in the world.
Not to be outdone in the sprint category, the Jamaican women swept the 100m. Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce picked up the win in 10.67. Fraser-Pryce first won a global gold medal 14 years ago, becoming the third person ever to win gold medals 14 years or more apart and the first woman ever. Adding to her impressive resumé, this was her fifth individual gold medal and at age 35 is the oldest individual world champion on the track in history. Rounding out the podium for Team Jamaica was Shericka Jackson and Elaine Thompson-Herah. The sweep this year was expected by most, by it’s an impressive feat, nonetheless. It’s even more impressive when you consider they also swept the podium in Tokyo last summer. For these three women to repeat speaks to the consistency Jamaica has shown in the sprint events this century.
Finally, the USA men swept the shot put competition. A tradition unlike any other, Ryan Crouser and Joe Kovacs took the top two spots. Crouser beat out Kovacs by 5 centimeters, 22.94m over 22.89m. Josh Awotunde finished in the bronze medal position in satisfying fashion. In the finals of the competition, Awotunde threw a personal best of 22.24m which stood for less than an hour before bettering it again with a 22.29m throw. Crouser’s gold is his third gold medal in the event and fifth global medal. Interestingly, his only two silver medals were from the 2019 World Championships and the 2022 Indoor World Championships making this his first gold at the World Championships. Kovacs meanwhile picked up his seventh global medal and his fifth silver. He has two gold medals to go along with the five silvers.
Man, oh man, Sydney McLaughlin is on a level we have never seen before. Simply stating that she set a World Record in the 400m hurdles does not give her enough credit. Partially because this is the third time she has done it this outdoor season. But to put into perspective what she is doing, two years ago nobody was talking about breaking 52 seconds in the event. Her World Record is now down to 50.68(!!!) and she looks like she is in a completely different race than her competition whenever she lines up. Her time in the finals would have placed her 7th in the flat 400m finals. It would be so much fun to line her up in a race with hurdles and watch her race the world’s best 400m runners without hurdles to see how she competes when there are people around pushing her. There’s plenty of reason to believe she would more than hold her own. 50.68 is a time good enough for 19th fastest run this season.
McLaughlin was also the anchor leg for the Team USA’s gold medal winning 4x400m relay team. She grabbed the baton with a lead and went on to split 47.91 all by herself because of course she did. What’s the comparison for this time you may be wondering? Well, it’s the second fastest recorded split in 4x400m relay history. And I know she had a running start, but the World Record for the open 400m is 47.60. At this point, it feels like a matter of when not if McLaughlin breaks the record. There just are not enough superlatives to describe what McLaughlin is accomplishing.
The Venezuelan triple jumper is creating a resumé very similar to McLaughlin. Both women should be considered the greatest to ever do their events, and this goes beyond holding the World Record in the event. Of course, they both do but there is more to their greatness than that. Rojas jumped the fifth furthest mark of all-time on her way to picking up a gold medal. Along with the World Record, Rojas has three of the remaining four marks ahead of her gold medal jump this year. Let’s next take a look at how she’s fared in past global championships as well. She has won eight global medals in eight global competitions. So she’s made a few podiums, but where on the podium is she winding up you might be asking. This was her seventh gold medal, and her lone silver medal was in the Rio Olympics six years ago. She has swept every global championship that has been held since. All hail the queen of triple jump.
Let’s talk about one more athlete who is the greatest to ever compete in their event that won a gold medal in Eugene. Swedish pole vault star Mondo Duplantis has not been around as long as the other two mentioned, but he’s building just as startling of an accomplishments list. His first global championship on the senior circuit was the previous World Championships in 2019 where he won the silver medal. He began 2020 by setting the World Record during the indoor season (note: pole vault records consistent of both indoor and outdoor marks), won the Tokyo Olympics last summer, the Indoor World Championships this March, and of course, won the outdoor World Championships in Eugene setting another World Record. Along the way, Mondo has set the World Record five times total and has not lost an international competition since his silver medal in 2019. It is interesting to note that whenever Mondo sets the World Record, he has done so by 1 centimeter rather than fully testing what he is capable of on that given day. We are all very confident that the $100,000 bonus that accompanies a World Record has no bearing on this decision. Of course, if you choose to be more skepticql about his motivations, it is worth reminding yourself that track and field athletes are historically among the least paid professional athletes. Go earn your money while you can.
Shocks and Upsets
If you remember, Jamaica and the United States swept the top 3 places in the women’s and men’s 100m events. This gives them an obvious advantage when it comes to putting together a team of four runners with the goal to run as fast as possible. However, relay races (and the 4x100m in particular) are more than just who has the fastest time on paper. There is a lot of moving parts that need to work together seamlessly to get a baton around the track through three exchanges when the athletes are moving greater than 20mph. As such, timing and handoffs play a massive role in who usually wins the competition.
This year, the American women were able to upset Team Jamaica. The Jamaican team had their eyes on the World Record in the event. Team USA had extremely crisp and clean handoffs and Jamaica fell short of what was possible. It’s incredible to think that Jamaica went 1-2-3 in the 100m (and 1-2 in the 200m) and were beat by a team with only one individual who qualified to the 100m finals.
The American men had a little bit of a different story. They still did not have great handoffs including a nearly botched final exchange, but the baton did make it all the way around the track (something my jaded perspective will always celebrate after seeing many American men’s team fail to do so). However, they were unable to pull in everyone that would have liked to see. Fred Kerley, 100m gold medalist, had an injury flare up during the 200m qualifying heats and was unable to run this event. Considering the sweep of the 100m and 200m finals by six different men, there were plenty of capable replacements. Regardless, the Canadian team was able to upset the American men as well. Team Canada appeared to be less prepared than the American women as zero of their runners qualified for the 100m finals. Take this as a lesson, do not slack on practicing exchanges.
Last summer the world watched as Jakob Ingebrigsten won the 1500m and became a dominant force. At only 21 years old, the Norwegian athlete came in as a heavy favorite in this event. There were talks about whether or not he could accomplish a 1500m/5000m double gold, something only 3 men have done before and none since 2007. The concern was what would happen in the 5000m more so than the 1500m. However, Jake Wightman of Great Britain wound up winning the 1500m gold medal. Until this race, Wightman had never finished better than fifth in a global final and was not one most would suggest as an athlete to dethrone Jakob. The pace was quick which typically favors Jakob, but Wightman’s shiny new personal best of 3:29.23 was enough to best Jakob’s 3:29.47. Ironically, Jakob would come back to win the 5000m final showing all of us that you never know what will happen in track until it happens.
Men’s 110m Hurdles
First, the good news. American Grant Holloway defended his World Championship title in 13.03 with American Trey Cunningham (2022 NCAA champ) winning silver. However, this was another possible USA sweep that did not come to fruition as the four Americans in the event held the top 4 spots of the world ranking this year. The opportunity was ripe for the picking as well when Olympic Champion Hansle Parchment of Jamaica tweaked a hamstring in his warmup and was unable to start the final. However, Devon Allen was controversially disqualified for a false start. Sprinters are automatically disqualified if their reaction time falls under 0.10 seconds. Allen’s reaction time was 0.099s, 1/1000th of a second too quick. Allen has always been one of the quickest to react in the event and insists that he did not false start. Holloway, who had the starting lane next to Allen, agreed that he did not false start.
Regardless of the .001s too quick reaction, there is a larger issue at play here. The 0.10s time standard is an artificial time. There was no scientific backing to why World Athletics chose this as the cut-off between a false start and a legal start. Secondly, track is all about athletes pushing themselves to be the most perfect iteration of themselves as possible. We should be encouraging quick reactions, not disincentivizing them with threat of a false start. Finally, Allen reacted .099s after the gun was fired. There is nobody debating he started before the gun was fired. By the most logical definition, this is not a false start. So long as nobody is moving before the gun goes off, there should be no false starts in my opinion. I am a big believer in using technology in sports within reason. Video reviews in football or basketball games should have a time limit. If it’s clear and obvious, overturn it. If we are going frame-by-frame and taking longer than a minute, keep the call the same. Punishing somebody for reacting after the gun, but quicker than an arbitrary standard set by a governing body is not a reasonable use of technology in sport.
Intriguing and Heart-Touching Results
Men’s 400m Hurdles
There was a lot of hype surrounding this event at the Tokyo Olympics, and for very good reason. Norwegian Karsten Warholm entered the final with the World Record. He bettered his World Record in the final running 45.94, with American Rai Benjamin finishing silver. Benjamin’s time was more than half a second faster than Warholm’s previous record. As if that was not exciting enough, Alison dos Santos won Brazil’s first ever medal in the event with a time just .02 seconds behind the previous World Record. In one race, these three men became the fastest three to ever run the event. We were unable to see these three at their cumulative bests this year. Warholm has battled injuries all season and twice was forced to pull out of competitions. Benjamin in recent weeks battled his own injury as well as testing positive for COVID at the beginning of the year. Dos Santos came into the event as the favorite since he has not faced any of these obstacles. He had run four out the five fastest times this season with a season’s best of 46.80.
Dos Santos did pull off the victory, bettering his season’s best with a time of 46.29, the third fastest time ever. Benjamin has been coming on strong when it matters and was able to win another silver in 46.89. Warholm faded from the lead in the final 100m and finished 7th with American Trevor Bassitt winning bronze in 47.39, .02 seconds ahead of fourth. Bassitt is an Ohio native and made noise at Ashland University during his college career, which just ended this May. For those who might not know, long-time Ashland coach and 4-time Olympian Jud Logan passed away from COVID complications this January. Bassitt shared a text conversation he had with Jud during the Olympics last year where Jud told Bassitt he would be on the starting line for this World Championships. Bassitt accomplished even more than that by winning a medal. Moments like this are what we live for.
Much like Jakob in the men’s 1500m last summer, Athing Mu stamped her name as a young and raising star in the track and field world. She controlled the race from the start in Tokyo and looked relaxed the entire time as she won a gold medal in an American Record of 1:55.04. It’s easy to look at this result and believe the 20-year-old would cruise to many more records and gold medals. As always, this type of consistency and linear progression is extremely difficult to find on the track. At the US Championships, Ajee Wilson was able to come up and pass Mu in the final straight. Mu battled back to win her second US title. In the World Championship finals in Eugene, Mu had to fight off a surging Keely Hodgkinson of Great Britain (a raising star in her own right, also only 20-years-old) in the final straight. With Mu’s win, and Mary Moraa of Kenya finishing third, the podium was the same as last summer in Tokyo. However, we learned a lot about Mu these last few weeks. She showed she can win in gritty fashion when things do not go as smoothly as last year. Instead of being worried about how she’s showing signs of being human, we should be embracing her ability to win in differing conditions.
The women’s marathon went out fast. The World Record for a race consisting solely of women is 2:17.01. Through the opening 5k, the leaders were on 2:16 pace. As such, the American women hung back off the lead pack and were able to work off one another throughout the race. Gotyom Gebreslase of Ethiopia picked up the gold medal in 2:18:11, bettering Paula Radcliffe’s World Championships record by more than two and a half minutes. Team USA put together their best finish ever, as Sara Hall finished fifth in 2:22:20, Emma Bates finished seventh in a personal best of 2:23:18, and Keira D’Amato finished eighth in 2:23:34. Special notice goes out to D’Amato who was able to run this time with only 16 days’ notice as she was a late entry when Molly Seidel dropped from the event. Only once before has Team USA placed two women in the top 10, let alone having three in the top eight.
On the men’s side, we were able to see a resurgence from Canadian Record holder Cam Levins. Levins is a two-time NCAA champ for Southern Utah University where he became known for running crazy high mileage weeks. It was not unheard of for him to run 120-130 mile weeks. He has had an up and down professional career and is currently unsponsored. This did not prevent him from finishing fourth in the marathon running a new personal best and Canadian Record of 2:07:09. What’s helped him regain this form? Well, he is back to running massive miles as he claims to have run 170-180 mile weeks during his build up. This training method works for some people, but I’ll leave it to Levins rather than trying to imitate his philosophy.
Women’s 100m Hurdles
This one was wild. In the semi-finals, Nigerian Tobi Amunson ran the World Record dropping her personal best from 12.41 to beat the former World Record of 12.20 with a finishing time of 12.12. Dropping this much time in a short race piqued a lot of curiosity and some more cynical viewers questioned the timing equipment. However, former 100m hurdle World Record holder Kendra Harrison was in the same heat running 12.27. Amunson beat the best along her way to the World Record. Not only that, but she backed up her time by winning the final in 12.06, showing again the ability to run the World Record. Unfortunately, this 12.06 is ineligible to become the World Record due to a strong tailwind.
Kara Winger goes out in style! The American is wrapping up an 18-year career in the javelin this summer. She has been a mainstay on the American team over her career, as she has been part of Team USA ten times and has won 9 US titles. One thing that has evaded her during her career is a global medal. Better late than never, as on her final throw of her final meet, Winger launched herself into the silver medal position. This is the first American medal in World Championship history. Talk about a storybook ending.
Allyson Felix finished high enough at the US Championships to be part of the 400m relay pool. She was selected as part of the mixed 4x400 team, running leg two for the American team. Despite coming in as the favorites, the Dominican Republic and Netherland teams finished ahead of Team USA, wrapping up Felix’s career with an additional bronze medal. Or so we thought. After this race, Felix left Eugene to go home to Los Angeles to begin retirement until she received a call while eating chicken wings asking her to run in the qualifying heats for the women’s 4x400 competition. She put down her food, returned to Eugene, and was able to assist the American team win one more gold medal. Ultimately, Felix’s career achievements can be summed as 32-time global medalist (11 Olympic medals, 21 World Championship medals), 22-time gold medalist (7 Olympic golds, 15 World Championship golds), and 10-time US Champion (six times in the 200m, 3 times in the 400m, and 1 time in the 100m). An amazing career spanning from the 2004 Olympic Games until the 2022 World Championships.