DAEGU, South Korea, September 1 – The US team struck treble gold at the world championships on Thursday while Briton Dai Greene handed next year’s Olympic hosts a massive boost with victory in the men’s 400m hurdles.
Ezekiel Kemboi also led a 1-2 in the men’s 3000m steeplechase to further confirm Kenya’s status as the dominant nation in distance running after David Rudisha’s 800m win and medal cleansweeps in the women’s marathon and 10,000m.
Lashinda Demus (women’s 400m hurdles), Jessie Williams (men’s high jump) and Jennifer Simpson (women’s 1500m) all produced podium-topping performances to ensure the United States remains atop the medal table with seven golds.
Simpson’s showing was perhaps the most memorable of the night, the unheralded 25-year-old outshining two-time defending champion Maryam Jamal of Bahrain and more acclaimed team-mate Morgan Uceny.
“I’m very excited,” said Simpson. “The last few metres I was thinking about what this could mean for my life and family and my little sisters starting in the army.
“I was thinking ‘let’s get that anthem played’.”
The race was a disaster for the Ethiopian-born Jamal, who was boxed in and unable to make an impression after expending too much energy in a bid to scramble free.
To make matters worse for Bahrain, another import, Yusuf Kamel (formerly Kenyan Gregory Konchellah) will not be on hand to defend his 1500m title on Saturday after failing to make it out of the semi-finals.
Welshman Greene kept his composure to beat a high-quality field in the 400m hurdles that included US duo Bershawn Jackson and Angelo Taylor, and the Dominican Republic’s Felix Sanchez.
The 25-year-old turned on the gas in the final 40 metres to secure a much-needed gold for Britain after the silver-medal showings of highly touted Mo Farah and Jessica Ennis in the men’s 10,000m and heptathlon.
“I am just overwhelmed,” said Greene. “I am so happy about this victory. Now I am number one in the world. I was disappointed about my first half of the race, but that’s not important now.
“I have had a great year so far. All the training has now come into practice. I put everything together tonight.”
Ukraine’s Olha Saladuha won the women’s triple jump, with double defending champion Yargelis Savigne of Cuba only managing sixth.
Earlier in the day, defending champion Caster Semenya safely negotiated her way into the semis of the women’s 800m while injury-hit high-jumper Blanka Vlasic also advanced.
Semenya, cleared to compete as a woman in July 2010, nearly a year after she shot to prominence at the Berlin worlds, denied she felt pressure to perform after a poor season in which she has struggled to break the 2min barrier.
“I’m not under pressure. I want to go back and focus again,” Semenya told AFP after her heat.
Two-time defending champion Vlasic sustained a serious injury to her take-off leg in training shortly before the worlds.
But the 27-year-old Croat, who has successively taken the Berlin 2009 world, Doha 2010 world indoor and Barcelona 2010 European titles, seemed to have few problems in qualifying in sweltering conditions at Daegu stadium.
“I still suffer from my injury and I am worried about how it will be in the final. I will jump through the pain,” Vlasic said.
A third defending champion meant to be on show in the morning session was Kenenisa Bekele, but the Ethiopian running legend was a no-show in heats for the men’s 5000m because of the groin injury that saw him limp out of Sunday’s 10,000m.
Allyson Felix also stayed on track for a unique fourth consecutive 200m world crown after safely coming through a heat and semi-finals.
But the 25-year-old American will face a stiff test from teammate Carmelita Jeter, chasing a sprint double after taking the 100m title, and Olympic champion Veronica Campbell-Brown of Jamaica.