20 LESSONS TO LEARN FROM THE

Athletics Weekly - - Iaaf World Champs 2017 - PIC­TURES: MARK SHEAR­MAN

ONDON 2017 was my 11th World Cham­pi­onships, and now I have a huge cer­tifi­cate signed by Se­bas­tian Coe to prove it, but how did it com­pare with the other 10 and what did we learn from it?

1 The ac­tion was com­pet­i­tive but not ex­cep­tional

In terms of com­pet­i­tive­ness, sur­prises and ex­cite­ment, the ath­let­ics was a nine out of ten. How­ever, it was prob­a­bly only a five in terms of per­for­mance. Cool con­di­tions and slow starts in some dis­tance races (men’s 10,000m aside) meant times were dis­ap­point­ing.

There was just one track cham­pi­onships best and that came in a newish event, the women’s steeplechase. There were none in the field events and even world leads were in short sup­ply. Doha should be much faster in the sprints and bet­ter in the field but could be slower in the dis­tance races.

2 Ath­letes need greater re­spect from or­gan­is­ers

If we want ath­letes to be at their best, we need to en­sure they have op­ti­mum con­di­tions for good per­for­mances. Ath­letes were made to strip off far too early in of­ten cool con­di­tions and then there was too long a de­lay be­fore they com­peted.

Wait­ing for a medal cer­e­mony could not have helped Usain Bolt’s ham­string just be­fore the re­lay fi­nal. He would not have won any­way but a bronze medal would have been a far bet­ter end­ing for the Ja­maican and the sport gen­er­ally.

Cold mus­cles will not be a prob­lem in Doha.

3 Home ad­van­tage does not al­ways count

Nor­mally home ad­van­tage means bet­ter per­for­mances. The num­ber of last places in heats and lack of in­di­vid­ual medals sug­gests not, but maybe in a few in­stances, like Kyle Lang­ford in his 800m semi and fi­nal, there was a boost in per­for­mance com­pared to form.

Per­haps this saw likely fifth and sixths move up to fourth – our most fre­quented po­si­tion.

Of course, it was good that UKA aban­doned the eli­tist se­lec­tion sys­tem. How­ever, it meant some ath­letes were com­pet­ing who would not have been se­lected in pre­vi­ous years and lacked ex­pe­ri­ence at this level.

Maybe over­seas ath­letes got an even big­ger boost than the Brits as many of them would not have been used to such en­thu­si­as­tic sup­port. Al­most ev­ery win­ning ath­lete re­ferred to that as be­ing in­spi­ra­tional and maybe for Bri­tons it upped the pres­sure and ex­pec­ta­tion too much.

4 Crowd sup­port: Bri­tish are best

Bri­tish ath­letes may not top the world but ev­ery­one agrees Bri­tish sup­port­ers are the best. The spec­ta­tors’ sup­port in Lon­don was eas­ily the best ever, nu­mer­i­cally and in at­mos­phere and ath­let­ics ap­pre­ci­a­tion.

They were far more knowl­edge­able than the Olympic crowds of 2012 but plen­ti­ful, loud, fair and en­thu­si­as­tic.

While sav­ing their big­gest cheers for Brits and Bolt, they gave a great re­sponse to all champions and ap­pre­ci­ated great com­pe­ti­tion.

With one ex­cep­tion. I was dis­ap­pointed Justin Gatlin won, but it seems un­fair to sin­gle out one ath­lete for boo­ing, when other drug cheats got away scot-free. The crowds will not be as size­able, knowl­edge­able or as vo­cif­er­ous in Doha.

5 Bri­tish ath­let­ics is at some­what of a crossroads

The me­dia are fo­cused on medal ta­bles but you can tell more from a plac­ing ta­ble about a na­tion’s strength in depth. From that point of view, GB’s third was a great achieve­ment.

I do not agree that the medal ta­ble is a bit like print­ing a ta­ble of cor­ners and throw-ins in foot­ball!

How­ever, where are the gen­uine Bri­tish su­per­stars of the fu­ture?

In the last 40 years, we have pro­duced world record-hold­ers such as Thomp­son, Coe, Ovett, Cram, Ed­wards, Jack­son, Gun­nell, Rad­cliffe, Moor­croft, Back­ley and Whit­bread and great win­ners such as Christie, McCol­gan and, of course, Farah. Some of the cur­rent crop may win medals but no Bri­tish ath­lete looks a likely world record breaker.

6 Did GB re­lays suc­cess pa­per over the cracks?

Uniquely Bri­tain won medals in ev­ery re­lay event. Re­lays do give a chance for those maybe less likely to get in­di­vid­ual medals to com­bine with oth­ers and achieve great­ness.

But I feel re­lays are over­funded, as there are 28 re­lay run­ners on the 2017 fund­ing com­pared to 15 on the in­di­vid­ual Olympic podium. The 28 does not in­clude Dina Asher-Smith, Adam Gemili and Zhar­nel Hughes, who are among the 15, or Netha­neel Mitchell-Blake who was not even in the po­ten­tial fund­ing.

I would pre­fer to see more in­di­vid­u­als on the fund­ing list rather than av­er­age squad mem­bers much lower ranked in the world, but the Lon­don re­sult seemed to jus­tify the means and the 4x100m suc­cess was a great boost to Bri­tish ath­let­ics.

I also feel it is eas­ier, though, to get medals in a re­lay than an in­di­vid­ual event for a big, well-funded na­tion like Bri­tain.

In the in­di­vid­ual events, there are three or four Amer­i­can or Ja­maicans and only one team from each coun­try in a re­lay.

7 Have Amer­ica re­turned to the top of the tree?

USA was by far the most dom­i­nant na­tion with 10 golds and 30 medals and it could have been even more but some of their best col­le­giate ath­letes were pay­ing for their long sea­sons.

I do not think it is healthy for a global sport to have one na­tion to be quite so dom­i­nant, though, and it co­in­cided with a Ja­maican melt-down.

In Bei­jing, Ja­maica won seven golds, 12 medals and scored 132 points, while in Lon­don they plum­meted to one gold, four medals and

68 points.

The fail­ure in the sprints – noth­ing bet­ter than third in an in­di­vid­ual sprint or re­lay – helped USA, whose 271.5 points score was up on their 211 from Bei­jing.

A cer­tain leader might be claim­ing credit af­ter his ‘make USA great again’ speech if he and the US pub­lic had any idea the event had ac­tu­ally taken place. It is a shame that the top na­tion is one of the least ap­pre­cia­tive of the sport.

Ath­let­ics, how­ever, is still uni­ver­sal like no other sport with 43 na­tions win­ning medals and 66 plac­ing ath­letes in the top eight in Lon­don.

8 Ath­let­ics cur­rently suf­fers from a lack of ma­jor stars

With Bolt re­tir­ing, Farah mov­ing to the roads and David Rud­isha seem­ingly past his best, there could be a void of ma­jor big-name stars in the fu­ture. Wayde van Niek­erk has the abil­ity and Sam Ken­dricks the per­son­al­ity but Bolt will al­ways be at a dif­fer­ent level with the sport­ing stature of a Muham­mad Ali or Pele.

How­ever, on the plus side, fu­ture cham­pi­onships might be more about the ath­let­ics rather than per­son­al­ity and Bolt has gained head­lines in re­cent years when his ath­let­ics per­for­mance was some way down on his 2008-09 break­through years.

Cer­tainly, Ramil Guliyev who in­her­ited Bolt’s 200m crown is not a re­place­ment as a global phe­nom­e­non and the likes of Eli­jah Manan­goi and Muk­tar Edris, who won the 1500m and 5000m, do not have a sig­nif­i­cant pres­ence.

Pierre-Am­broise Bosse and Karsten Warholm are two Lon­don win­ners who have per­son­al­ity but some felt they al­most won by de­fault due to op­po­si­tion fail­ings.

9 Can Mo Farah be re­placed by any­one?

An­drew Butchart, who Farah sym­bol­i­cally gave his fi­nal Bri­tish track vest to last month, was eighth in Lon­don fol­low­ing his sixth at Rio. They are po­si­tions that matched Farah’s early global out­ings – sixth in 2007 and sev­enth in the 2009 World Cham­pi­onships, al­though whether he made sig­nif­i­cant progress in 2017 is de­bat­able.

The in­door sea­son looked promis­ing – high­lighted by a 3:54.23 mile – but he was less of a fac­tor in ma­jor races this sum­mer than last and was six sec­onds be­hind the win­ner in Lon­don af­ter be­ing five back in Rio.

I can see him win­ning Euro­pean and Com­mon­wealth medals next year but he would need a huge im­prove­ment to gain a global medal in Doha.

10 Laura Muir’s fu­ture medal po­ten­tial

It per­haps is un­fair to make a judge­ment on Laura Muir’s global fu­ture based just on her per­for­mances in Lon­don as she was not 100% fit af­ter her stress frac­ture and ul­ti­mately only lost out on a medal in the last 10 me­tres.

Her in­door form, when she ran an 8:26.41 3000m to de­stroy Hellen Obiri on the last lap and won a 1500m and 3000m Euro­pean in­door dou­ble, would have surely been enough to win a medal and she now has four global top seven fin­ishes in the last two years.

But she is bet­ter than that.

I do feel she could have placed higher if she had em­ployed bet­ter tac­tics – she can­not al­low her races to turn into a bat­tle over the last 600m, as she sim­ply does not have the ex­plo­sive speed.

Muir’s speed en­durance is ex­cep­tional and she needs to use it but also learn how to save some­thing for the last 150m as Farah learnt af­ter his 2011 World Cham­pi­onships 10,000m de­feat in Daegu.

11 John­sonThomp­son is still a work in progress

Katarina John­son-Thomp­son would have won a hep­tathlon medal in Lon­don but for her rare high jump fail­ure. She has an ex­cel­lent chance of Com­mon­wealth gold and a world in­door and Euro­pean medal but needs to be con­sis­tent over all seven events and im­prove her throw­ing.

She feels she should fo­cus more on her bet­ter events but it is her weak ones where she has the big­gest scope for im­prove­ment and there is noth­ing wrong with her sprints or jump­ing, apart from a few tech­ni­cal is­sues such as hit­ting boards and clear­ing heights!

12 Who will be the Bri­tish stars in 2017 and 2018?

Next year will be strange with the World In­door Cham­pi­onships dom­i­nat­ing the win­ter, quickly fol­lowed by the Com­mon­wealth Games and then the Euro­pean Cham­pi­onships in the sum­mer.

Lon­don gave some point­ers for Birm­ing­ham, the Gold

Coast and Berlin but much can change in a year.

Muir and KJT aside, how will Bri­tain fare? The Com­mon­wealths of­fer the chance of field even­ters like Nick Miller and So­phie Hitchon to ex­pe­ri­ence ma­jor vic­to­ries with­out Euro­pean op­po­si­tion. Ad­di­tion­ally, other UK field even­ters who would not nec­es­sar­ily even have made the team for the Euro­peans can win Com­mon­wealth medals.

The ab­sence of Kenyans means the Euro­peans of­fers more chances for the UK middle-dis­tance squad to medal.

In terms of Doha, Ash­erSmith and Mitchell-Blake should be bet­ter placed to win medals glob­ally af­ter their fourth places and re­lay suc­cess.

13 What does the fu­ture hold for Caster Se­menya?

It is not good for the sport that the Caster Se­menya is­sue has still yet to be re­solved. She is a su­perb ath­lete and looks ca­pa­ble of a world record in the right race.

How­ever, there is a clear gen­der in­equal­ity with her com­pet­ing against fe­male ath­letes who do not have her testos­terone lev­els.

Surely, it is cur­rently un­fair on a greater num­ber of 800m and 1500m run­ners who would like fair com­pe­ti­tion.

14 The event pro­gramme needs im­prove­ment

Stretched over 10 days and 14 ses­sions, the pro­gramme was too long and some days were too thin on ac­tion.

More­over, it seemed a shame that the marathon clashed with the track ac­tion, mean­ing spec­ta­tors had to choose be­tween the two.

Those de­sign­ing the pro­gramme should have fore­seen that hav­ing a de­cathlon pole vault group start­ing early af­ter­noon would over­run. De­cathlon fans be­ing or­dered to leave the sta­dium just as things were get­ting in­ter­est­ing was not a cham­pi­onships high point.

The lack of morn­ing ses­sions was good, in con­trast to Rio which had morn­ing fi­nals, and they were week­end events and only there to en­hance the com­bined events.

15 Pre­sen­ta­tion could have been bet­ter in places

I thought, over­all, the pre­sen­ta­tion was gen­er­ally good and the tun­nel in­tros worked, though the PA sound sys­tem was lim­ited in places in the sta­dium. Com­men­tary was good – maybe too Bri­tish bi­ased – and would have been bet­ter with the likes of Garry Hill’s boom­ing voice as per the Olympics, or just an all-round ex­pert such as Peter Matthews.

I would have pre­ferred ev­ery ath­lete got an in­tro­duc­tion rather than a se­lect few and there were in­stances where the in­tro­duc­tions were too low-key and did not sell the prod­uct. For

ex­am­ple, with steeplechaser Ezekiel Kem­boi, it was a sim­ple “the de­fend­ing cham­pion,” when I would have gone for “let’s have a big Lon­don wel­come to the world’s great­est ever steeplechaser bid­ding for a record fifth suc­ces­sive gold and sev­enth suc­ces­sive medal”.

The women’s 10,000m got dire pre­sen­ta­tion com­pared to the men’s race. This led to lit­tle crowd in­ter­est or at­mos­phere and it was not helped by hav­ing an in­ter­view with boxer David Haye mid-race.

The mu­sic was not as in­tru­sive as in some com­pe­ti­tions but was still too noisy for many and lacked the Bri­tish feel of the Olympics where Oa­sis, the Clash and El­bow were played.

I do re­call one sit­u­a­tion where the an­nouncer asked the crowd to re­spect that this ath­lete prefers quiet as they make their at­tempt and the spec­ta­tors went silent while mu­sic was still blar­ing out.

16 Field events are ca­pa­ble of en­ter­tain­ing fans

With good pre­sen­ta­tion, the crowd showed they could fol­low and en­joy field events. I can­not re­call in the past, ex­cept where a home ath­lete has been in a medal po­si­tion, when field com­pe­ti­tions have had such re­sponses.

It was a shame, though, that on oc­ca­sion cru­cial parts of the com­pe­ti­tion were ig­nored as track in­tro­duc­tions were made or races were un­der­way.

More flex­i­bil­ity is needed and there should be less go­ing on at the same time. A spot­ter is needed to as­sist com­men­ta­tors and per­haps com­pe­ti­tions can be oc­ca­sion­ally held up to en­sure the crowd see the vi­tal mo­ments.

17 Fastest losers need re­duc­ing in num­ber

There will be oc­ca­sions when fastest losers are nec­es­sary but ma­jor cham­pi­onships put far too much em­pha­sis on them. There should be one or two fastest losers, not five or six in any round. An ath­lete who fin­ishes 10th in their heat, as Awet Habte did in the 5000m, should not be mak­ing the fi­nal.

Sprints can be un­fair as wind di­rec­tion can change dra­mat­i­cally from heat to heat. In dis­tance run­ning, there is too much ad­van­tage in run­ning a later heat. It is also de­pen­dent on whether a nat­u­ral fron­trun­ner is drawn in your heat.

Take the heats of the women’s 1500m. Nine ath­letes run­ning in heat one got through to the next round thanks to

Jess Judd’s ag­gres­sive front-run­ning, six got through heat two and then nine got through in heat three know­ing what time they had to run.

Qual­i­fi­ca­tion should be about en­sur­ing the best get through with a fair draw, not the luck of who you are against or what heat you are in.

18 Pa­tience is a virtue in the longer races

Medals are not handed out for be­ing brave or ag­gres­sive. In the women’s 1500m, Si­fan Has­san at­tacked 600m out but ran out of steam in the last 100m and faded badly to fin­ish fifth.

She was picked off by what could be re­garded as in­fe­rior 1500m run­ners but smarter com­peti­tors in Jenny Simp­son and Caster Se­menya, who took the sil­ver and bronze medals re­spec­tively as they held back to save some­thing for the last 200m.

Has­san learnt her les­son in the 5000m and ran pas­sively, sav­ing her kick for the clos­ing stages and win­ning the bronze.

Some ath­letes made bold moves early and still led on the last lap. For ex­am­ple,

Ruth Je­bet in the 3000m steeplechase and Yomif Ke­jelcha in the 5000m ended up with noth­ing.

Those races were won by Emma Coburn and Muk­tar Edris, who timed their fin­ishes per­fectly with a big kick in the last 100 me­tres. Eli­jah Manan­goi at 1500m and steeplechaser Cons­es­lus Kipruto also won gold medals with late kicks.

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19 Are all mem­bers of the me­dia ath­let­ics fans?

I do con­sider my­self a fan first and me­dia per­son sec­ond.

As a teenager I went to the first ever IAAF World Cup in 1977 – the pro­to­type for the World Cham­pi­onships – as part of the Ath­let­ics Weekly tour.

So I can never un­der­stand why so many ig­nore most of the field event ac­tion and most of the morn­ing ses­sions. One ac­cred­ited per­son in our sec­tion of seat­ing came to just one ses­sion – that fea­tur­ing Bolt’s 100m fi­nal – and was not seen be­fore or af­ter that!

Pre­sum­ably, with no Bolt in Doha, he won’t be in Qatar.

20 Hero the Hedge­hog was bril­liant

I ap­pre­ci­ate not ev­ery­one en­joyed the en­thu­si­as­tic, ath­letic and gym­nas­tic prankster on the in-field.

Enough of the UK 400m record-holder, who has rightly been ban­ished to suf­fer on Celebrity Is­land.

How­ever, I did en­joy the an­tics of the mas­cot, Hero the Hedge­hog. While he was dis­tract­ing at times, he seems to be uni­ver­sally re­garded as the best-ever mas­cot.

He was ac­ro­batic, cheeky, had great plac­ards and good in­ter­ac­tion with ath­letes such as Bolt – as well as good comic tim­ing. He was not al­ways at­ten­tion-seek­ing, qui­etly build­ing sand­cas­tles with a lit­tle girl in the long jump pit for ex­am­ple, and the vast footage on YouTube sug­gests he was well re­ceived.

Emma Coburn (right): set the only cham­pi­onships best on the track in an ac­tion-packed steeplechase

Bri­tain was proud to stage

the 2017 IAAF World Cham­pi­onships

Usain Bolt’s ham­string pull in the re­lay was part of a ter­ri­ble cham­pi­onships for Ja­maica

Lon­don 2017 broke all pre­vi­ous IAAF World Cham­pi­onship spec­ta­tor lev­els

Kyle Lang­ford: shock fourth at 800m

Dina Asher-Smith: con­trib­uted

to a 4x100m sil­ver

Wayde van Niek­erk: could he re­place Bolt in ath­let­ics terms?

An­drew Butchart: Scot­tish run­ner is Farah’s nat­u­ral suc­ces­sor at 5000m

Katarina John­sonThomp­son: room for im­prove­ment in her throws

Laura Muir: more to come in global events

Hero the Hedge­hog: first in the all-time mas­cot world rank­ings?

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