‘Heartbroken’ Gemili misses out again
Sprinter is agonisingly short of medal in 200m Lyles wins but Briton says gold in Tokyo is realistic
Adam Gemili could be forgiven for feeling cursed on the global stage. For three years, he has been consumed by an obsession to win a major championship medal, after missing out on Olympic bronze by just three thousandths of a second.
Here in this 200metres duel in the desert, he again fell agonisingly short, squeezed out of the podium places by a mere five hundredths in fourth as the irresistible Noah Lyles took gold. For an athlete almost masochistic in using failure as his inspiration, it was a chastening evening.
He was in tears as he made his way through the interview area, needing to be consoled by his mother, Sacha. Gemili could hardly be faulted in how he judged his race, matching his season’s best of 20.03sec, but the competition – in the form of Lyles, Canada’s Andre De Grasse and fast-rising Ecuadorean Alex Quinonez – was simply too fierce. He keeps a document on his phone listing all his detractors’ most stinging rebukes, and had suggested he would disclose the contents if he achieved his goal of a maiden individual medal at a major championships. Alas, the dossier will have to be updated a while longer.
True to form, Gemili was stinging in his self-reproach, after being overhauled by Quinonez only a few strides from the line. “I ran like an amateur,” he said. “I am gutted, as I had it but lost my balance. I had nothing left at the end, but all my form went out of the window. I cannot believe it. I came so close, as this was such a good chance. My body feels good and I ran well through the heats, but I let it go. It’s the same, if not worse, than the feeling in Rio.
“I’m sorry, because I feel I have let down so many people. So many sent me messages, and the team know I have been plagued with injuries. Not to break 20 seconds is heartbreaking. I had the medal and it slipped out of my hands. Ultimately, I have to take the positives. I had been labelled a relay runner, I had been written off. At those times you need a tight-knit group of people around you. It hasn’t happened here, but it has relit something inside me. If I go to Tokyo for the Olympics, it’s winnable.”
Lyles might reasonably take issue with that verdict. The American, who rounded off a superlative year with his first world title, has already run 19.50sec this season, over four tenths faster than Gemili has managed in his life.
“So many times I thought in my brain that I would be world champion this year,” said Lyles, 22. “I have it on my phone, I have been saying it since the season started. Every day I’ve been hitting my car window on the way back from practice as the music blasted out. This is my first one, and I don’t know a lot of people who can say they came to their first worlds and grabbed gold.”
The evening’s most eye-catching performance belonged to Donavan Brazier, who streaked away from his pursuers in the 800m to win in a time of 1min 42.34sec, an American record and the fastest time set at a World Championships.
The one inconvenient detail was that the 22-year-old’s coach, Alberto Salazar, had been kicked out of Doha in ignominy just hours earlier after the US Anti-doping Agency found him guilty of doping offences.
Dina Asher-smith advanced with graceful ease to tonight’s 200m final, for which she is the clear favourite after the withdrawal of Jamaica’s Elaine Thompson, the defending Olympic champion.
With the absences of Holland’s Dafne Schippers and Marie-josee Ta Lou, not to mention the decision by Bahamian Shaunae Miller-uibo to prioritise the 400, the field has scattered for Asher-smith to seize the first-ever global gold medal by a British female sprinter.
Fine margins: Adam Gemili (centre left) is pipped on the line by Alex Quinonez (far right) as Noah Lyles (centre right) takes gold ahead of Canada’s Andre De Grasse