It would be fair to say that Spain’s Asier Martinez, who qualified eighth fastest for the 110m hurdles final at the World Athletics Championships on Sunday (17), was a surprise bronze medallist on a night when there were unhappy surprises for some of the event’s more lauded performers.
By the time the finalists got away at Hayward Field they had been reduced by two. First to go had been Jamaica’s Olympic champion Hansle Parchment, second fastest qualifier with 13.02, who had to be helped away after appearing to injure a hamstring while warming up.
Then came a false start, which subtracted – to the obvious distress of the home crowd – local hero Devon Allen, whose 12.84 clocking this season has moved him to third best on the all-time list and who is about to sign up with NFL team Philadelphia Eagles having made a name for himself playing for the University of Oregon.
The exclusion of Allen was particularly excruciating as he was only a thousandth of a second faster than the allowable reaction margin – and he made it clear he was not happy about what was the polar opposite of a hometown decision.
Then there were six and that number was reduced to five as Barbados’ Shane Brathwaite clattered a hurdle and didn’t finish the final.
Home athletes took gold and silver with Grant Holloway, who was so disappointed with his Olympic silver, retaining his title in 13.01 and NCAA champion Trey Cunningham clocking 13.08.
But Martinez rose to the challenge of earning the remaining medal, clocking a personal best of 13.17 to finish comfortably clear of Poland’s Damian Czykier and Great Britain’s 2019 European U20 champion Josh Zeller, who could surely not imagine himself coming fifth in his World Championship debut, something he achieved in a time of 13.33.
Martinez might have had sounder hopes of reaching the medal rostrum given he finished sixth in the Olympic final last year in a personal best of 13.22. He came so close to a medal last year at the European Athletics Indoor Championships in Torun, where he finished fourth in the 60m hurdles before winning gold at the European Athletics U23 Championships in Tallinn.
He will now be heading for next month’s European Athletics Championships with huge optimism of becoming the first Spaniard to win the 110m hurdles title on the continental stage.
“I can't believe it. It has not sunk in yet. This is a dream and I am having a hard time waking up from it. It was weird after two disqualifications. This is incredible. Athletics is growing in Spain. We are becoming a leading sport in Spain and results back this up,” he said.
Marathon bronze for Abdi; Thiam in command in the heptathlon
Earlier in the day Belgium’s Bashir Abdi added a world marathon bronze to the Olympic version he earned in Tokyo last year in a race where gold went to Ethiopia’s Tamirat Tola in a championship record of 2:05:36.
In benign conditions for a championship marathon, Tola ran a blistering second half split of 61:27 to improve on his silver medal from 2017 and take down the championship record which had stood since 2009.
Tola also led an Ethiopian one-two from Mosinet Geremew in 2:06:44 with Abdi taking bronze in 2:06:48. However, his training partner and great friend Abdi Nageeye from the Netherlands dropped out in the last two kilometres after making a big effort in the latter stages to close down on the chasing group.
Later in the day Abdi’s Belgian teammate Nafissatou Thiam, the two-time Olympic heptathlon champion, made it clear she is set on regaining the world title she won in 2017 but lost in Doha three years ago to Britain’s Katarina Johnson-Thompson.
After four of the seven events, Thiam leads with 4071 points, 61 clear of Dutch athlete Anouk Vetter and 80 clear of home hope Anna Hall.
The Belgian began the day with a personal best of 13.21 in the 100m hurdles and won the high jump with 1.95m, equalling her championship best, before finishing second in the shot put on 15.03m, behind the 16.25m thrown by Vetter, and concluding with a ninth-best placing in the 200m in 24.39.
Johnson-Thompson, still battling to return to her form of old after the vicissitudes of her Achilles tendon rupture in 2020 and the hamstring problem that brought her to a halt at last year’s Olympics, perked her chances up by running the second quickest time in the 200m with 23.62.
The Brit stood in sixth place overnight on 3798 points with the two places above her being occupied by Noor Vidts from and Adrianna Sulek of Poland on 3921 and 3982 points respectively.
Meanwhile two of Europe’s finest women sprinters head into the 200m heats with massively encouraging performances in the women’s 100m final which saw the incomparable Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce lead home a Jamaican medal sweep in a championship record of 10.67.
Missing out on a medal by one place and 0.02 was world 200m champion Dina Asher-Smith who equalled her own British record of 10.83 in the process from lane eight.
Having had her Olympic ambitions undermined by an untimely hamstring injury, the European 100 and 200m champion is clearly back to her sharpest form as she prepares to defend her global title.
One place behind her was Switzerland’s 30-year-old Mujinga Kambundji, surprise winner of the world indoor 60m title earlier this year, who took bronze behind Asher-Smith in Doha three years ago.
Kambundji also indicated the sharpness of her form as she clocked 10.91, just 0.02 shy of her recently set Swiss record.
Full results here.