An Upset and a Thrilling Finish on Day 1 of the Track & Field World Championships

August 16, 2009

In the same Berlin stadium where the legendary Jesse Owens shattered Hitler's propaganda machine, three of track's biggest sprint stars - Tyson Gay, Usain Bolt, and Asafa Powell - are gearing up for a showdown in Owens' signature event, the 100m.

Bolt, the defending Olympic champion from Jamaica, got off to a good start in his quarterfinal heat, and then effortlessly jogged home the final 40 meters in a time of 10.03 seconds. It is difficult to remember any runner in the sport's history making a 10.03 run look as easy as Bolt did on Saturday.

In contrast, American Tyson Gay now appears to be fighting himself a little bit after his spectacular spring. Gay won his heat in a stellar time of 9.98 seconds, but had to overcome a poor start and exert himself somewhat down the stretch to post that time.

Gay has been bothered by a recent groin injury, casting doubt onto his chances of upsetting Bolt. Gay's best opportunity might come later in the 200m, his favorite event.

Forgotten in all the Bolt-Gay hoopla is the former world-record holder from yard, Asafa Powell. Powell has been inconsistent all season, but now appears to be peaking at the right time. In his quarterfinal heat, he had a great start, took a comfortable lead, and then relaxed down the final 20 meters to finish in an impressive 9.95 seconds. Powell's time was the fastest of the day.

It's only fitting that one of the most anticipated 100m finals in recent memory is taking place in Berlin. And in keeping with Owens' legacy, the charismatic Bolt and the classy Tyson Gay will surely win over the German fans in much the same way that Owens transcended national and racial boundaries in 1936.

A Thrilling Finish in the Women's 10,000m

Using her graceful long stride, 19 year-old Kenyan Linet Masai outran her Ethiopian competitors in the final 50 meters to win the Women's 10,000m in a time of 30 minutes and 51.24 seconds.

For roughly a decade, the Ethiopian team has owned this event. And with Ethiopian favorite Meseret Defar included in Saturday's field, it was assumed that the country's winning tradition would continue.

At the bell lap, a small lead pack of 3 Ethiopian and 2 Kenyan runners battled to an exciting finish.

Twice on the final backstretch, Masai appeared to get bumped by the other runners, as she once had to alter her stride to avoid a collision. Entering the final 100 meters Defar was in front, but within seconds she quickly began to fade. Her teammate Meselech Melkamu overtook her, seizing control of the race.

For an instant, it appeared that Melkamu would cruise to victory, but Masai then displayed her strong finishing kick. Masai passed Melkamu on the outside, with Melkamu unaware of her move. The Ethiopian momentarily raised her arms in victory, only to realize that she had indeed finished second.

Melkamu would finish merely one-tenth of a second behind Masai.

Olympic Champion Angelo Taylor is Eliminated

The biggest surprise of the day occurred in the Men's 400m hurdles, as 2008 Olympic gold medalist Angelo Taylor was eliminated during the preliminary heats.

Taylor got off to a quick start, but then relaxed in the middle stages of his heat. As a result, he quickly fell behind and was forced to play catch-up the rest of the way.

Approaching the final hurdle, Taylor appeared to chop his steps somewhat, further complicating matters. He would finish in fourth place, unable to advance with his time of 49.64 seconds.

Meet officials later disqualified Australian runner Brendan Cole, which would have put Taylor into the next round of competition. However, that disqualification turned out to be only a cruel tease for Taylor, as Cole was reinstated after a video review.

A U.S. appeal was denied, eliminating Taylor from the competition.

By Mike Elliott
Staff Editor for

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