Zhang couldn’t ultimately fulfil the expectations of the partisans in the Bird’s Nest stadium. He had to settle for bronze behind the Canadian Derek Drouin and Bohdan Bondarenko from Ukraine. Zhang nevertheless set off on a lap of honour to resounding cheers and applause.
Minutes earlier the American men, anchored by the individual silver medallist LaShawn Merritt, won their sixth consecutive relay. The country has triumphed at nine of the 15 world championships since the inaugural event in Helsinki in 1983. Trinidad and Tobago were second and Great Britain’s Martyn Rooney pipped Jamaica’s Javon Francis on the line to win the bronze.
Rooney’s compatriots also came third in the women’s 4x400m relay. That was claimed by the Jamaicans. Novlene Williams-Mills powered past the American Francena McCorory in the final strides to give Jamaica their seventh gold medal of the games.
Kathrina Molitor from Germany claimed the women’s javelin with a throw of 67.69m to the chagrin of the home crowds. China’s Lyu Huihui had led the field up until Molitor’s final attempt. Sunette Vuljoen from South Africa got her second world championship bronze with her throw of 65.79m.
Kenyans took the gold and silver in the men’s 1500m. Asbel Kiprop won the event for the third time in a row to equal the achievements of the Moroccan Hicham El Guerrouj who won it in 1999, 2001 and 2003 and the Algerian Noureddine Morceli who was dominant between 1991 and 1995.
It was close. Kiprop finished in 3:34.40 Elijah Motenei Manangoi, his training partner, in 3:34.63 and Abdalaati Iguider, who claimed Morocco’s only medal of the games, a fraction behind the front two in 3:34.67.
Kiprop and Manangoi’s success took Kenya to seven golds and six silvers to go with the three bronze.
“Kenya has tremendous talents other than middle distance runners,” said javelin world champion Julius Yego. “We’ve proved that. Nicholas Bett won the 400m hurdles with the best time of the year. It’s really good for the individual athletes who’ve got a medal and it’s really good for our country. And I’m sure we will have many more Kenyans coming up in the field events and the sprints. We have talents. If we can identify them at the early stages, I am sure Kenya will continue to top the medals tables at the world championships and the Olympics.”
The Jamaicans and the Americans will do their utmost to maintain their seeming duopoly in the sprint events. And the Ethiopians will continue to have a say in the middle distance disciplines. Their women relegated the Kenyans to the lists of the also rans on Sunday night in the 5000m. Almaz Ayana led the clean sweep with Senbere Teferi second and the 1500m gold medallist Genzebe Dibaba third.
While Kenya can bask in their collective achievement, one man will dominate the event like he did at the Moscow world championships two years ago and successive Olympic Games. He again came away with three gold medals to take his world tally up to 11 since Berlin in 2009.
“The Usain Bolts of this world don’t come along very often,” said new IAAF chief Sebastian Coe who took over from retiring president Lamine Diack on Sunday. “Our sport is adorned by talented athletes. Our challenge is to make other people aware of them.”