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Sports

Testosterone and theatrics on day eight of the 2015 World Athletics Championships

media Ashton Eaton crosses the finish line in the 1500 metres decathlon at the 15th IAAF World Championships at the National Stadium in Beijing Reuters/Damir Sagolj

Ashton Eaton is decathlon top dog, drums beat for Mo Farah, the men’s relay gets gladiatorial on day eight of the World Athletics Championships in Beijing.

  •  S Pree de Corps

No, it’s not the name of a Canadian decathlete. But it might just as well be. The decathlon testosteronati were secreting collective ideology on day eight at the end of two muscular

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days of competition. The top dog is Ashton Eaton. Clean of shave, square of jaw, lean of mien, toned and driven. He joined an illustrious list of hombrés such as Dan O’Brien, Trey Hardee (no, he’s not French) and Tomas Dvorak to retain the decathlon title. He did it in some style, breaking his own world record. He finished with 9,045 points. The American had to run the 1500 metres in 4:18.25 to set the record. Eaton crossed the line in 4:17.82. After collecting the gold medal – which was assured from the eighth event – he said he wasn’t certain whether he had the energy to attempt the necessary time. But he said he was inspired by talking to Rico Freimuth who also needed to run well to ensure the bronze medal. Eaton said: “Rico’s like: ‘I’m going to do this. I’m going to go for it.’ And that’s when I said: ‘OK he’s going to go for it. He’s going to be tough. So I’m going to be like Rico and I’m going to go for it too.’ So, you see, we help each other.” The guys went out there, left it all on the track etc and Eaton has the gold and the world record and Freimuth has a bronze.

  • The drums beat for you, Mo Farah

Maths was never one of the review’s strong points at school. But we were determined – left it all in the exam room – and scraped through our elementary tests. The 5,000 metres is 12 and a half times around the running track. To spice things up, the organisers wheel out 16 big drums. On day eight they were decorously placed either side of the podium in preparation for the race. Just before the final lap, the drummers start to pound and increase the intensity after the bell rings for the last 400 metres. What with the choreography of drumming and the crowd bellowing, it’s all quite mesmerising. Quite a show really. Farah won it to become the first man to win the 5,000 metres three times in a row at the world championships. He’s also the first athlete to win back-to-back doubles of the 5,000 and 10,000 metres at the event.

  • On the subject of theatrics …

The lust for choreography stepped into the realms of glitzkrieg. It was all rather Saturday Night Feverish. The prelude to the men’s 4x100 metres relay took on the hue of a gladiatorial game show. Cameras showed each relay team being ushered out of a tunnel past a line of short-skirted, long-legged girls waving sequinned pom-poms. The men stopped and - while having their names called out - posed for the camera as they were announced to the cheering masses. Some lads hammed it up for the cameras. Others looked bemused and some smiled sheepishly. The Jamaicans – led by their showman incarnate Usain Bolt - all put their hands together as if they were praying. Well, whichever deity they were beseeching ultimately smiled favourably upon their labours. Nesta Carter, Asafa Powell and Nickel Ashmeade were visibly second best to the Americans Trayvon Bromell, Justin Gatlin and Tyson Gay until Gay and Mike Rodgers botched up the final handover, it allowed a Bolt to take the baton from Ashmeade and wing it home following the prayer play in 37.36 seconds. Worse was to follow for the United States. Their changeover was so catastrophic that not only did they squander their winning position but Gay stepped out of the permitted handover zone and the team was disqualified. That led to a huge roar because it meant the Chinese had gone from bronze to silver. We wondered: what’s the Chinese word for Schadenfreude? No matter, we certainly know what it sounds like.

  • You can’t make it up …

There’s a scene at the end of the Ridley Scott movie Blade Runner in which the Harrison Ford character finally has a showdown with the dodgy ethics cyborg, charismatically played by Rutger Hauer. The robot goes on about seeing lyrical setting suns on galaxies far, far away. Essentially, things you can’t even imagine. The review was reminded of this vignette as the championships draw to a close because – to put it simply – it’s been turned on its head. On 22 August as the flags were marched around the Bird’s Nest stadium during the opening ceremony, the assumption was that Justin Gatlin would finally step out of Usain Bolt’s shadow – troubled as the Jamaican was with injuries while his American rival had enjoyed fast times during the season. A stumble five metres from the line helped Bolt retain the 100 metres crown and Bolt was simply in a different world for the 200 metres. A disastrous changeover robbed the Americans of relay gold. Bolt and the Jamaicans, the Chinese and the Canadians all profited from the blunder. You couldn’t have written it. Or if you’d tried, people would have thought you’d come from one of those distant galaxies.

  • Result …

Here the review speaks of privilege. We saw Bolt’s three victories in the 100 and 200m and the 4x100m relay at the Bird’s Nest Stadium at the 2008 Olympics. We saw him win them all again at the London Olympics four years later. We’ve witnessed his victories in the same events at the Moscow world championships and now here in Beijing. Each triumph brings new honours – first man to do this, first man to do that. He is an extraordinary athlete, who has had his share of luck – Gatlin’s stumble in the 100m and the Gay/Rodgers botch-up in the 4x100m. Asafa Powell mused after the relay that the Americans probably succumbed to the pressure. “We played it safe and got the stick around,” said Powell. Golden attitude!

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