Andre de Grasse has been the ‘nearly-man’ for long, winning silver and bronze frequently at the Olympics and Worlds, watching others go past him to embrace glory.
All that changed on Wednesday as the 26-year-old won the 200m, his first global title and Canada’s first gold in 93 years in the event, shocking World champion and season-leader Noah Lyles.
de Grasse had won the 200m silver, behind Usain Bolt, in Rio and had taken the 100m bronze in Tokyo and it looked like he would have to wait longer, for Lyles was in the front at 150m. But the Canadian produced a superb finish to triumph in a world-leading 19.62s. Americans Kenneth Bednarek (19.68) and Lyles (19.74) took silver and bronze.
For the second successive day, there was a world record in the 400m hurdles. This time it was 21-year-old American Sydney McLaughlin who overtook defending champion Dalilah Muhammad in the final straight to better her record with 51.46s for gold with Dalilah (51.58) also coming under the previous record.
Neeraj Chopra surprisingly topped the qualification round with his opening effort and entered the final even as some of the world’s top javelin throwers struggled for answers. The 23-year-old Asian Games champion’s 86.65 was better than the automatic qualification standard (83.50m) by more than three metres.
German world leader Johannes Vetter, who had been consistent over 90m this year, was in danger of being eliminated at one stage after two 82m throws before making the cut with an 85.64m for the second spot. The overall rankings had a strange look with Pakistan’s Arshad Nadeem (85.16m) in third place, making him the first from his country to enter an Olympic final in athletics.
Neeraj is the first Indian javelin thrower to enter an Olympic final and the first to top the qualification round. Meanwhile Asian silver medallist Shivpal Singh, the other Indian in the fray (PB 86.23m), was nearly 10m behind that as he finished 12th in his group and 27th overall with 76.40m.
Marcin Krukowski (74.65m) and 2012 London Olympic champion Keshorn Walcott (79.33m), the world’s No. 2 and 3 who had both gone over 89m this year, failed to make the cut. Joining them were World champion Anderson Peters (80.42m) and Lavia’s Gatis Cakss (78.73m) who was just below World No. 4 Neeraj in the season’s list.
Emmanuel Korir and Ferguson Rotich made it a Kenyan 1-2 in men’s 800m.
Peruth Chemutai became the first Ugandan woman to win an Olympic gold when she pulled off a surprise win in the 3000m steeplechase in 9:01.45s while Poland’s Wojciech Nowicki won the men’s hammer throw with a personal best 82.52m.
There were disappointments in multi-eventers with World champions Niklas Kaul (decathlon) and Katarina Johnson-Thompson (heptathlon) pulling up with injuries.