The Netherlands proved the maxim of snatching defeat from the jaws of victory as two of their most famed athletes, Sifan Hassan and Femke Bol, fell metres from the line with world championship golds within their grasp on Saturday.
Both had entertained hopes of several titles in Budapest, but Hassan came to grief 20 metres from the end of the 10,000 metres to gift victory to Ethiopian rival Gudaf Tsegay.
As Tsegay crossed back over the line and embraced her, the Ethiopia-born Hassan smiled despite the realisation her dreams of an unprecedented 10/5,000m and 1500m treble had ended.
“I am keeping my smile but it is really hard,” said Hassan.
“I am very disappointed. This is sport, these things happen. I just had a bad moment.”
Bol saw victory in the 4x400m mixed relay just minutes later slip from her grasp as, pressured by American Alexis Holmes, she stumbled and fell with the line begging.
She did stagger over the line but without the all-important baton and, distraught, was consoled by her teammates. The Americans took gold in a world record of 3min 08.80sec.
Bol, like Hassan, will have to pick herself up as she is the hot favourite in the absence of Sydney McLaughlin-Levrone for the 400m hurdles and will also be in the women’s 4×400 relay team.
“I do not know what happened,” said Bol. “It has never happened to me before. I cramped towards the finish line, I was pushing, pushing, pushing.”
There was also drama in the men’s shot put final but only due to the pitch-perfect display by defending champion Ryan Crouser.
The 30-year-old American, the two-time Olympic champion and world record holder, did not let down World Athletics president Sebastian Coe who had picked it as his event to savour.
Despite his preparation being affected by blood clots in his lower leg Crouser twice set a new championship record — saving the best for last as he threw 23.51 metres.
“That was a tough one,” said Crouser.
“The last few days have been hard, so it with all that has happened it was a phenomenal throw.”
– ‘On the line’ –
Fred Kerley is not the most demonstrative of athletes but this served him well as he sailed into the semi-finals of hte 100m despite it taking six efforts to get the runners out of the blocks.
“You’ve just got to keep your emotions calm. You know you are ready to go, so you just have to control the feelings.”
He and US teammate Noah Lyles, the two-time 200m world champion, may have looked comfortable, but it was quite the opposite for Olympic champion Marcell Jacobs.
The Italian looked like a man with just one race all season under his belt as he scraped through in the third and final automatic qualifying spot in his heat.
“It was really, really hard,” said Jacobs.
“I really don’t know if I’m going to be in the form to compete with such fantastic athletes.”
His downcast demeanour as he walked off the track was in stark contrast to that of Lyles, who forecast great things from himself come Sunday’s semis and final.
“I’ve said I can run 9.65 and I don’t think anyone else can do it,” said Lyles.
Spain’s Alvaro Martin won the men’s 20km race walk to claim the first gold of the championships.
Jakob Ingebrigtsen has his eyes set on a golden double and the Norwegian barely got out of second gear as he eased into the 1500m semi-finals.
“I do not think about the world record,” said 22-year-old Ingebrigtsen, who took silver in the 1500m last year but won the 5,000m title.
“What matters here is winning two gold medals. The level of competitors is as good as it has ever been in both 1500m and 5000m.”
With double Olympic champion Nafissatou Thiam of Belgium out injured and unable to defend her title, American Anna Hall took charge of the heptathlon after the opening day.
She ended the day after four of the seven events on 3,998 points with Britain’s 2019 world champion Katarina Johnson-Thompson battling her way into second on 3,905.
Hall’s team-mate Chari Hawkins is third just five points adrift of Johnson-Thompson and another American Talyah Brooks fourth only 12 points in arrears of Hawkins.
It leaves it all to play for in the final three events on Sunday: the long jump, javelin and event-ending 800m.