World Track and Field Championships

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Tokyo Olympic marathon moved to Sapporo over heat concerns

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On the heels of world championship marathons that saw many runners drop out in the Qatar heat, even with the races being run at midnight, the International Olympic Committee said Wednesday that the 2020 Olympic marathon and race walks will be moved from host city Tokyo to Sapporo in search of cooler weather.

Only 40 of 68 starters finished the women’s marathon in Qatar, which had a starting temperature of 32.7 degrees Celsius (91 degrees Fahrenheit) with 73.3 percent humidity, putting the heat index at 111 degrees Fahrenheit. In the 2017 world championships in London, 78 of 92 runners completed the course. In the 2016 Olympics in Rio, only 24 of 157 runners failed to finish.

MORE: Chepngetich wins marathon of attrition

(The men’s marathon in Qatar was run on a cooler evening, and 55 of 73 runners finished.)

The race walks in Tokyo are set for July 31, Aug. 7 and Aug. 8. The marathons will be run Aug. 2 and Aug. 9. This year, the high temperatures in Tokyo for those dates ranged from 93 degrees Fahrenheit to 96; the lowest temperature for the whole week was 78 degrees Aug. 5. In Sapporo, the average high for August is 79 degrees.

Sapporo has already hosted Olympic action — the 1972 Winter Olympics. 

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Nia Ali, mother of two, wins 100m hurdles; U.S. ties record for most track worlds golds

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Nia Ali made it yet another mom to earn gold at the world track and field championships in Doha. The U.S. finished the meet with three titles on the final day, including both 4x400m relays, for 14 overall to tie its record for most golds at a single worlds.

Pretty strong going into an Olympic year.

The U.S. previously earned 14 golds in 2005 and 2007, but had fewer total medals at those meets than in Doha, where they took home 29. However, there was no mixed-gender 4x400m (which the U.S. won in Doha) back then.

Ali, who earned Rio Olympic silver a year after having son Titus, earned her first world title a year after having daughter Yuri. She took a victory lap with both kids after lowering her personal best in the semifinals (12.44) and final (12.34).

Ali led a U.S. one-two with Keni Harrison, who missed the Rio Olympic team then broke the world record before those Games (12.20). Harrison earned her first major outdoor championships medal.

Ali then took a victory lap with both kids. Yuri also took a victory lap with her dad, Canadian Andre De Grasse, after he took 100m bronze last week.

“Just because you’re a mom doesn’t mean that you can’t get out here and continue to be an athlete as well, a top, world-class athlete,” Ali, who joined Allyson Felix and Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce as moms to win sprint titles in Doha, said after the first round on Saturday. “I know [Yuri] is going to look up to me and look at this and it’s definitely going to keep her motivated and show what strength really looks like to be able to go through this and train hard and be on top.”

It was the culmination of a busy season for Ali, who briefly left her summer training base in Germany to attend a parent-teacher conference at 4-year-old Titus’ school in Jacksonville, Fla.

TRACK WORLDS: Results

In the relays, Felix extended her record of most career world titles (13) when the U.S. women won the 4x400m. Felix was not part of the final quartet, but she earned a medal as a preliminary heat runner. Felix had the fastest split of all the runners in the prelims, according to Jon Mulkeen of the IAAF.

The U.S. women — Phyllis FrancisSydney McLaughlinDalilah Muhammad and Wadeline Jonathas — prevailed by 2.97 seconds over Poland in 3:18.92, the world’s fastest since the 2012 Olympics.

The U.S. men’s 4x400m — Fred Kerley, Michael Cherry, WIl London III and Rai Benjamin — had a closer call, topping Jamaica by 1.21 seconds in 2:56.69, the fastest since the 2008 Olympics.

In other finals, Kenyan Timothy Cheruiyot led wire to wire to win the 1500m by a hefty 2.12 seconds over Algerian Taoufik Makhloufi in 3:29.26. U.S. Olympic champion Matthew Centrowitz was eighth, two years after getting eliminated in the first round at worlds.

Cheruiyot, 23, has lost just three times at 1500m or the mile in 17 meets over the last two years.

Ugandan Joshua Cheptegei won the first world championships 10,000m since Mo Farah left the track for the roads. Cheptegei, who took silver behind Farah at 2017 Worlds, clocked 26:48.36, the world’s fastest time in five years. The top American was 2008 Olympic Opening Ceremony flag bearer Lopez Lomong in seventh.

German Malaika Mihambo won a long jump final that included neither reigning Olympic champion Tianna Bartoletta (failed to make U.S. team) nor defending world champion Brittney Reese (missed the final by one centimeter). Mihambo, who came in as the world No. 1 this year, recorded the world’s best jump of this Olympic cycle, 7.30 meters, to win by more than a foot.

American Tori Bowie, the 2017 World 100m champion who went nearly five years between long jump competitions, took fourth.

MORE: Joe Kovacs, coachedby his wife, roars with shot put title by one centimeter

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Joe Kovacs roars with world shot put title by one centimeter

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Before his final throw, U.S. shot putter Joe Kovacs found his coach in the crowd at the world championships Doha. That coach also happened to be his wife, Ashley, who in the last year helped convince Kovacs not to retire.

She reminded him of the goal going into the competition — set a personal best and get onto the podium. Kovacs went back to the circle, lifted the 16-pound ball and prepared to heave.

“I took a big breath,” he said. “But when I put that ball in the neck, I felt everything line up.”

Kovacs recorded that personal best. He moved from fourth place to first. He had launched the joint-fourth-best throw in history — 22.91 meters, or 75 feet, 2 inches — and the farthest in 29 years.

Kovacs, the 2015 World champion who earned silver at the Rio Olympics and 2017 World Championships, beat the reigning Olympic champion Ryan Crouser and reigning world champion Tom Walsh of New Zealand each by one centimeter. All threw farther than the previous world championships record in what was the greatest shot put competition in history.

TRACK WORLDS: Results | TV Schedule

Kovacs, taught the shot put by his mom in a Pennsylvania school parking lot, re-emerged as the world’s best after a rough couple of years. In 2018, he was fifth at the USATF Outdoor Championships. He lost his Nike sponsorship. He wasn’t getting invited to Diamond League meets.

“I was hearing everybody kept trying to tell me that I should be done,” the 30-year-old said. “And I honestly thought maybe I should kind of hang it up.”

He spoke to his wife, a former thrower at Kentucky who has two master’s degrees and now coaches Kovacs and others at Ohio State. They wed last November.

“We said, you know, our goal is through Tokyo,” he said. “Let’s put it all together and let’s go full speed ahead.”

This season, Kovacs was sixth, third, fourth and fifth in Diamond Leagues before placing second at nationals. He was relieved simply to make the world championships team. Crouser, who on April 20 launched the world’s best throw since 1990, and Walsh were still a class above. It was still that way going into the final round on Saturday night. Then Kovacs launched the throw of his life and let out roar after roar before the distance was recorded.

“I’m just proud that I was able to stay in my own head and not watch Ryan and Tom throw so far and get tight,” he said.

In other events Saturday, the U.S. men ended a 12-year gold-medal drought in the 4x100m with an American record. The U.S. women earned bronze. More on the relays here.

Sifan Hassan, who fled from Ethiopia for the Netherlands at age 16 as a refugee, became the first runner to sweep the 10,000m and 1500m at a world championships.

Hassan led after each lap and ran away to win in 3:51.95, the sixth-fastest 1500m ever. She did it days after her coach, Alberto Salazar, was banned four years in a U.S. Anti-Doping Agency case.

An emotional Hassan was vehement that she’s a clean athlete and believes in Salazar. Hassan noted that she was atop the world rankings in the 1500m as far back as 2014, two years before she joined Salazar’s Nike Oregon Project. She also said she knew Salazar was under investigation when she joined the group, but she never saw proof of wrongdoing.

“It was a very hard week for me. I was just so angry. I couldn’t talk to anyone. I just ran all out,” she said on the BBC. “I’ve been so good athlete since 2014. Now people just start talking all (expletive).”

Hassan relegated reigning Olympic and world champion and new mom Faith Kipyegon to silver in a Kenyan record and Gudaf Tsegay to bronze in a time that made her the second-fastest Ethiopian in history.

American Shelby Houlihan took a bittersweet fourth in 3:54.99, smashing Shannon Rowbury‘s American record by 1.3 seconds.

“I wanted a medal. I wanted to win,” Houlihan told Lewis Johnson on Olympic Channel. “But, if I can get an American record, you can kind of walk away happy with that.”

Jenny Simpson, the 2011 World champion and Olympic bronze medalist, was eighth in 3:58.42, her fastest time in three years.

Hellen Obiri repeated as world champion in the 5000m, where Hassan would have been the favorite had she entered. Obiri clocked 14:26.72, leading a Kenyan one-two with Margaret Kipkemboi.

Three Olympic champions were eliminated in qualifying for Sunday finals — Americans Brianna McNeal (100m hurdles) and Brittney Reese (by one centimeter in the long jump) and German Thomas Röhler (javelin).

Both U.S. 4x400m teams won heats to advance to Sunday finals.

NBC Olympics senior researcher Alex Azzi contributed to this report from Doha.

MORE: Brianna McNeal DQed from 100m hurdles in first round

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