Guliyev storms away with 200m gold

(L-R) Trinidad and Tobago's bronze medallist Jereem Richards, Turkey's gold medalist Ramil Guliyev and South Africa's silver medalist Wayde Van Niekerk celebrate after the final of the men's 200m athletics event at the 2017 IAAF World Championships at the London Stadium in London on Thursday. — AFP

LONDON — Ramil Guliyev, representing Turkey after switching allegiance from Azerbaijan, pulled off a shock 200 meters victory at the World Championships on Thursday, edging an emotional favorite Wayde van Niekerk into second place in a blanket finish.

The 27-year-old Guliyev, who had never won a medal in a senior global event, finished just the stronger to triumph in 20.09 seconds before setting off on a lap of honor carrying the flags of both of his nations.

South African Van Niekerk, who took the 400m title on Tuesday, had been seeking to match American Michael Johnson's achievement of doing the 200/400m double at the Gothenburg worlds in 1995, but had to settle for silver in 20.11 seconds.

Jereem Richards of Trinidad and Tobago was given the same time but was relegated to third by one thousandth of a second. Isaac Makwala of Botswana, the crowd favorite after his illness travails initially saw him barred from competing this week, started strongly but faded to sixth.

In the absence of Usain Bolt, who had won the event in the last four championships, it always looked a wide open race, but even with the most level playing field for a decade, few were looking at lane five for the likely winner. Van Niekerk, Makwala, Richards and US duo Isiah Young and Ameer Webb all looked stronger on paper, while the home crowd also focused on local favorite Nathaneel Mitchell-Blake, who eventually came through for fourth.

Those with a keen athletics eye might point to the fact that Guliyev’s junior best is second only to Bolt's but, after a decade of minor medals in minor championships, and at the age of 27, his chances of global gold looked slim to say the least.

Guliyev, who became a Turkish citizen in 2011 and was cleared to represent his new country in 2013, did fire out a warning in the semifinals when he won his heat ahead of Webb and Van Niekerk and, though he slipped into the final pretty much under the radar, he had been confident all along.."

A choked-up Van Niekerk could barely speak and was upset by what he said was a lack of respect for his 400m victory. "It was a tough week, there were a lot of people who felt I didn’t deserve it," he said.

American Kori Carter pulled off another of the growing number of shocks at the World Championships on Thursday, achieving the rare feat of winning the 400 meters hurdles title from the outside lane. All eyes had been on Carter's US teammate, Olympic champion Dalilah Muhammad, who had been the strong favorite, but it was the former American champion in lane nine who maintained her form best to race to victory in 53.07 seconds.

Muhammad, the fastest woman in the world this year, earned the silver in 53.50 to complete an American one-two while Jamaican Ristananna Tracey, an Olympic finalist last year, took the bronze in a lifetime best 53.74.

Czech Zuzana Hejnova, who had been seeking to achieve an unprecedented third successive one-lap hurdles victory, had to settle for fourth, being overhauled by Tracey on the run-in despite clocking a season's best 54.20.

Double Olympic champion Christian Taylor continued his dominance of the triple jump when he won his third world title on Thursday, once again beating fellow American Will Claye into second place.

Taylor leapt 17.68 meters with his third attempt to win by five centimeters, clinching the title when Claye was given a red flag on his last attempt. Portugal's Nelson Evora, Olympic champion in 2008, took bronze with 17.19.

The 27-year-old Taylor became the first triple jumper to win three world crowns, having also claimed victory in Daegu in 2011 and Beijing two years ago. He also took gold at the 2012 and 2016 Olympics with Claye finishing second on both occasions. But he had made it clear beforehand that his ambition was to break Jonathan Edwards's long-standing record of 18.29 meters, set in 1995.

"I have this watch from my sponsor with 18.30 on it," Taylor said. "I will try to fight, I will get this number. The record is still on. I am still motivated to break that record. My motivation is to be the best athlete. This was not the night, I am a little disappointed. But the season is not yet over."

Edwards said beforehand that he thought his world mark could be under threat. In the event, the contest turned into something of an anti-climax with both producing their best jumps in the third round.

Double Olympic champion Sandra Perkovic looks set to land a second world title to go with her global collection as she dominated qualifying in the discus on Friday.

After an initial no-throw, the Croatian launched a huge second round throw of 69.67 meters, an effort that only she has bettered this year, to lead the qualifiers into Sunday's final.

Back in the stadium where she won Olympic gold in 2012, Perkovic's effort was more than four meters longer than the next best, the 65.58m recorded by Cuban champion Yaime Perez. An even more relieved thrower was Cuba's other major medal hope, reigning world champion Denia Caballero, who was on the verge of elimination before surpassing the automatic qualifying mark of 62.50m with her final attempt of 63.79.

Australia's 2012 Olympic champion Sally Pearson's bid to put behind her two years of injury hell started well on Friday as she coasted into the 100 meters hurdles semifinals. The 30-year-old — the 2011 world champion — missed both the 2015 world championships and 2016 Olympics because of serious injuries, losing out on the former after suffering a "bone explosion" in her wrist in a terrible fall at a meet.

The perils of this event were evident in the heats when Trinidadian Deborah John crashed into the fifth obstacle requiring medical attention for over 10 minutes before being fitted with a neck brace and stretchered off the track.

Pearson looked in determined mood right from the outset, dominating her heat to take it in 12.71sec from America's 2008 Olympic champion Dawn Harper-Nelson.

Pearson will reappear later on Friday for the semifinals where she will face stiffer opposition and be able to measure herself against American world record holder Kendra Harrison.

Harrison looked good in her heat as she flew from the blocks and crossed the line clear in 12.60sec, with Belarus's 2015 world bronze medalist Alina Talay edging Jamaica's former world youth champion Yanique Thompson for second.

Defending champion Danielle Williams looked silky smooth in her heat, the Jamaican gliding over the hurdles to win in 12.66sec ahead of promising German champion Pamela Dutkiewicz.

Four Kenyans with eyes on 1,500 meters medals — the three fastest men in the world this year and the one seeking a fourth successive title — all qualified from Thursday’s first-round heats, though not without a scare for one of them.

Triple defending champion Abel Kiprop, aiming to match the four successive titles world record-holder Hicham El Guerrouj took from 1997-2003, showed that he is not about to hand over his title without a fight.

Kiprop went all the way to the line just behind Elijah Manangoi, silver medalist two years ago and the world leader this year with three minutes 28.80, in a mass finish to the first heat.

The two 21-year-old pretenders of the Kenyan team had contrasting nights as Timothy Cheruiyot went through strongly in second place in the third heat while Ronald Kwemoi snatched the sixth and last fast-loser slot.

Sadik Mikhou, who switched allegiance from Morocco to Bahrain last year, was an impressive winner of the second heat, where Dutchman Richard Douma fell 30 meters from the line when well-placed to qualify. After an appeal by the Dutch federation Douma was advanced to the semifinals.

Luke Mathews of Australia led the last heat home and it was considerably the fastest of the three with the six automatic and five of the six fast losers all going through from it. — Reuters