Team USA Concludes Most Successful World Athletics Championships Ever
by Chrös McDougall
Team USA celebrates winning the World Team Trophy at the 2022 World Athletics Championships on July 24, 2022 in Eugene, Ore.
Athing Mu elected not to beeline to the women’s 800-meter finish line Sunday, as she did at the Olympic Games Tokyo 2020 last year. This time, at the World Athletics Championships in Eugene, Oregon, the American record holder waited for the right moment to make her break.
Either way, the result was the same.
Once again, the finish came down to Mu and Great Britain’s Keely Hodgkinson. And once again, in the battle of 20-year-olds, Mu held on to win. A little less than a year after winning her first Olympic gold medal, the New Jersey native claimed her first world title in 1 minute, 56.30 seconds, the fastest time in the world this year. Hodkinson attempted to pass Mu on the inside down the final straight but couldn’t quite pull it off, finishing second in 1:56.38.
“I love competing against other fast women,” Mu said.
Fellow American Raevyn Rogers, the 2020 Olympic bronze medalist, was sixth in 1:58.26, while multi-time world championships medalist Ajeé Wilson was eighth in 2:00.19.
Mu’s gold medal kicked off a thrilling final night for Team USA at the first track and field world championships to be held on U.S. soil. Americans won three golds, a silver and a bronze medal on Sunday to end the competition 33 medals, 13 of them gold, for the best U.S. performance ever at the event. No other country won more than four gold medals or 10 total medals.
It’s never a bad thing in a 4x400-meter relay to hand off to the reigning 400-meter world champion. Handing off the baton to the world champ with a 1.16-second lead after just one leg?
That was the situation the U.S. men found themselves in after Elija Godwin’s scorching opening leg. Michael Norman, coming off his open 400 world title two days earlier, extended that lead, leaving Bryce Deadmon and Champion Allison plenty of cushion to close it out.
Allison, a world championships rookie who was fourth in the open 400, crossed the line in 2:56.17, beating second-place Jamaica by 2.41 seconds. The American men have now won the 4x400 in eight of the last nine world championships, as well as eight of the last 10 Olympic Games.
“In Tokyo, they had like a virtual audio but to hear this crowd here, it was like crazy,” said Deadmon, who joined Norman on the winning men’s 4x4 at last year’s Tokyo Games. “It was definitely a help to have a home crowd here.”
(L-R) Zachery Ziemek, Champion Allison, Elija Godwin, Michael Norman and Bryce Deadmon celebrate after the men's decathlon finals and men's 4x400-meter relay finals at the 2022 World Athletics Championships on July 24, 2022 in Eugene, Ore.
The American women followed in the finale on the Hayward Field track this week, and they ended it on a high note for Team USA.
Talitha Diggs, the reigning NCAA 400-meter champ for Florida, handed off to Abby Steiner.
Best known for the 200, the event in which she’s the 2022 NCAA champ, Steiner boosted her reputation as the ultimate workhorse this week. Two days after finishing fifth in the 200, she joined the winning U.S. 4x100 team on Saturday. The Ohioan was at it again on Sunday as a late replacement for the injured Dalilah Muhammad. In her 59th race of the year following a full collegiate season at Kentucky, the 22-year-old hardly showed tired legs.
Steiner said she could hear the crowd chanting her name before she took the baton.
“That gave me extra energy,” said Steiner, who also played soccer at Kentucky as a freshman. “It just made it feel at home.”
That showed as Steiner created separation over second-place Jamaica. Britton Wilson, this year’s NCAA 400 hurdles champ for Arkansas, added to it. In the anchor spot, fittingly, was Sydney McLaughlin, perhaps the biggest U.S. star in Eugene.
After winning her first 400-meter hurdles world title on Friday, shattering her own world record in the process, McLaughlin clocked a blazing 47.91 anchor leg. She was the only runner for any country in the relay to break 49 seconds.
The U.S. has now won the past three women’s 4x400 world titles and the past seven Olympic gold medals.
“It was unreal,” McLaughlin said. “We had such a young team. All these girls are from teams out of college. It was put together at the last-minute, and to see them all come together after such a long collegiate season, I am so grateful to be part of it.”
For the second time in the past year, Christopher Nilsen is the second best men’s pole vaulter in the world, and once again the American was topped only by Mondo Duplantis, the world record holder, of Sweden.
Nilson, the 2020 Olympic silver medalist from Kansas City, Missouri, topped out at 5.94 meters, while Duplantis kept going to first break the world championships record and then close out the entire meet by improving his world record, ending at 6.21 meters.
“Mondo is going to keep breaking records, and I am just going to keep doing my thing,” Nilsen said. “This medal means to me that I am very consistent in what I am doing — to be the top three in the world.”
Zachery Ziemek came into the 1,500 — the 10th and final event of the decathlon — in third place. The two-time Olympian from Itasca, Illinois, was 13th of 18 runners in the always grueling finale, while his closest competitor in the standings, Ayden Owens-Delerme of Puerto Rico, ran a personal best to win the event.
When the final scores were tallied, though, Ziemek had done just enough to secure the bronze medal with 8,676 points to Owens-Delerme’s 8,532. Kevin Mayer of France, the 2017 world champ and a two-time Olympic silver medalist, won with 8,816, followed by Pierce LePage of Canada in 8,701.
Ziemek’s medal marked the first for an American in decathlon since Ashton Eaton’s run of two Olympic and world titles from 2012 to 2016.
Fellow American Kyle Garland (8,133) was 11th, while Steven Bastien (7,939) was 16th.
Keni Harrison came into the women’s 100-meter hurdles final as the world record holder and Olympic silver medalist. However, she pulled up at the eighth hurdle and was ultimately disqualified, while Nigeria’s Tobi Amusan ended the night as both the new world champ and world record holder. Amusan set the new record at 12.12 in the semifinals, then ran 12.06 in the final, though the latter was run in windy conditions so wasn’t eligible for the record. Harrison’s previous record was 12.20, set in 2016.
Team USA’s other finalist, Alia Armstrong, the NCAA champ from LSU, was fourth in 12.31, just .08 off the podium. The performance comes after an up-and-down season in which she false started at both the SEC and NCAA indoor meets, which she described as “heartbreaking.”
“Little did I know I would be in a world championships final, the youngest in the field,” Armstrong, 21, said. “I am so grateful for that.”
Olympian Quanesha Burks had the best women’s long jump mark in qualifying at 6.86 meters, and she upped that by .02 on her second attempt in the final. However, that wasn’t quite enough for the podium as she finished just one spot off in fourth. Tiffany Flynn jumped 6.48 on her first attempt to finish 12th. Germany’s Malaika Mihambo, the defending Olympic champ, was the winner in 7.12.
In the men’s 5,000-meter, Grant Fisher was in podium position coming out of the final turn but his foot appeared to catch the inside rail, throwing off his stride, and he faded into sixth place down the stretch. Fisher, who made his Olympic debut last year in Tokyo, was fourth in the 10,000 earlier this week. Fisher’s time was 13:11.65, which was 2.41 seconds behind winner Jakob Ingebrigtsen of Norway. The other U.S. finalist, Abdihamid Nur, was 11th in 13:18.05.
In the morning session, Nick Christie was 36th in the men’s 35-kilometer race walk.