Ramil Guliyev pips Wayde van Niekerk to win 200m at world championships - VIDEO

  11 August 2017    Read: 4342
Ramil Guliyev pips Wayde van Niekerk to win 200m at world championships - VIDEO
So much for the coronation – or the redemption. This night was supposed to be about Wayde Van Niekerk becoming the first athlete since Michael Johnson in 1995 to double up over 200m and 400m. Or Isaac Makwala defying sickness, the IAAF, and two punishing races in his legs on Wednesday to claim gold. Instead Ramil Guliyev, an Azerbaijani wearing a Turkish vest, ripped up the script to take the 200m world championship title.
With Makwala fading early in the home straight, the race became a shootout between Guliyev and Van Niekerk, with the Turk clinging on to take gold in 20.09 sec – inches ahead of his rival, who recorded the same time.

Jareem Richards from Trinidad and Tobago was third in 20.11, with Nethaneel Mitchell-Blake taking yet another fourth place for Britain in 20.24.

This was the first world championship 200m final without Usain Bolt since 2007, when the Jamaican finished second behind Tyson Gay.

Since then the event has been Bolt’s personal fiefdom – with 48 victories in 49 races since 2008 and gold medals in every single Olympic and world championship in that era. It was never going to be the same without him. But the supersonic era of sprinting already feels like it is fading into oblivion.

Not that Guliyev, who switched allegiance to Turkey in 2011, minded. “This is not a shock but this does not feel real,” he said.

“I am so proud. This title means a lot. I delivered my best race at the right time. I’m so happy to be world champion. This is the best moment of my career.”

In fairness, there is not much competition. True that in 2009 he came second in the European Athletics Rising Star of the Year Award having taken the 200m junior title. And he can claim to be the second fastest junior 200m runner in the history of the sport, behind Bolt. But it has taken time for the 27-year-old to come to the boil.

Certainly few people had expected him to win this race, with the bookies having him as the 8-1 fourth favourite. Guliyev, however, had other ideas.

“I was competing against some of the best athletes in the world, so it didn’t bother me that the attention was on them,” he said. “Maybe at the next competition everyone will look at me instead.”

Inevitably there were questions about Guliyev given that four of Turkey’s nine finalists at London 2012 have served drug bans, either prior to those Olympics or after. At the weekend, Paula Radcliffe cited Turkey as being among the four countries where 80% of the cheats from 2012 had come from.

Guliyev said: “Every athlete chooses their own way. Everyone is responsible for themselves. It is hard for me to say one thing or another.”

Van Niekerk broke down in tears because he felt hurt by allegations the IAAF had engineered a conspiracy to keep Makwala away from racing him in the 400m by putting the Botswanan in quarantine when he was sick on Monday.

Said Van Niekerk: “I really feel I worked hard for this..

“I have shown massive respect to Makwala and for him to say that something fishy was going on with the IAAF – I definitely deserve more respect but I have learned something from these championships. We are not here to make friends but to compete.”

Makwala did not address Van Niekerk’s comments but admitted the efforts of Wednesday night had taken it out of him.

“I’ve had one of the craziest championship journeys ever,” he said. “I don’t think I will ever face this again. I will always pray to not face this again.

“When I got into the race I was feeling good, but the last 50m I was feeling tired. The lactic came. The 4x400m is next.”

Mitchell-Blake was left to rue another fourth-placed British finish. “I knew it would be a tough one,” he said.

“I’ve no excuses – Lane 2 is never ideal but I put myself in that position in the semi-finals. I tried to be really aggressive from the start, I had a great tracker with Wayde in front.

“Nothing is perfect, all you can do is try and execute in the best way you can,” he added. “Regardless of how I feel about the race, it wasn’t enough to get a medal.”

When it was put to Mitchell-Blake there would be better times ahead, and that he was still young, he refused to use it as an excuse.

“I don’t see my age as a barrier,” he said.

“I am 23 which is an age where I can get a medal so my age is not an excuse. I need to learn from it, build on it and come back stronger.”

It is a message his team-mates, who have won only one medal in these championships, will do well to heed.

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