MOSCOW, August 17 (R-Sport) – Usain Bolt continued his crushing dominance of sprinting Saturday with a record third straight world 200 meters gold, but the surprise star of the eighth day of the world championships was Russia, which shot to the top of the medals table with two more golds.
Bolt’s 200m victory had the air of inevitability that has come to characterize his races.
Hopes of a world record were dashed as he won in a comparatively modest - by his standards - 19.66 seconds, but he moved closer to another entry in the history books – victory with Jamaica in Sunday’s 4x100m relay would make him the most successful athlete ever at the world championships, surpassing U.S. track legends Carl Lewis and Michael Johnson.
“For me it means a lot more to defend my 200m title than to actually win the 100m,” Bolt said. "It's always a little different over the 200m. I'm also slightly more nervous over the 200m because it means so much to me. The 100m is always just for the fans, for the people, for the show."
By contrast, Russia’s rise over the last two days has been a surprise. Roared on by a home crowd that may not always be large but never lacks passion, the host team won four gold medals on Friday and Saturday.
Victory for Svetlana Shkolina in the high jump and for the women’s 4x400m relay team brought Russia above the United States at the top of the medals table – if the hosts can hold that position on the final day Sunday, it will be the first time the U.S. has been beaten since the 2001 world championships in Edmonton, Canada, when Russia also led.
Fittingly, both Saturday’s Russian golds came by beating the U.S. into second place, a taste of the rivalry that could have taken place in the same stadium at the 1980 Olympics but for an American-led boycott.
Shkolina, 27, was never anyone’s bet for high jump gold – that was the job of American jumper Brigetta Barrett and Olympic champion Anna Chicherova, whose face adorned much of the publicity material for the championships. Shkolina, who took bronze in London last year, was regarded as experienced but limited at the top level.
That was until the slightly-built Shkolina matched her personal best of 2.03 meters, soaring ahead of Barrett, who had led throughout. Barrett failed to match her and had to settle for silver on 2.00 meters, while Chicherova and Ruth Beitia of Spain shared bronze on 1.97.
“It's great to perform on home soil, but at the same time very hard because of all the responsibility," Shkolina said. "I wanted to jump 2.05, but after all emotions that I felt, I just wasn't able to focus for the jump.”
In the relay, the U.S. threat was even greater – the Americans had won every 4x400m world gold since 2005. Slick Russian teamwork and a mix-up from U.S. third runner Ashley Spencer, who boxed herself in on the third changeover, paved the way for the win as anchorwoman Antonina Krivoshapka edged Francena McCorory of the U.S. into second place.
"We did everything to win on home turf," Krivoshapka said. "We'd been second and third for so long."
Bronze went to Britain, whose final runner, world 400m champion Christine Ohuruogu, ran a strong leg to end France’s hopes of a medal.
The American team did leave the stadium Saturday with one gold medal, however, as Brianna Rollins dethroned reigning world and Olympic 100m hurdles champion Sally Pearson. Rollins had threatened to break the 25-year-old world record this season – she didn’t manage that with a 12.44-second run, but it was enough to edge Pearson, who ran 12.50. Bronze went to Britain’s Tiffany Porter in a personal-best 12.55.
The day had been started with an elegant marathon victory for Uganda’s Olympic champion Stephen Kiprotich, who mastered the rest on a series of laps from the Luzhniki stadium to the walls of the Kremlin.
Kiprotich, who is also the reigning Olympic champion, clocked 2:09:51 and finished the course with a wide lead over Ethiopia's Lelisa Desisa, who claimed silver at 2:10:12. Tadese Tola, another Ethiopian, took bronze at 2:10:23.
Ethiopia's Meseret Defar used a burst of speed on the last lap of the women's 5,000m final to win gold, and has now won medals at five straight world championships.
Defar, 29, finished with a time of 14:50.19. The Kenyan silver medalist Mercy Cherono had 14:51.22 and Ethiopian Almaz Ayana claimed bronze at 14:51.33.
"I’m so happy I take this gold medal," Defar said. "It is a big achievement for me."
Vitzeslav Vesely, the European javelin champion, added the world title to his name with a mark of 87.17 on his first attempt at Luzhniki stadium despite considerable medical problems.
"I knew I had to give all I had in the first two or three attempts, because I was not that healthy," Vesely said. "I have had some knee problems and also stomach pain, with a bit of flu as well."
Finland's Tero Pitkamaki, the 2007 gold medalist, won silver at 87.07.
Russia's Dmitri Tarabin, 21, cemented bronze with a mark of 86.23 on his sixth and final attempt, beating Julius Yego's 85.40, a new Kenyan record.
Sunday is the final day of competition, with Bolt again the focus of attention in the 4x100m relay, while there are also finals in the women's sprint relay, women's javelin, men's triple jump, men's 1,500m and women's 800m.