Track and Field

From Semenya's absence to Lyles' record quest, 8 stories to follow at track and field worlds

With over 2,000 athletes set to compete at the track and field world championships in Doha, Qatar, upset victories and broken records are bound to occur. There are also many intriguing matchups and individual pursuits.

Canada's Gabriela DeBues-Stafford set to join elite in women's 1,500m?

Americans Christian Coleman and Justin Gatlin will go head-to-head for the third time this season in Saturday's 100 metres at the world track and field championships. Coleman, with a world-leading time of 9.81 seconds this season, won the previous two meetings but Gatlin prevailed at worlds in 2017. (Submitted by IAAF)

With more than 2,000 athletes set to compete at the track and field world championships, upset victories and broken records are bound to occur. There are also many intriguing matchups and individual pursuits.

Here are eight storylines to follow before the action heats up in sweltering Doha, Qatar:

Who supplants Caster Semenya & Wayde van Niekerk as world champions?

Semenya is barred from defending her 800-metre title in Doha after refusing to follow new IAAF rules requiring her to reduce her testosterone by taking daily contraceptive pills or having surgery, and is appealing against those rules at the Swiss supreme court.

Ajee Wilson of the United States is the gold-medal favourite in Doha with a 1:57.72 season best. The 2017 world silver medallist won the Diamond League Final and at the U.S. championships. Also in the mix is fellow American Raevyn Rogers, with a 1:58.65 season-best, and Natoya Goule, the Jamaican champion and 2019 Pan Am gold medallist.

WATCH | Why isn't Caster Semenya at the track and field world championships?

Why isn't Caster Semenya at track and field worlds?

3 years ago
Duration 1:53
In yet another chapter in Semenya's battle against the IAAF, the reigning 800-metre champion will miss the chance to defend her title at the 2019 track and field worlds.

Van Niekerk, the two-time world champion in the men's 400, is still recovering from a serious 2017 knee injury suffered during a charity tag rugby match, so the focus shifts to the American duo of Michael Norman and Fred Kerley.

Norman defeated his compatriot by 20-100ths of a second in the Diamond League Final after Kerley grabbed bragging rights at the U.S. championships in a personal-best 43.64 seconds.

Women's pole vault loaded with talent

Only 110 points separate first (Katerina Stefanidi) from 10th (Angelica Bengtsson) in the world rankings. Alysha Newman of London, Ont., is ranked third after defeating Stefanidi, the reigning Olympic and world champion, in Paris on Aug. 24 with a Canadian-record clearance of 4.82 metres.

WATCH | Alysha Newman jumps personal-best 4.82m:

Alysha Newman claims 1st Diamond League win

4 years ago
Duration 0:53
Alysha Newman wins pole vault in Paris by clearing 4.82m, sets new Canadian record.

Second-ranked Anzhelika Sidorova, one of 29 Russians competing as neutral athletes in Doha, and No. 11 Jenn Suhr of the United States, each has cleared a world-leading 4.91 in 2019.

Another American, Sandi Morris, has dealt with injuries much of the season but won five of her 11 competitions and is a 2017 world silver medallist.

Women's 1,500m: Canada's Gabriela DeBues-Stafford set to join elite?

Gabriela DeBues-Stafford's quick progression to being a 4:03.50 runner in the 1,500 metres while studying at the University of Toronto in 2017 made her believe she could threaten the four-minute mark.

On July 24, the 24-year-old Toronto native set her fifth indoor/outdoor Canadian record of 2019, clocking 4:00.26 to beat Lynn Kanuka's near-34-year-old national mark by 1-100th of a second at the Müller Anniversary Games Diamond League event in London.

Six weeks later, DeBues-Stafford went 3:59.59 to finish third at the Diamond League Final in Zurich to become the first Canadian female to go under four minutes.

WATCH | Gabriela DeBues-Stafford runs historic 1,500 metres:

Gabriela Debues-Stafford 1st Canadian woman to break 4-minute mark in 1,500m

4 years ago
Duration 6:25
Gabriela Debues-Stafford finished third and became the first-ever Canadian woman to break the 4-minute mark in the women's 1,500-metre race, with a time of 3:59.59.

In Doha, she will attempt to join former hurdler Perdita Felicien (2003) as the only Canadian women to win an outdoor world title on the track. Sifan Hassan of the Netherlands and Great Britain's Laura Muir, who is DeBues-Stafford's training partner in Scotland, are ranked 1-2 in the world.

Hassan ran 3:57.08 in Zurich while Muir tore a calf muscle at the London event but still managed to run 3:58.25. She has returned to training and expected to race the heats in Doha on Oct. 2, but perhaps the window has opened a little for fourth-ranked DeBues-Stafford join the elite group that also includes world No. 3 Tsegay Gudaf of Ethiopia.

Women's shot put: Canadian Brittany Crew has 19.50 metres in her sights

Brittany Crew reached her "ultimate" goal for 2019 of reaching 19 metres with a throw of 19.28 on Sept. 1, so what could be next for the Mississauga, Ont.-born athlete?

"I think I can throw 19.50 this year," she told CBC Sports recently.

WATCH | Brittany Crew has been re-writing record book:

Brittany Crew has been re-writing the Canadian record books

3 years ago
Duration 1:00
Brittany Crew has been breaking her own Canadian shot put record all year. Now, she heads into the world championships trying to land on the podium

Crew, who became the first Canadian woman to throw in a world championship final two years ago in London, might be on the verge of reaching the podium in Doha. The 2018 Commonwealth Games bronze medallist did so twice in Diamond League action this season while adding a Canadian title and Pan Am silver medal to her resumé.

WATCH | 8 Canadians to keep an eye on at track and field worlds:

8 Canadians to watch at track and field worlds

3 years ago
Duration 3:00
Canada has a record amount of talent heading to the 2019 track and field world championships – here are a few to watch out for.

Crew met the 18.00 world championship standard at her second outdoor event of the season in April and her 19.28 — achieved at the Berlin World Challenge — broke her national mark for the fourth time this season and ranks sixth in the world for 2019. Not bad for a 25-year-old coming off a broken right foot that shortened her 2018 campaign.

Noah Lyles aiming for Usain Bolt's 200-metre world record

How badly does American Noah Lyles want to shatter sprinting legend Usain Bolt's 19.19-second world record in the 200 metres?

For starters, he ditched plans in February to run the 100 and 200 at the world track and field championships and is focused solely on the 200 over the next 10 days in Doha, Qatar. He will race the 100, 200 and 4x100 relay a la Bolt at the 2020 Olympics in Tokyo.

Lyles, 22, had discussed making an attempt at a personal-best time ahead of the Sept. 6 Diamond League Final if conditions were ideal, but he had to settle for 19.74 winning time as rain fell in Brussels. Lyles ran into a slight headwind to post a 19.50 PB in Switzerland on July 5.

WATCH | Noah Lyles runs world-leading time of 19.50 seconds:

Noah Lyles becomes 4th fastest man to run 200m

4 years ago
Duration 2:55
Noah Lyles is the 4th fastest man to run the 200 metres after running a time of 19.50 in the Diamond League event from Lausanne.

The only man to hold the Diamond League 100 and 200 titles in the same season has lost only one race in the 200 since 2016 and that occurred on June 6 in Lyles' season-opening 200 at the Golden Gala in Rome when fellow American Michael Norman, a specialist in the 400, prevailed in a photo finish as both men crossed the line in 19.72.

Men's 1,500m: Jakob Ingebrigtsen vs. Tim Cheruiyot

Expect a battle between these two following the news of defending champion Elijah Manangoi's ankle injury and subsequent withdrawal from the event.

Cheruiyot, 23, finished 33-100ths of a second behind Manangoi in second place two years ago in London and is coming off his third Diamond League Trophy victory in as many attempts. His season-best time is 3:28.77, set on July 5 in Lausanne, Switzerland, where he beat Ingebrigtsen (3:30.16). Cheruiyot's 3:28.41 personal best is only 2.41 seconds shy of Hicham El Guerrouj's world record.

Last August, Ingebrigtsen became the first person to achieve the 1,500 and 5,000 double in the 84-year history of the European Championships, and did so at age 17. Now 19, he's angling for his first world title after running 13:02.03 in July to set a Norwegian record in the 5,000.

Will Qatar's Mutaz Barshim and Abderrahman Samba thrive on home soil?

Barshim, 28, is the reigning world champion in high jump and the most talked about Qatar athlete since Doha was announced as host city. But he has only competed three times this season (clearing 2.27 metres twice) after missing much of 2018 with an ankle injury.

The 2017 world athlete of the year finished a distant 10th (2.20) at the recent Diamond League Final. While 19 entrants for worlds have reached or surpassed 2.30 this season, only four have topped 2.33. Barshim jumped 2.35 to win his world title in London two years ago.

The 23-year-old Samba enters worlds with the third-fastest time in men's 400-metre hurdles at 47.27 seconds, set in Shanghai in May, only his second hurdles competition of the season due to injuries.

Samba clocked a personal-best 46.98 in June 2018 at Paris, less than a year after his seventh-place finish (49.74) in the world final.

WATCH | Canadian moments from past track and field worlds:

Canadian moments to remember from the track and field worlds

3 years ago
Duration 3:04
From Donovan Bailey, to Perdita Felicien, to Andre De Grasse, Canada has had flashes of glory at the track and field world championships.

Men's 100m: Top-ranked Christian Coleman vs. reigning champ Justin Gatlin

After winning the 100 and 200 metres at the 2017 NCAA championships, the 23-year-old Coleman earned his first global athletics medal at worlds that August, beating current world-record holder Usain Bolt to finish second behind fellow American Justin Gatlin.

Coleman, who ran 9.81 seconds to beat Gatlin (9.87) at the Prefontaine Classic in June, might have to shake off some rust in the early rounds in Doha after not running the distance since the U.S. championships on July 26. He was later charged with a potential anti-doping rule violation for failing to properly file his whereabouts information, but the United States Anti-Doping Agency eventually dropped Coleman's case on a technicality.

The 37-year-old Gatlin finished third in the semifinals at U.S. championships in 10.16 to Coleman's winning time of 9.96 and then withdrew. He also suffered a suspected left thigh or hamstring injury three weeks before worlds at a World Challenge meet in Croatia and might not be at full health.

CBC Sports has exclusive live coverage of the 2019 World Track & Field Championships from Sept. 27-Oct. 6. View the stream and broadcast schedule here. To add the complete event schedule to your calendar, click here.


Doug Harrison has covered the professional and amateur scene as a senior writer for CBC Sports since 2003. Previously, the Burlington, Ont., native covered the NHL and other leagues for Follow the award-winning journalist @harrisoncbc


To encourage thoughtful and respectful conversations, first and last names will appear with each submission to CBC/Radio-Canada's online communities (except in children and youth-oriented communities). Pseudonyms will no longer be permitted.

By submitting a comment, you accept that CBC has the right to reproduce and publish that comment in whole or in part, in any manner CBC chooses. Please note that CBC does not endorse the opinions expressed in comments. Comments on this story are moderated according to our Submission Guidelines. Comments are welcome while open. We reserve the right to close comments at any time.

Become a CBC Account Holder

Join the conversation  Create account

Already have an account?