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(Daegu Athletics) Inauspicious start, spectacular ending, plenty of memories at world championships
By Yoo Jee-ho
DAEGU, Sept. 5 (Yonhap) -- The 13th World Championships in Athletics started inauspiciously with a botched start in the very first event, the women's marathon on Aug. 27. But it ended Sunday on a spectacular note, as Usain Bolt anchored Jamaica to the world record in the men's 4x100-meter relay.

   In between, there was plenty to remember at these championships, such as expensive food, the main stadium in the middle of nowhere, and schoolgirls screaming for runners' shoes as keepsakes after races.

   Athletes from the host nation didn't fare so well, unable to win its first-ever world championships medal on home soil. Still, people turned out in droves to watch international athletes compete. According to the latest figures by the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF), with the 66,422-seat Daegu Stadium making 34,030 seats available during the championships, more than 411,111 fans came to the stadium through Saturday, or about 91 percent capacity. With the near full house Sunday, the final tally should reach around 445,000.

  
Usain Bolt (Yonhap)


The dreaded "curse of the daily program" was on the minds of many fans, not to mention athletes, in the early going. Over six of the first seven days, athletes on the cover of the official program book were title favorites but failed to win the gold medal or to even reach the podium, either by poor performances or disqualifications.

   None was as high-profile as Bolt, the cover man on Aug. 28 who was disqualified for a false start in the men's 100-meter final that day.

   Sally Pearson, a hurdler from Australia and the cover athlete for Saturday, gave the curse -- and the program book itself -- an emphatic thump. The explosive Pearson captured the 100-meter hurdles in 12.28 seconds, the fastest time by anyone in nearly two decades,
While she was celebrating the win, jogging around the stadium, someone from the stands threw her a copy of the program. She stomped on it in jest -- maybe -- and later exclaimed, "I worked too bloody hard to succumb to that (curse)!"

   Bolt ended the curse for good on the final day. After getting on the cover Sunday, he anchored Jamaica to the world record of 34.04 seconds in the men's 4x100-meter relay, the finale of the championships.

   Another bit of controversy had to do with the "one-and-gone" false start rule in track events.

   Bolt was the most famous victim of this rule, which was introduced last year and was applied at a world championships for the first time in Daegu. In the past, the field was permitted one false start and the second runner to jump the gun was disqualified, regardless of who had the first false start.

   But the IAAF insisted all week it wasn't ready to change the rule, which was endorsed in a 97-55 vote, just because some high-profile athletes were disqualified.

   Oscar Pistorius, the first amputee to compete at an able-bodied world championships, also occupied the center of attention here. He reached the semifinals of the 400 meters and helped South Africa set a national record in the 4x400-meter relay in the heat.

   He was left off the relay squad for the final, as South Africa claimed silver. He said he was "pretty guttered" to miss the final. Pistorius still earned his silver for having run in the heat, though he didn't come to the final to see his teammates run.

   Pistorius' presence in Daegu reignited the debate over the potential edge he enjoyed over others with his prosthetic limbs. The IAAF had earlier banned him from competitions, citing studies that claimed Pistorius had an advantage, before the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) overruled the decision. Cleared to enter able-bodied events, Pistorius met the world qualifying time in July and made the historic appearance here, and later said competing at a world championships was a "dream come true."

   But the controversy may not be over. The IAAF said just before the championships that it reserves the power to reassess the situation with Pistorius to determine whether his artificial limbs remain within the rules.

   Aside from controversies, there were emerging stars and delightful upsets.

   Jason Richardson moved up a spot to the gold medal in the men's 110-meter hurdles, after Dayron Robles was disqualified for obstructing Liu Xiang over the final two hurdles. Richardson had posted the fastest times in both the heat and the semifinals. With the focus almost entirely on the showdown among Robles, Liu and David Oliver -- the three fastest hurdlers in history -- Richardson had said before the final he had nothing to lose and he was "crazy enough to think that I can win it all."

   In men's javelin throw, German Matthias de Zordo stunned the defending champ Andreas Thorkildsen of Norway, handing the Norwegian his first international defeat in four years. De Zordo's simple strategy was to throw hard from the start and let everybody play catch-up. It proved successful, since his first throw of 86.27 meters stood as the winning distance.

   Ezekiel Kemboi of Kenya won the men's 3,000-meter steeplechase by more than a full second, and then gave Bolt a run for his money in his celebration.

   Kemboi stripped off his shirt, flexing his muscles and pumping his fist to thunderous cheers before doing a little dance.
He later said he wanted to "make all the Daegu Stadium happy."

   Bolt himself thrilled a ton of people with his action on the track, winning the 200 meters on Saturday in 19.40 seconds, the fourth-fastest time in history, and then completing the deuce with the record-breaking relay win.

   By Sunday night, Bolt's false start had become a distant memory. And it was a fitting ending that captured the essence of athletics: fast, powerful and awe-inspiring.

   jeeho@yna.co.kr
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