The World Athletics Championships begin from 27th September, and with a 72-strong Team GB squad heading to Doha, it’s going to be all about timing and temperature.
Timing because unlike other years, the race for gold takes place in a week where most athletes have traditionally put their feet up for a well-deserved rest and temperature because - surprise surprise - it’s going to be roasting hot in Doha.
The good news is though, we’re well prepared - and with names like Dina Asher-Smith, Katarina Johnson-Thompson and Laura Muir in the 72-strong squad, GB will be targeting a high finish on the medal table.
Who to look out for at Doha
“It’s been a difficult year to manage with it being a long season,” says 5000m runner Laura Weightman. Laura picked up a slight niggle back in July, but the late calendar date of Doha means she’s fit and fighting - great news, as her superb bronze medal Commonwealth Games win makes her one to watch out for. “I am currently in South Africa at an altitude training camp doing my final few weeks training and I’m happy to be feeling fit and excited to race”.
Although it’ll be 40 degrees or more on most days, the temperature might not the problem we all think it’s going to be for the track runners. “The stadium has fitted an air conditioning system which should keep the stadium cooler,” Laura explains.
The heat is something 800m runner and European bronze medallist Elliot Giles, who’s fine-tuned his training at the team’s holding camp in Dubai, has also spotted. Like Laura, he’s changed his preparation to time peak form for later in the season. “You can’t keep a peak for more than six weeks,” he says. Sports science is on his side on this one, so it’ll be fascinating to watch and be ready for a few surprises, especially in the notoriously hard to predict two-lap race.
Interestingly, like Laura, Elliot has identified that going into the air-conditioned stadium will actually be the reverse of what you might expect. So rather than going into the cauldron, athletes will be leaving it after roasting in the warm-up area. “It’ll be hot and tough to handle, but once in the arena, it should feel perfect!”
And let’s hope it’s all about perfection for top bet for gold, Dina Asher-Smith, who has hit sparkling form at just the right moment, winning the final Diamond League 100m of the season in 10.88, her best performance of the year. Not only was Dina’s time one of the quickest, but it’s also ahead of her main rival for gold in Doha, double Olympic and seven times world champion Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce.
Unlike many of her rivals, she’s followed GB team advice and started slowly, only now really getting into her best shape. “I came into the race wanting to win and my coach gave me some very specific things to think about,'' she said after her great win in Brussels.
“I was doing that in the race and I managed to pull it off and when I crossed the line I thought ‘yes, fabulous, won the race, tick, happy‘, but then I remembered it was the Diamond League so technically I’ve won the whole Diamond League, so what a great day!”
She’s beaten her main rival in the 100m while the only athlete to really push her over the longer 200m sprint is Olympic 400m champion Shaunae Miller-Uibo, who luckily won’t be in that event. Watch for Dina in the 100 and 200 which take place on Sunday 29th September and Wednesday 2nd October.
Katarina Johnson-Thompson is also finding form at just the right moment. She finished her preparation for Doha by taking third in the long jump competition with a best effort of 6.73m. She’s also an incredible high jumper (the best in the country with 1.98m) and will be really competitive all the way to wire as she takes on arch-rival, Belgium’s Nafi Thiam.
Although Nafi may be the favourite, KJT’s amazing dedication proves that she won’t go down without a fight. She is on the track for over 16 hours a week: Mondays, it’s shot-put and sprint; Tuesdays, hurdles and javelin; Wednesdays, 800m; Thursdays, javelin and high jump; Fridays, sprint and high jump; Saturdays, long sprints. She even finds time to squeeze in gym sessions and physiotherapy.
KJT starts her competition, which lasts two days, on 2nd October.
All eyes will be on Laura Muir, the super Scot who rules supremely in the middle distances. We’ll just add a word of warning here, that there are some superstars in Laura’s chosen discipline - 1500m, not least because Laura has been recovering from a slight niggle just like Laura Weightman and Doha will be her first race in 10 weeks.
Training has been going well, but she’ll be slightly short on form come October 2 when she starts her competition.
He often gets overlooked, but not by us! Tom Bosworth will be competing in the men’s 20km walk. He walks - that’s right, walks - quicker than just about any of us can run. He’s clocked 39:36 for 10km - seriously fast and even has an amazing mile to his name, 5:31. He has a great coach in Andi Drake and might just be the big surprise in Doha. You heard it here first!
Watch for Tom on September 29th in a race that starts at 11.30pm given Doha’s incredibly hot daytime temperatures.
The 2019 IAAF World Athletics Championships, the seventeenth edition of the IAAF World
Athletics Championships, are scheduled to be held between 27 September and 6 October 2019
in Doha, Qatar at the renovated multi-purpose Khalifa International Stadium.