Day three of the IAAF World Indoor Championships saw four-time national 1500m champion Ryan Gregson (NSW) get the Australians underway with the first two place-getters guaranteed a start in the final, along with the next three fastest times.
Competing in the second of three heats, Gregson took charge with four laps to go moving to the front, lifting the pace and dragging Kenyan Vincent Kibet with him. Samuel Terefa (Eth) set a new U20 world indoor record (3:36.05) and was the fourth-fastest this year heading into the Birmingham event. Terefa took the lead on the final lap securing automatic qualification for the final with a winning time of 3:44.00 with Kibet second (3:44.26) and Gregson in third (3:44.44) who fought all the way to the line.
Four seconds slower than the first heat, Gregson was cruelled missing out on a place in the final. All three qualifiers on time came from the first heat of the morning.
Damien Birkinhead made his indoor debut in the shot put. The Victorian found himself up against New Zealand’s Tom Walsh in sublime form, the reigning world outdoor champion’s mark of 22.31m setting a new championship and Oceania record to defend his title from Portland in 2016.
Birkinhead launched the shot to 19.10m, following with 19.11m before fouling out and ending his competition.
Nina Kennedy (WA) opened up night three in the pole vault. It was a nervous start for the 20-year-old, clearing 4.35m on her second attempt. It was a similar story for Kennedy on 4.50m, before a very confident clearance of 4.60. Success at 4.70m didn’t look outside the realms of possibility, but in the end, she couldn’t quite get there with three failed attempts resulting in an eighth place.
Sandi Morris (USA) set a new championship record of 4.95m to take the gold medal.
Kennedy said she was pleased with her performance, just her second time competing indoors.
“I wanted a solid hit out. I’ve been 4.60 all season so anything less would have been a disappointment,” Kennedy explained. “To be top eight in the world, I’m very, very happy.”
It’s been a rapid improvement for the West Australian over the last few months. Kennedy had a personal best of 4.55m going into this season. Now ranked third on the Australian all-time list following her clearance of 4.71 last month, Kennedy is confident that the height will get easier.
“The more attempts I take at 4.70, the better I’m getting at it so come Commonwealth Games hopefully I can get over it again,” she said.
In the semi-finals of the women’s 60m hurdles, Michelle Jenneke (NSW) was the first of the Australians on the starting blocks. Jenneke finished in 7th place in a time of 8.22, behind the winner, Christina Manning (USA) in 7.83, Devynne Charlton (Bah) in 7.89 and with the first two guaranteed a start in the final.
Sally Pearson (Qld) was next, alongside Kendra Harrison (USA). The reigning world and Olympic champion in the 100m event was again fastest to react, soon joined by Harrison who gained a slight advantage. Germany’s Cindy Roleder found her rhythm with little separating the three at the finish line with Harrison first in 7.79, Roleder second in 7.86 and Pearson third in 792.
Following the results of the third and final semi-final, Pearson was ninth-best, just edged for a spot in the final. It was the fastest non-qualifying performance ever at a World Indoor Championships.
Harrison went on to win the final later in the evening, in a new championship record time of 7.70.
Nick Hough (NSW) was up next in the 60m hurdles for men. Hough finished fifth in his heat in 7.76, won by Milan Trajkovic (Cyp). The first four finishers in each of the four heats qualified automatically for Sunday’s semi-final, with Hough’s time enough to see him through in the next fastest four.
The IAAF World Indoor Championships continue in the early hours of Monday morning Australian time for the final day of competition in Birmingham.
Kurtis Marschall (SA) will be in action in the men’s pole vault at 0200 AEDT with Hough back for the semi-finals of the men’s 60m hurdles featuring in the first heat at 0205.