T. Gopi (This photo was downloaded from the athlete’s Facebook page and is being used here for representation purpose. No copyright infringement intended)

“ Given the prevailing weather conditions and the need to push reasonably in such circumstances, I am satisfied with my performance. That said I do wish it had been a better performance,’’ T Gopi told this blog on day 10 of the 2019 IAAF World Athletics Championships. The men’s marathon, wherein Gopi finished 21st with a timing of 2:15:57 happened on the intervening night of days 9 and 10.

According to him, he had trained well for the event in Doha. At the national camp in Bengaluru he made sure to do the bulk of his training in the afternoon hours, when temperatures are warmer. Roughly a fortnight before the championships he also altered his sleep cycle given outdoor endurance disciplines were slated to happen during night in the Qatari capital. Despite all these preparations, the weather on arrival in Doha – Gopi reached there on September 30 – was dissimilar to the conditions he had trained under in Bengaluru. It was warmer and the humidity was quite high. The general feedback from the women’s marathon, staged soon after the championships got underway, was further wake up call to reconsider plans. Gopi admitted that in the flurry of news around what happened at the women’s marathon (28 runners pulled out, unable to continue in the prevailing weather), he had wondered whether he would cover the whole distance.

It is true that qualification for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics was pending and there was a timing of 2:11:30 to match for that purpose. Even as he acclimatized as well as he could to the local weather, Doha didn’t seem the appropriate mix of conditions to push for a severe target. It made better sense to run responsibly and save oneself for potential Olympic qualification in more hospitable weather conditions. Olympic qualification is a huge push for any Indian marathoner because it entails breaking the long existing national record of 2:12:00.

Luckily for the male marathoners in Doha, weather conditions on the intervening night of days 9 and 10 of the championships, was not as bad as it had been for the women’s marathon. According to Gopi, the race commenced with temperature at around 30 degrees Celsius but soon settled to 29 degrees. Humidity was 48 per cent (in contrast the women’s marathon was staged in 30-32.7 degrees Celsius and humidity of 73 per cent).  “ I did face one problem – my old calf muscle issue continues to return.  The muscle got tight towards the later stages of the race. The last ten kilometers was therefore slow,’’ Gopi said over the phone from Doha.

Gopi believes that he hasn’t done too badly with 2:15:57, the timing he eventually churned out at the marathon in Doha. To explain, he pointed to the personal bests (PB) of the runners who finished on the podium. Ethiopia’s Lelisa Desisa for instance has a PB of 2:04:45. Against that his race winning time in Doha was 2:10:40. Mosinet Geremew, also of Ethiopia, has a PB of 2:02:55; his finish time for the silver medal was 2:10:44. Kenya’s Amos Kipruto who finished third in 2:10:51 has a PB of 2:05:43. They were all slower by 5-8 minutes.  Compared to that Gopi’s finish time was 2:15:57; his PB, 2:13:39. “ Viewed so, I am satisfied with this outcome,’’ Gopi said.

His next priority is to qualify for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics. On the radar for the purpose is the next edition of the Tokyo Marathon. “ I hope to run at that event and seek qualification,’’ Gopi said. Other options also exist, among them the next Asian Marathon Championships due in December 2019. According to a May 2019 article in Outside magazine, there is time till May 31, 2020 to qualify for participation in the 2020 Olympics marathon.

(The author, Shyam G Menon, is a freelance journalist based in Mumbai.)


T. Gopi (Photo: Shyam G Menon)

Indian marathoner T. Gopi finished his race at the 2019 IAAF World Athletics Championships in two hours, 15 minutes, 57 seconds (2:15:57) to place twenty first in a field of 55 finishers.

The marathon was won by Ethiopia’s Lelisa Desisa, who crossed the finish line in 2:10:40, a season’s best (SB). His fellow countryman Mosinet Geremew (2:10:44) placed second while Kenya’s Amos Kipruto (2:10:51) ended third. Callum Hawkins of Great Britain (2:10:57) finished fourth.

The best finisher from USA was Ahmed Osman (2:16:22) who placed 23rd. The top Japanese finisher was Hiroki Yamagishi (2:16:43). Yuki Kawauchi of Japan, winner of the 2018 Boston Marathon placed 29th with a finish time of 2:17:59.

The men’s marathon, like the women’s earlier, was held at night to escape the daytime temperature of Qatar. According to IAAF’s race summary, the temperature was around 29 degrees Celsius and the humidity, 48 per cent, for the men’s marathon. “ It was hot, but I prepared perfectly for this race,” Lelisa Desisa, who is also winner of the 2018 New York City Marathon, was quoted as saying in the report.

As per information on the IAAF website, 18 runners did not finish (DNF) the race in the men’s marathon.

Prior to the marathon, the list of runners starting the race, featured 73 athletes.

Only the top six finishers have turned in timings better than the qualifying mark assigned for men’s marathon at the 2020 Tokyo Olympics – 2:11:30. Among runners from Asian countries, El Hassan El Abbassi representing Bahrain (he is a Moroccan born runner who competes internationally for Bahrain) had the fastest time – 2:11:44; he finished seventh. Shaohui Yang of China (2:15:17) who placed twentieth had the second fastest time, followed immediately by Gopi. There was one new personal best (PB) and nine season’s best (SB) reported from the race. The sole PB and four of the SBs were at timings slower than Gopi’s. The SBs that ranked higher belonged to runners from Ethiopia, Eritrea, Kenya and Italy.

Gopi qualified for the 2019 world championships with the timing of 2:13:39 he registered at the 2019 Seoul Marathon. That is also his personal best. At the 2016 Rio Olympics, he had finished 25th with a timing of 2:15:25.

(The author, Shyam G Menon, is a freelance journalist based in Mumbai.)


Sifan Hassan (This photo was downloaded from the Facebook page of the 2019 IAAF Athletics World Championships and is being used here for representation purpose. No copyright infringement intended)

Sifan Hassan of Netherlands created history on day 9 of the 2019 IAAF World Athletics Championships, winning the 1500m for women and becoming the first person to win both the 1500m and 10,000m at the world championships or the Olympics.

At the event in Doha, Qatar, Hassan took gold in 3:51.95 minutes, a championship record. Kenya’s Faith Kipyegon – she was the defending champion – placed second in 3:54.22, a new national record. Kipyegon was returning to a major race after a long break. She is also the current Olympic champion. Gudaf Tsegay of Ethiopia took the bronze in 3:54.38, a new personal best.

The pace in the 1500m final was blistering and the victory margin, significant.  Featuring 12 athletes, the race yielded one championship record, two national records, one area record, two season’s best and three personal best timings. Earlier on day 2 of the championships, Hassan had won the 10,000m for women, covering the distance in 30:17.62 minutes.

According to Wikipedia, as of October 2019, Hassan was being mentored by coach, Alberto Salazar. The latter, who is head coach of the Nike Oregon Project in the US, is serving a four year ban for doping offences. Salazar has denied any wrongdoing. The commentators for the 1500m final mentioned Hassan’s training in the US. In an article soon after the 1500m final in Doha, The Guardian reported that Laura Muir of Great Britain who finished fifth in the race, felt that Hassan’s performance was suspect. Hassan told the paper that she hasn’t done anything wrong and that the accusations of the past few days had inspired her to turn in a strong performance. “ I couldn’t talk to anyone. I just ran it all out,” BBC quoted her as saying in its report on the 1500m final and the sentiments it provoked.

Born in Adama in Ethiopia, Hassan left the country as a refugee and reached the Netherlands in 2008, aged 15. She began running while studying to be a nurse. As per information on Wikipedia, she got Dutch citizenship in November 2013 and started appearing at sport events for her adopted country, soon thereafter. At the 2017 World Athletics Championships held in London, Hassan had placed fifth in the women’s 1500m and secured a bronze medal in the 5000m. In July 2019, she had broken the longstanding women’s world record for the mile, covering the distance in 4:12.33.

(The author, Shyam G Menon, is a freelance journalist based in Mumbai.)