Gong once again saves her best for last

China’s shot put superstar takes gold at worlds

As expected, China’s golden girl lived up to her billing – again.

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Gong Lijiao became the fourth woman to collect back-to-back IAAF world championships by winning the shot put event in Doha, Qatar, on Thursday.

The 30-year-old from Luquan district of Shijiazhuang, capital of Hebei province, took the gold medal with a throw of 19.55 meters – her sixth-best of the season – to beat Jamaica’s Danniel Thomas-Dodd, who claimed silver with a throw of 19.47.

In round five, Thomas-Dodd hit the 20-meter mark to roars from the Jamaicans in the crowd, but the throw was ruled a foul.

With wins in 12 of her 13 competitions this year, Gong was clearly the woman to beat, and she never relinquished the lead after a heave of 19.07m in the opening round. She extended it to 19.42m in the second before extinguishing any doubts with her winning mark in the fourth.

“I have a saying that there is nothing better you can stick with than your dreams,” said Gong, whose title was the third for China at these championships. “This will help me increase my self-confidence in future competitions.”

Thomas-Dodd, the world indoor silver medalist, was able to narrow the gap with a throw of 19.36m in the third round, but Gong followed in the fourth with her best effort of the competition.

In round five, the Jamaican unleashed a throw that landed squarely on the 20-meter line, just as the red flag was raised to indicate a foul. Gong followed with a long foul of her own that also brushed the 20-meter line.

In the sixth, Thomas-Dodd nailed 19.47m, the third best throw of her career, but it wasn’t enough.

“It’s definitely a big accomplishment for me,” said the 26-year-old, who twice improved her own Jamaican record, first to 19.48m in April and again to 19.55m en route to the Pan-American Games title in August.

Thomas-Dodd placed fourth in the worlds two years ago in London – a result she now looks back on as a learning experience.

“I was disappointed in London but it was my first worlds and I had to take everything in stride and make my mark. I’m very happy with my performance today,” she said.

Germany’s Christina Schwanitz reached 19.17m in the fifth round to wrestle bronze away from Maggie Ewen of the United States, who was fourth with a throw of 18.93m.

Naser lights up 400

In other action on Thursday, Bahrain’s Salwa Eid Naser rocketed past Shaunae Miller-Uibo of the Bahamas to win the women’s 400 meters.

Naser took the lead on the second turn and held off Olympic champion Miller-Uibo to win in 48.14 seconds.

“Being world champion is something I’m still getting used to, but the time is really mind-blowing,” Naser said. “Hopefully, I will sleep well tonight because I can’t stop thinking about it.”

Her winning mark was the fastest since Marita Koch of East Germany set the world record at 47.60 in 1985 – an era when athletes were routinely doped with steroids. But Koch never failed a drug test during her career and has maintained she has a clean conscience.

Naser, 21, clocked the third-fastest female 400m time in history, beating her previous best time by nearly a full second.

For a while after the race, as the slight figure of the 2017 silver medalist set off on a victory lap that few expected her to be making, Rio 2016 champion Mille-Uibo sat, stunned, at the side of the track, draped in the Bahamian flag.

The 25-year-old was clearly trying to process the fact that she had just taken more than half a second off her US collegiate record of 48.97, clocking 48.37, only to find herself in silver medal position.

Meanwhile, the three runners behind Mille-Uibo all set personal records.

Shericka Jackson of Jamaica took bronze in 49.47, Wadeline Jonathas of the US was fourth in 49.60, and her compatriot, defending champion Phyllis Francis, was fifth in 49.61.

“This is just crazy,” said Naser.

“I already did the mixed relays and I was just hoping for the best, but now I’m world champion. I’m really short of words to describe how I’m feeling, it’s just crazy. I’m screaming I’m so happy.

“It’s been so tough with all the training and injuries, and getting here has been hard.

“I didn’t want to chase because I’m so used to chasing all the time, so I had to go out fast, and I just kept going.”

Asked if she might now contemplate breaking Koch’s world record, she responded: “Anything is possible”.

iaaf.org contributed to this story.

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