Sports News

World Athletics Championships: Asher-Smith, Muir & Johnson-Thompson lead British hopes


Dina-Asher Smith, Laura Muir and Katarina Johnson-Thompson are all part of the Great Britain team
2019 World Athletics Championships
Venue: Khalifa International Stadium, Doha Dates: 27 September-6 October
Coverage: Watch live on BBC TV, BBC iPlayer and BBC Sport website and app; Listen live on BBC Radio 5 Live; Live streams, clips and text commentary online.

The 2019 World Athletics Championships begin on Friday – with the build-up dominated by issues over the heat and humidity of host city Doha, the low ticket sales and the controversies surrounding sprinter Christian Coleman and the Kenya team.

Great Britain, who held a training camp in Dubai in order to acclimatise, have brought a 73-strong team, with hopes of medals resting with sprinter Dina-Asher Smith, 1500m runner Laura Muir, heptathlete Katarina Johnson-Thompson and the relay teams.

Sprinter Richard Kilty was voted captain by his team-mates and told BBC Sport that they have had the ideal preparation before arriving in Qatar.

“I’m from the North East so I haven’t coped with the weather as well as the others,” joked the 30-year-old from Teesside, who is expected to compete in the men’s 4x100m relay.

“It’s humid and hot in this part of the world, so we have had to train in the evening. The first few days were tough but we’re getting used to it now.

“They’ll have air conditioning when we’re competing, so that’s a blessing.”

‘Jaw-dropping stadium technology’

The air conditioning system inside the stadium is expected to help create “perfect conditions”

The cooling technology inside Doha’s refurbished Khalifa Stadium consists of a number of cylindrical vents, around the interior perimeter, blasting out cool air.

Recently re-elected IAAF president Sebastian Coe said: “It’s jaw-dropping. I’ve sat in the stadium, it’s been 38-40C outside and it’s 23 in here.

“The technology for the athletes is going to be first class. The indoor warm-up facilities are air-conditioned, the call areas also. Under our auspices in Doha, we have the technology in the stadium where the athletes are probably going to be competing in perfect conditions.”

However, the marathon runners and race walkers – competing away from the stadium – will not be as fortunate. Their events will take place late in the evening, with the marathons set to start a minute before midnight, when it will be slightly cooler.

Even so, the temperature is still expected to be around the low 30Cs; British runner Charlotte Purdue has prepared by training at the St Mary’s University physiology laboratory in London, which recreated the heat and humidity.

“After the first session I thought I wouldn’t be able to cope, but I ended up quite liking it,” she said before Friday’s first medal race.

“The course is flat, so it could be quite fast, although if it wasn’t so hot then it’d be a rapid course.”

Britain’s Tish Jones will miss the marathon with injury, British Athletics announced on Friday.

The 34-year-old, who earned an automatic place in Doha after running a personal best in the London marathon in April, said she was “devastated” to have to pull out of the race.

“I wish my team-mate Charlotte Purdue and all of the other British athletes competing a wonderful and successful Championships,” she added.

Meanwhile, the championships’ organising chief Dahlan Al Hamad said on Thursday ticket sales had improved following news that only 50,000 had been sold for the entire 10 days, with the stadium’s capacity at 40,000.

Asher-Smith, Muir and KJT lead British hopes

Katarina Johnson-Thompson and Dina-Asher Smith are strong medal hopes for Britain

British Athletics’ performance director Neil Black has not made public a target for the team, but it is widely expected the individual medals will come from Asher-Smith, Muir and Johnson-Thompson.

Jeanette Kwakye, the British world indoor 60m silver medallist, said that she expects Asher-Smith to win three medals in Doha.

“I don’t see why she can’t finish on the podium in both the 100m and 200m, and then the 4x100m relay,” said Kwakye, who will be trackside for BBC Sport.

“She was amazing in winning the double at the Europeans last year, but she won those golds in world-class times which would have made her rivals sit up and take notice.”

Khalifa Stadium will play host as 73 British athletes chase medals

Johnson-Thompson faces Belgium’s Nafissatou Thiam of Belgium, her great rival, as she bids to win her first outdoor medal at this level.

Toni Minichiello, who coached British world and Olympic champion Jessica Ennis-Hill, said it will be “cat and mouse” between the two athletes throughout the two days of competition.

“It’s all about if Thiam has enough of a buffer after the javelin, the penultimate event, because Kat will be superior in the final 800m event,” he told BBC Sport.

Muir is also seeking her first major world outdoor medal, having won the European 1500m last year.

However, she has not raced since July because of a calf problem, and prepared for these championships in South Africa instead of at the Dubai holding camp.

Fellow Scottish athlete Guy Learmonth told BBC Scotland: “I don’t believe Laura would be there if she wasn’t fit and if she didn’t think she could take a medal.”

Coleman and Kenya arrive under cloud

American Christian Coleman won silver at the World Championships in London in 2017

Elsewhere, there will be extra focus on USA’s Coleman and athletics super-power Kenya.

Coleman, 23, won 100m silver two years ago in London and is expected to duel with team-mate Noah Lyles for the right to be hailed as the new king of sprinting following Usain Bolt’s retirement.

However, the American arrives in Doha having avoided punishment for three missed doping tests.

The fastest man over 100m this year will be concentrating on a sprint double but he will have to produce an incredible display to take a likely 200m gold from Lyles, who clocked 19.50 seconds in July – less than half a second slower than Bolt’s world record.

As for Kenya’s team, they compete after allegations made by a German broadcaster of doping by some of their athletes. The Athletics Integrity Unit is studying the documentary in which the claims were made.