No such thing as a quiet night at the World Champs

James Lang-USA Today Sports

Day 6 of the IAAF World Championships suggests an evening of relative calm with only three finals, but London 2017 has proved otherwise so far.

Complementing Wednesday's three finals are five other events on the schedule: the women's 3000m steeplechase heats, women's long jump qualification, men's hammer throw qualification (in two groups and if the rainy weather clears), men's 5000m heats and the men's 200m semifinals.

The pick of those is undoubtedly the men's half-lapper at 21:55 (CAT), in which South Africans Akani Simbine and Wayde van Niekerk (who is halfway through a possible 200m-400m double) are the favourites to win through from heats 1 and 3, while Jamaica's Yohan Blake and Jereem Richards of Trinidad and Tobago are expected to qualify for the final from the second heat.

Then there's the ongoing story of Botswana's Isaac Makwala... who has been given the latest of last minute chances to take his place in the semifinals too!

Zambia's Sydney Siame and Wilfried Koffi Hua (Ivory Coast) have done well to get to this stage but will need better than their lifetime bests -- which Siame did in the heats, in fairness -- to claim shock final places.

Meanwhile, the women's steeplechase and men's 5000m will have a strong African influence and it's for that reason that interest will focus on how safely the main protagonists make it through.

Kenya's and the world's 1-2-3 Celliphine Chespol, Hyvin Jepkemoi (the defending world champion) and Beatrice Chekemoi are in separate heats and should thus comfortably make it through. As should Ethiopia's Sofia Assefa and the only other two women likely to be in contention for the podium on Friday, Ruth Jebet -- the Kenyan-born Bahraini who won at Rio 2016 -- and the USA's Emma Coburn.

The men's 5000m heats could prove more dangerous for favoured athletes as 21 will run in each with only five automatic places available, and five others. World leader Muktar Edris (Ethiopia) will go up against the favourite Mo Farah in heat 1, while his fellow Ethiopian Selemon Barega will run in heat 2 alongside his compatriot Hago Gebrhiwhet (who hasn't set a 5000m time in 2017) and Kenya's Cyrus Rutto.

There is a notable absentee, however. Uganda's Joshua Cheptegei, who pushed Farah hard in the 10000m and was tipped to do so again by the Somali-born Briton, is not listed to start in either heat.


Be that as it may, at 21:25 (CAT) all eyes will be on the shot put circle to see firstly whether the wet weather has cleared and if so whether China's Gong Lijiao can finally claim her maiden major title. She has won six major silver or bronze medals since the 2008 Olympic Games, but never been on the top step.

On form, London 2017 will be her time. The 28-year-old has won three stops on the IAAF Diamond League this season, has a best throw 35cm longer than anybody else's best in 2017 and qualified with her first attempt on Tuesday night - again with the furthest throw.

The absence of former champions, Christina Schwanitz and Valerie Adams, and non-qualification of Daniella Bunch, the third-furthest thrower of 2017 has enhanced Gong's chances even further.

Only Raven Saunders (USA) and Hungary's Anita Marton have thrown in the upper-19 metres this season, while Rio 2016 bronze medallist Michelle Carter (USA) also has it in her to do so, so they look the best bets to continue to the Chinese's hurt.


As it happens, at the 22:33 (CAT) there is also an outstanding favourite to win the men's 400m hurdles... that man being Kerron Clement of the USA -- a two-time world champion, but last back in 2009.

Apart from Turkey's Yasmani Copello, the 31-year-old is the only athlete in the final 8 who has run under 48 seconds in his lifetime but apart from that he's the reigning Olympic Champion and after a slow start to the season gathered momentum at just the right time.

During these championships, Clement has seen his countryman Kyron McMaster, the only man to break 48 in 2017, go by the wayside reducing his main rivals to another in TJ Holmes, Copello, Norway's Karsten Warholm who recently won the European Under-23 title and seems to run without fear and Abderrahaman Samba, the Qatari who was born in Mauritania.


Meanwhile, the third final of the night (at 22:50, CAT) will see he world's best 400m women on track but the fight for gold might only involve two of them: Allyson Felix and Shaunae Miller-Uibo.

They of course already have a well-established rivalry with Felix beating the Bahamian to win the world title last time out at Beijing 2015, before 23-year-old Miller-Uibo did the same to the American at last year's Olympics.

Felix (31) can match Usain Bolt and Merlene Ottey with a record 14 IAAF World Championship medals tonight but will be desperate for it to be gold. To add to the drama, the pair have not faced each other over one lap in 2017. Felix has raced sparingly but she will feel confident as she set the fastest time of the year only a month ago at the Olympic Stadium.

The battle for bronze, if not silver if one of the favourites bomb, should feature Phyllis Francis (USA), and Jamaicans Shericka Jackson and Novlene Williams-Mills.

Africans, and Zambians in particular, will be able to cheer on Kabange Mupopo, the national soccer player who has been one of the surprises of this year's games.