South African Wayde Van Niekerk’s dream of becoming the first athlete since Michael Johnson in 1995 to double up over 200m and 400m was ruined by Ramil Guliyev
But the 27-year-old Guliyev, who switched allegiance from his native Azerbaijan in 2011, held off Van Niekerk (20.11 seconds) and Trinidad and Tobago’s Jereem Richards (20.11) to win Turkey’s first gold medal at a World Championships in 20.09 and pull off another upset at an unpredictable London 2017.
“This is not a shock,” said the champion. “But it does not feel real.
“I was competing against some of the best athletes in the world, so it didn’t bother me that the attention was on them,” he said. “Maybe at the next competition everyone will look at me instead.”
Inevitably there were questions about Guliyev given that four of Turkey’s nine finalists at London 2012 have served drug bans, either prior to those Olympics or after. At the weekend, Paula Radcliffe cited Turkey as being among the four countries where 80% of the cheats from 2012 had come from.
Guliyev said: “Every athlete chooses their own way. Everyone is responsible for themselves. It is hard for me to say one thing or another.”
Van Niekerk broke down in tears because he felt hurt by allegations the IAAF had engineered a conspiracy to keep Makwala away from racing him in the 400m by putting the Botswanan in quarantine when he was sick on Monday.
Said Van Niekerk: “I really feel I worked hard for this..
“I have shown massive respect to Makwala and for him to say that something fishy was going on with the IAAF – I definitely deserve more respect but I have learned something from these championships. We are not here to make friends but to compete.”
Makwala did not address Van Niekerk’s comments but admitted the efforts of Wednesday night had taken it out of him.
“I’ve had one of the craziest championship journeys ever,” he said. “I don’t think I will ever face this again. I will always pray to not face this again.
“When I got into the race I was feeling good, but the last 50m I was feeling tired. The lactic came. The 4x400m is next.”
Mitchell-Blake was left to rue another fourth-placed British finish. “I knew it would be a tough one,” he said.
“I’ve no excuses – Lane 2 is never ideal but I put myself in that position in the semi-finals. I tried to be really aggressive from the start, I had a great tracker with Wayde in front.
“Nothing is perfect, all you can do is try and execute in the best way you can,” he added. “Regardless of how I feel about the race, it wasn’t enough to get a medal.”
When it was put to Mitchell-Blake there would be better times ahead, and that he was still young, he refused to use it as an excuse.
“I don’t see my age as a barrier,” he said.
“I am 23 which is an age where I can get a medal so my age is not an excuse. I need to learn from it, build on it and come back stronger.”
It is a message his team-mates, who have won only one medal in these championships, will do well to heed.
It has been a week where many of the big names have struggled, but one of the sport’s great champions, double Olympic and world triple jump gold medallist Christian Taylor, once again excelled on the biggest stage as he held off fellow American Will Claye in a thrilling, seesaw final.