Mothers rule, athletes have great hair, and more takeaways from the Doha Worlds

Shelly Ann Fraser-Pryce, Allyson Felix, Nia Ali and Liu Hong all came back from giving birth to win gold, as Team USA dominated the men's sprints. 
By Ken Browne

The 2019 IAAF World Championships in Doha left us with many spectacular athletics moments including a 13th world title for U.S.A. G.O.A.T. Allyson Felix, and first global crowns for Christian Coleman, Noah Lyles and Dina Asher-Smith.

Coleman and Lyles led the USA back to No.1 in the men's sprints after the Bolt supremacy, while Dalilah Muhammad broke her own world record in the 400m hurdles, and Sifan Hassan and Salwa Eid Naser also produced stellar displays.

With eyecatching hairstyles to match the eyecatching performances, the event in Qatar provided plenty of food for thought ahead of Tokyo 2020.

We picked out 10 of the best:

1. The mothers of all comebacks

Getting pregnant was said to be the kiss of death' for women in athletics.

But a quartet of mothers showed quite the opposite in Doha.

This was a hot topic before the Worlds even began after Allyson Felix spoke up about the ideas and attitudes about motherhood in sport and the way sponsors treat women before and after they become mothers.

Felix went on to back up her words with actions at the Worlds winning two titles - in the mixed and women's 4x400m relays - to go to 13, two clear of Usain Bolt.

The 33-year-old was happy with those two relay successes, but Tokyo 2020 is her main goal.

"I want to be back at the Olympics. I want that more than anything. I want to go out on my terms.”- Allyson Felix

After her performances in Qatar, there's little doubt that she could bow out in style in Japan.

But Felix wasn't the only one flying the flag for medal-winning Mommas in Qatar:

'Mommy-Rocket' Shelly Ann Fraser-Pryce took gold too - in the women's 100m ahead of breakout star Dina Asher-Smith.

The Jamaican proved to the world that she is still the fastest woman in the world and a warm favourite to regain the Olympic title she won at Beijing 2008 and London 2012.

With her teammate and reigning Olympic champion Elaine Thompson suffering with a recurring Achilles injury, Fraser-Pryce looks to be a class apart.

Fraser-Pryce exploded off the blocks in Doha clocking 10.71s to win gold, just one-hundredth of a second outside her own personal best.

She'll be 33 at Tokyo 2020 but shows no signs of slowing down and, with her son Zyon as her inspiration, Jamaica's first female 100m Olympic gold medallist looks set to add to her two golds and a bronze from the past three Games.

"My son Zyon has definitely been my source of strength and my inspiration." - Shelly Ann Fraser-Pryce

The mothers who rocked the world at Doha 2019

Nia Ali won Olympic silver at Rio 2016 a year after having son Titus, and dominated the Doha final to win her first global title 16 months after having daughter Yuri.

Both went on a victory lap with her, a celebration we may well see again next summer.

“Having babies makes us stronger. There’s nothing weak about having a baby." - Nia Ali

China's Liu Hong proved Ali's words true when she came back from two years out to win a third gold in the 20km walk, leading her nation to the only podium sweep of the 10 days.

Olympic champion Liu had a baby girl at the end of 2017 and was away from the sport for two years, but said motherhood has made her stronger:

"Becoming a mom is a tough long way for a woman, with all the pregnancy, labour and nursing the baby. I went through a lot and I think all these experiences actually made me stronger," she told Chinese news outlet Xinhua.

Mothers on the podium and babies on the victory lap:

Get your cameras ready, Tokyo!

Women's 20km walk medallists (L-R): runner-up Qieyang Shenjie, winner Liu Hong, third-placed Yang Liujing

2. Great flair, great hair, rainbow unicorns

Noah Lyles brought the style in the men's 200m, winning his first world title and catching the eye with his dyed grey hair - a tribute to Anime and Dragon Ball particularly.

Lyles' conjured a 'Spirit Bomb' before the final, but that performance was all him, and he looked good doing it too.

Shelly Ann Fraser-Pryce, Elaine Thompson and Shaunae Miller-Uibo also brought their hair-game A-Game and lit up Doha with locks, shocks, layers, lines, bangs and the full colour spectrum.

It's almost as if looking sharp helps you feel sharp and perform better.

Charles Wright said it best: Express Yourself!

But what does it all mean for Tokyo 2020?

Sharp styles, bright colours, perfect podium shots: Snapgram, Instagram, Steller Stories, Fickr, Facebook, Tumblr - get ready for a colourful Games!

Ingebrigtsen's magnificent moustache

Let's not ignore fabulous facial hair either, Henrik Ingebrigtsen was rocking the Worlds with his facial stash of 'tache:

Gianmarco's half beard: Full on

Then there's the curious case of Italian high-jumper Gianmarco Tamberi who always has a full beard in qualifying and then shaves off half of it - exactly half of it - before the final.


He says he does it to entertain the crowd.

Gianmarco will perform his demi-beard disappearing act at the Tokyo 2020 Games too we imagine.

Where we hope he jumps a world record screaming: "Are you not entertained?!"

Gianmarco Tamberi beard

3. Team USA to return to men's sprint supremacy in Tokyo?

For the best part of a decade, American sprinters had to chase the lanky figure of Usain Bolt.

That went for the relay as well with Bolt anchoring Jamaica to continued success.

When Bolt broke down in the final at London 2017, hosts Great Britain took full advantage to take gold.

But the USA returned to the top in Doha and want to stay there at Tokyo 2020.

Christian Coleman's success in the 100m and 200m world champion Noah Lyles look unbeatable in their field, Coleman blocking out the noise from those doping test whereabouts charges.

Michael Norman made a disappointing semi-final exit in the 400m, won by Steven Gardiner of the Bahamas, but he has the time and talent to turn it around before next July.

With Donovan Brazier winning the men's 800m in style in Doha, the USA could conceivably sweep the men's 100/200/400/800 in Tokyo, something no country has ever achieved at an Olympic Games or World Championships.

And with the 4x100m and 4x400m relay teams looking streets ahead of the rest, bar the odd baton mishap, the USA looks A-OK.

"We're takin' it back," - Noah Lyles after his 200m gold medal win in Doha

USA's victorious men's 4x100 relay team (L-R): Justin Gatlin, Michael Rodgers, Christian Coleman, Noah Lyles

4. Nakaayi wins first post-Semenya women's 800m

The women's 800m witnesed one of the shocks of the whole 10 days.

The absence of double Olympic champion Caster Semenya due to the IAAF's new DSD rules was what everyone was talking about before the Worlds.

But Caster's moving on, and the world has a new champion.

And what a way to do it too:

Uganda's Halimah Nakaayi sprinted past pre-race favourite Ajee Wilson to claim the world title in one of the most dramatic moments of the championships.

Nakaayi passed Wilson and sprinted clear to take gold in 1:58.04.

Can Nakaayi keep this pace up until Tokyo? Will Ajee re-adjust and try different tactics at the Olympics?

Whatever happens, the 800m has been blown wide open and promises to be another captivating race.

5. Barshim back on top of the world

The women's 800m gave us a new thrill, but the men's high jump brought the return of Qatar's beloved Mutaz Essa Barshim.

"My injury last year could have been career ending," Barshim said, beside himself with joy after successfully defending his world title in front of a adoring crowd.

He had only returned to training in April this year, but was determined to put on a show in Qatar.

While crowds in Doha were generally disappointing, the locals came out in force to cheer on their hero's every move from his warm-up right through to his winning clearance of 2.37m.

Now it's on to the next dream for the man who's jumped the second highest mark in history: turning Rio 2016 silver into Tokyo 2020 gold.

6. Returning champs and revelations

Who else broke through on the world stage in Doha, and who stayed at the top before the Olympics?

Breakout stars include Britain's Dina Asher-Smith who not only became the first British woman to reach a 100m world final, but also won a silver medal behind Fraser-Pryce.

She then became her country's first female sprint world champion by claiming the 200m title.

The young Londoner is a definite multiple medal contender at Tokyo 2020, although her hopes of staying on top in the 200m would be harmed if Shaunae Miller-Uibo runs that distance in Japan.

There were upsets in the multi-event disciplines with Britain's Katarina Johnson-Thompson - KJT for short - toppled world and Olympic heptathlon champion Nafi Thiam, ending the Belgian's three-year unbeaten run.

Nafissatou Thiam and Katarina Johnson-Thompson match strides in the 100m hurdles in the 2019 World Championship heptathlon

Reigning decathlon champion Kevin Mayer's tearful exit after a hamstring injury cleared the way for 21-year-old Niklas Kaul to take gold for Germany.

Kaul's compatriot Malaika Mihambo also clinched gold as she added the world title to her European title from last year.

She soared to 7.30m on her third attempt and no-one could come close.

The holders, keepers and three-peaters included Norway's 400m hurdler Karsten Warholm, Sam Kendricks who won a thrilling pole vault final, and Ethiopia's Muktar Edris who owned the 5000m just as he did at London 2017.

Kenya's Olympic steeplechase champion Conseslus Kipruto retained his world title despite spending months on the sidelines with a stress fracture.

The popular Christian Taylor won his fourth triple jump world title with Polish hammer thrower Pawel Fajdek also collecting a fourth gold at the World Championships.

American Taylor will bid for a hat-trick of Olympic titles in Tokyo while Fajdek is seeking a first Olympic medal after disappointment at the last two Games.

Hellen Obiri retained her 5000m title, with Mariya Lasitskene taking her fourth high jump world crown.

In the shot put, Gong Lijiao will hope to finally claim an Olympic gold after winning her second consecutive world title.

The Chinese took bronze on home soil at Beijing 2008, silver at London 2012 and finished fourth at Rio 2016.

So many stories, so many names to watch out for at Tokyo 2020.


7. Yulimar Rojas in a league of her own?

Usually when you talk about Venezuela's Yulimar Rojas, you're almost obliged to put Colombia's Caterine Ibarguen in the same sentence.

Ibarguen is the defending Olympic champion after all, but has Rojas settled their duel in her favour after completing back-to-back World Championships victories in Doha?

It certainly looked that way in Doha on Day 9 as Rojas jumped a massive 15.37m to win gold by a considerable margin.

Ibarguen took the bronze at the end of an injury-disrupted season with 14.73m behind Jamaica's Shanieka Ricketts who leapt 14.92m.

Rojas has exceeded 15m five times this year, something no other woman has done.

She will go into Tokyo 2020 as a huge favourite, and Ibarguen will have to shake off those niggles and return to her best if she is to challenge her South American rival.

8. Dalilah Muhammad beats her young rival, and the clock

Speaking of great rivalries...

Before Doha, the women's 400m hurdles was hyped as the clash between the Olympic champion and the pretender to the throne.

And it was Rio 2016 gold medallist Dalilah Muhammad who blew all of us away, including young Sydney McLaughlin.

The greatest rivalries see the best in the push each other - and the sport - to even greater heights and that's what we saw in Qatar:

Muhammad had to be at her best to beat the 20-year-old sensation, breaking her own world record in the process with a time of 52.16s with a combination of flat speed and silky-smooth hurdling.

The contrast of their two styles - the ease and elegance of Muhammad against the raw speed of McLaughlin made for a fascinating contest.

We can't wait for the next instalment at Tokyo 2020.

9. Sifan Hassan: "I have been clean all my life"

One of the stories of Doha 2019 was Dutch distance runner Sifan Hassan who claimed the 10,000m and then the 1500m in stunning fashion.

But there was a shadow cast over her achievements when her coach Alberto Salazar was handed a four-year ban for doping violations the day after her 10,000m triumph.

That victory saw her run the last 1500m in less than four minutes.

And in the 1500m final itself, she finished over two seconds clear of reigning world and Olympic champion Faith Kipyegon in a new championship record, doubling her gold tally.

After that second gold, Hassan made a defiant response to those sceptical of her perfomances following Salazar's ban.

"I am clean. I do my best. I get tested. I was clean, I will be clean, I will stay forever clean. If they want to they can test me every single day." - Sifan Hassan to Olympic Channel

Hassan contested the finals of the 800m and 1500m in Rio meaning she could potentially choose between four events - 800m, 1500m, 5000m and 10,000m - in Tokyo.

Whichever races she chooses to line up in at Tokyo 2020, she will be the favourite.

10. Kenya second behind USA overall

It was another stellar World Championships for Kenya as they took home 11 medals from Doha - five gold, two silver and four bronze.

Only Team USA came away with a greater collection of precious metals, winning 14 gold out of 29 overall.

Kenya's campaign could not have started any better on Day 1 as Ruth Chepngetich braved the Doha heat and humidity to win a gruelling women’s marathon.

World record holder Beatrice Chepkoech put the ghosts of London 2017 behind her and produced a remarkable finish in the women’s 3,000m steeplechase to add to the tally on Day 4.

Rio silver medallist Hellen Obiri was imperious in the women’s 5,000m retaining her world title on the penultimate day of action, just days after finishing fifth in the women’s 10,000m.

On the final day of the championships, Timothy Cheruiyot finally won that elusive global gold when he tore the men’s 1,500m field apart to clinch Kenya’s fifth goal medal.

There was more to celebrate on the final day too when star in the making Rhonex Kipruto - just 19 years old - took bronze in the men's 10,000m, having led for much of the race.

The future's bright for Kenya, and a similar return at Tokyo 2020 will see plenty of dancing in the streets of Nairobi, Mombasa, Nakuru and Kisumu.