BEIJING (Reuters) - Asbel Kiprop produced a trademark sprint finish to win a third straight 1,500 meters gold and ensure Kenya topped the medals table at successive world championships after the final night of action on Sunday.
The United States men won a sixth straight gold in 4x400m relay but Jamaica’s Novlene Williams-Mills ran down tiring American Francena McCorory in the women’s event to claim a sixth gold in Beijing for the Caribbean powerhouse.
That was enough for second place on the medals table ahead of a U.S. team who won only five golds, their worst tally in the 15 world championships.
Kiprop, Usain Bolt and his fellow Jamaican sprinter Shelly Ann Fraser-Pryce were the only individual title winners from the Beijing Olympics to return to the Bird’s Nest and win gold again seven years later.
“I am so proud of myself to become part of this exclusive club of three-times world champions,” Kiprop told reporters after clocking three minutes 34.40 seconds to win.
“But I would dearly love to defend the title a fourth time in London in 2017. This allows me to join Algeria’s Noureddine Morceli but Hicham El Guerrouj still has one gold more and that is what I am aiming at.”
Genzebe Dibaba’s bid to become the first woman to win both the 1,500m and 5,000m at the same world championships was thwarted by a stunning run from her team mate Almaz Ayana in the longer race.
Ayana ran the last four laps on her own to better the championship record of Dibaba’s sister Tirunesh in a time of 14 minutes 26.83 seconds, leading Senbere Teferi and the younger Dibaba across the line in an Ethiopian sweep.
“I had to win the gold medal,” said Ayana, who won by 17 seconds. “I was so surprised to get such so easy victory today. I can’t even explain how I did that today.”
Ayana’s gold was the second of the day for Ethiopia after the unrelated Mare Dibaba won the women’s marathon in a thrilling sprint finish along the home straight.
Dibaba out-kicked Kenya’s Helah Kiprop to win the grueling event by just one second, crossing the finish line in two hours, 27 minutes and 35 seconds.
To the delight of the crowd, hosts China looked to be on course for second title of the championships when Lyu Huihui led the women’s javelin with just one throw remaining.
Germany’s Katharina Molitor, however, conjured up the longest throw of her career -- a world leading 67.69 meters -- to take her first medal at a major championships.
“This event is unpredictable and it is beautiful,” said South Africa’s Sunette Viljoen, who took bronze behind Lyu.
“It was a very special performance from the Chinese girl. And Katharina, wow, nobody expected that.”
Canada’s Derek Drouin won the men’s high jump gold with a 2.34-metre clearance in a sudden-death jump-off with defending champion Bogdan Bondarenko of Ukraine and China’s Zhang Guowei.
After the trio had all failed at 2.36 for a fourth time, the bar was lowered to 2.34 and Drouin cleared it while his rivals failed and shared the silver.
“I was first in the list and I felt a big pressure,” Drouin said of his winning jump.
“I knew I couldn’t make even one mistake as my rivals were very strong and they could use it to get the victory.”
Lashawn Merritt anchored the U.S. team to their victory in the final event of the championships, seeing off an explosive start to the final lap from young Jamaican Javon Francis and crossing the line in two minutes 57.82 seconds.
“I wanted to control the race,” said the 29-year-old Merritt, who won his 11th world championship medal.
”But I didn’t even know the guy from Jamaica who was on the anchor leg. I was in such a zone and focused on my people.
But that’s the way he runs his race.
“I wasn’t really fazed. I picked it up a little bit because he was running hard. Then he was still running hard, I just shifted a gear.”
A fifth straight title defense was an appropriate end to a world championships that altered very little in the landscape of the sport, despite nine days of sometimes spectacular performances.
Despite an injury-ravaged season and the form of Justin Gatlin, Usain Bolt finished as he started as the dominant athlete of his age with a fifth sprint sweep at a major global championships.
The sport’s embattled leaders, meanwhile, faced as many questions about doping in their final news conference as they did on the eve of competition.
Sebastian Coe, who took over as president of the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF) at the conclusion of the championships, knows he has a big job ahead of him.
“It is slightly the territory we have inherited and one of my responsibilities is to move us off that territory,” he said.
“We are more than just a discussion about test tubes, blood and urine.”
Editing by Ed Osmond