BUDAPEST — When Katie Moon missed her last pole vault attempt at the world championships, and fell into a tie for first place, she assumed that co-leader Nina Kennedy would want a tiebreaking jump off rather than sharing gold medals.
Kennedy figured Moon didn’t want to be a co-titlist, either.
They met to discuss the situation; the decision is up to the athletes. They looked into each other’s eyes and tried to gauge thoughts. A similar sentiment ran through both of them. Having two gold medalists just felt right.
So the American Moon, already a solo Olympic and world champion, and the Australian Kennedy, whose best previous finish was third, became the first co-gold medalists in any event in world outdoor track and field championships history.
Kennedy, a 26-year-old from Perth, said she first floated the idea.
“I kind of looked at her like, hey, girl, you maybe want to share this?” she said. “And the relief, you could just see it on [Moon’s] face, and you could see it on my face.”
Moon, a 32-year-old from Ohio, said they both danced around it.
“When it looked like she maybe didn’t want to [jump], I don’t want to, either,” she said. “Did we just become best friends?”
Kennedy and Moon both thought of the Tokyo Olympic men’s high jump final, which also came down to a choice: tie for gold or jump off?
In that instance, Qatar’s Mutaz Barshim (the reigning world champion) asked an official if he could share the gold with Italian Gianmarco Tamberi (who had never won a global outdoor medal). The official said yes, Barshim stuck his hand out and Tamberi jumped into his arms.
Moon called Wednesday’s final in steamy Budapest the toughest competition of her career. She was pushed to 11 jumps, one more than she took at the Tokyo Olympics and 2022 Worlds. She had to take three attempts at 4.95 meters, while she clinched her previous golds at 4.90.
Both Moon and Kennedy cleared 4.90 on their third and final attempt. Moon, whose personal best is 4.95, said it was the most clutch clearance of her life.
“When the final started, I didn’t think sharing a gold medal would work for me, but now I am completely satisfied,” she said.
In 2015, Kennedy broke the world U20 record. In 2016, she didn’t make the Australian Olympic team and dealt with depression. She was ranked fifth in the world going into the Tokyo Olympics and missed that final.
Then last year, she took bronze at the world championships, then won her other two major competitions: the Commonwealth Games and the Diamond League final (Moon was in neither field).
She woke up Wednesday holding the Australian record of 4.82, then cleared 4.85 and 4.90.
“My legs are cramping,” she said. “I’ve never done a competition so long or so intense before, and I think [Moon] thought exactly the same, so we were so happy to stop.”
Moon, known as Katie Nageotte until her New Year’s Eve wedding, said 2022 was the toughest year of her pole vault career. She cried and wondered if she should retire. She contracted COVID, had an Achilles tendon injury and struggled with motivation, yet still won worlds in Eugene, Oregon.
On Wednesday, she became the third woman to win multiple world pole vault titles, joining the first two Olympic gold medalists — American Stacy Dragila and Russian Yelena Isinabyeva.
Moon said before worlds that she’s motivated to chase records: Sandi Morris’ outdoor American record (5.00), Jenn Suhr’s overall American record (5.03, indoors) and Isinabyeva’s world record (5.06).
It will be tough to top this night, though.
“We actually are connected forever now,” Kennedy said.
Also Wednesday, Norwegian Karsten Warholm regained the world title in the 400m hurdles. Last year, he finished seventh in his first meet since tearing a hamstring six weeks earlier.
“The gold medal is back where it belongs,” Warholm said. “Every gold medal means a lot to me, but this one is a bit extra special because I lost it last year.”
American Rai Benjamin, who took silver at the last two worlds and to Warholm at the Tokyo Olympics, earned bronze this time.
“I want more for myself. I want to prove everyone right that believes in me,” said Benjamin, who went eight weeks without hurdling in May and June due to a nerve flareup in his back through his quad. “That said, it has been a very tough season, dealing with injury, a lot of changes, a lot of distractions. I lost a close friend of mine. … The fitness is there. I just don’t really know what happened.”
Brit Josh Kerr overtook Olympic gold medalist Jakob Ingebrigtsen of Norway in the final straightaway to win the 1500m in 3:29.38.
“Those last moments of the race will be engraved on my brain for a very long time,” Kerr said. “It’s very hard [for Ingebrigtsen] to be the favorite, and Jakob has a million things going on with world record attempts and multiple events. For me, this is the be-all and end-all. You saw about 16 years of emotion at the end there. You just watched a kid achieve a dream.”
Ingebrigtsen, who was passed by Kerr’s Edinburgh Athletics Club mate Jake Wightman for gold last year, finished 27 hundredths behind Kerr, the Olympic bronze medalist who ran for the University of New Mexico.
The Norwegian said he was not 100 percent due to a sore throat.
Marileidy Paulino of the Dominican Republic easily won the 400m in 48.76 seconds after taking Olympic and world silver medals the last two years.
American Sydney McLaughlin-Levrone, who has the world’s best time this year of 48.74, missed worlds due to a minor knee issue. Shaunae Miller-Uibo of the Bahamas, the two-time reigning Olympic gold medalist, was eliminated in the first round, four months after childbirth.
McLaughlin-Levrone and Miller-Uibo have not announced whether they hope to race the 400m at the Paris Games. McLaughlin-Levrone could opt for the 400m hurdles, her Tokyo Olympic gold-medal event where she holds the world record. Miller-Uibo could drop down to the 200m.
In hammer throw qualifying, neither the three-time reigning Olympic gold medalist (Anita Włodarczyk of Poland) nor the reigning world champion (American Brooke Andersen) made the 12-woman final.
Worlds continue Thursday, live on USA Network and Peacock, featuring the women’s 100m hurdles and men’s 400m finals.
Source: NBC Sports