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Heat, hope and heroics: The final word from the IAAF World Championships

Mutaz Barshim's high-jump performance in front of a full crowd was one of the memorable images at the IAAF World Championships. Christian Petersen/Getty Images

DOHA, Qatar -- The air-conditioning ducts fell silent Sunday as the 2019 IAAF World Athletics Championships reached their conclusion in the unrelenting heat of Doha.

Sure, it can be unfair to compare one championship with its predecessors. Memorable moments, when history is written, are what truly distinguishes each one. Remember Usain Bolt's extraordinary 9.58-second 100-meter magic moment that electrified Berlin in 2009, followed days later by his 200-meter dash? Or Mike Powell's flight of fancy in the long jump in Tokyo in 1991? Then there was Jarmila Kratochvilova's 47.99-second 400-meter performance at the inaugural worlds in 1983 that seemed implausibly quick.

This year's event was the first outdoor global athletics championships to venture to the Middle East, and it ended with mixed reviews: too hot outside the stadium, too late in the calendar and too spartan in the stands. Initially yes, although the festive atmosphere Friday when Mutaz Barshim -- the Doha native -- won the high-jump gold gave the event some energy.

That moment came in front of a packed house -- a mix of Qataris, banks of immigrant workers and pockets of visiting supporters. If only local organizers had not left it so late to put tickets in people's hands.

"The first two days were really hectic, and we know it was difficult," said Dahlan Juma Al-Hamad, head of the organizing committee. "But I hope that within the last three days, we now see it full up."

Top 10 takeaways from Doha

Biggest surprise

Shaunae Miller-Uibo of the Bahamas is the Olympic champion in the 400 meters and is prioritizing a single event over pursuing a grueling double in the 200. But then Salwa Eid Naser, Nigerian-born but representing Bahrain, ran 48.37 seconds, the third-fastest mark of all time, an incredible improvement. The loss was Miller-Uibo's first at any distance in more than two years.

Australia rejoiced for Kelsey-Lee Barber's women's javelin gold. She shook off a poor qualifying round to unleash a final-round throw of 66.56 meters to move from fourth to first.

Biggest disappointment

If you wanted to have a beer and watch the championships in a local bar, then you were out of luck. Not because of the strict alcohol laws. But because the Qatari broadcast rights were held by the Abu Dhabi TV channel, a state-owned broadcaster in the United Arab Emirates, which declined to screen the biggest sporting event ever held in the Middle East.

UAE happens to be one of several countries currently imposing a travel blockade on its neighbor because of its links with Iran.

Not without controversy

The four-year suspension handed out to Alberto Salazar, head of the Nike Project, announced mid-championships, stirred the pot of doping once again. And there was Sifan Hassan of the Netherlands, who is coached by Salazar. She secured golds in the 1,500 and 10,000 meters, a feat without precedent. But that race was tainted, according to some of her competitors. "This makes me so mad," the double champion said. "I have been clear all my life." The International Olympic Committee has asked the World Anti-Doping Agency to closely investigate all the athletes who have come under Salazar's wing. Questions will continue.

Moments of the championships

Mutaz Barshim's high-jump victory brought Qatar alive in a manner that seemed improbable on opening day. Barshim returned from ankle surgery to retain his title. The men's 5,000-meter final was equally exciting, with Ethiopian Muktar Edris holding off compatriot Selemon Barega.

And for sheer competitive combat, a single centimeter separated the three medalists in the men's shot put, with the Unites States' Joe Kovacs, coached by his wife, Ashley, and persuaded away from the brink of retirement, edging out teammate Ryan Crouser and New Zealand's Tomas Walsh.

Unsung hero

Braima Dabo of Guinea-Bissau draped an exhausted Jonathan Busby of Aruba across his shoulders so both could collapse across the line in the initial round of the men's 5,000 meters, almost five minutes after everyone else had darted for the shade.

The Americans

The United States was at the top of the medal table by some distance, with a total of 29 -- 14 golds, 11 silvers and four bronzes (only one fewer than at London in 2017). Statistically speaking, Dalilah Muhammad was the stellar performer of these 10 days with the lone world record from her quicksilver run of 52.16 seconds in the women's 400-meter hurdles.

The Brits

The British team was unable to edge consistently into the medal zone, acquiring only five podium placings. "The medal tally is not that which we would have wanted and expected," UK Athletics performance director Neil Black said. "It could be better; it should be better." He was fortunate he could rely on Dina Asher-Smith. Her 200-meter victory -- adjoined with 100-meter and relay silvers -- has already seen her anointed as one of the poster faces of 2020.

What next?

The main board of the IAAF is scheduled to meet on Oct. 21 to finalize a reform of its Diamond League series. It will be reduced to either 12 or 13 meetings from its present schedule of 15 to provide what IAAF management said will be a simpler narrative.

The Prefontaine Classic, held this year at Stanford University, is certain to retain its status, along with London, Shanghai and Doha. Zurich has already been confirmed as the host of the final.

However, it is understood that a new secondary series will be established alongside. "We want to give athletes more chances to earn a living," confirmed one senior IAAF official. Expect China to gain extra focus with Wanda Group, a Chinese conglomerate, which signed on as title sponsor.

And let's not forget the upcoming FIFA World Cup. At the IAAF, construction continued at a frenetic pace on all routes to Khalifa Stadium. But by 2022, it seems assured the hosts will be primed and ready.

Tokyo watch

Coming out of Doha, there are some terrific duels worth watching. Noah Lyles and Christian Coleman battled for supremacy over 100 and 200 meters, as did Asher-Smith and Jamaica's Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce in the women's sprints.

The men's long jump is stacked deep. The new world champion, Tajay Gayle of Jamaica, is now the hunted one. Rio Olympic gold medalist Jeff Henderson, Cuba's ascendant performer Juan Miguel Echevarria and South Africa's Luvo Manyonga will hope to chase him down.

The Cuban women's discus duo of Yaime Perez and Denia Caballero were 1-2 here. Island bragging rights will be fought over, again and again, when the Olympic season commences in the spring.

The final word

According to IAAF president Sebastian Coe, when employing a formula that assesses world records, annual bests and assorted other benchmarks, "it was the best world championships we've ever had." Right too, he signaled, that his grandest event should have come here despite questions over Qatari human rights.

"I passionately believe that sport can shine the spotlight on so many issues that other areas of the world simply do not want to address," he said. "And that is why I fundamentally believe that sport is the best diplomat we have, and I will continue to use it."