EUGENE, Ore. — Shot putter Chase Ealey's red, white and blue nails along with her matching makeup paired well with this: Team USA's first gold medal at the world championships.
Not a bad early birthday present, either. Ealey, who turns 28 in four days, ended up winning the event on her first attempt Saturday night at Hayward Field. Her opening toss went 67 feet, 2¾ inches (20.49 meters) and dethroned two-time defending world champion Gong Lijiao of China.
By a matter of minutes, Ealey earned the honor of first American gold at the inaugural world championships held in the U.S. Moments later, Fred Kerley led an American sweep in the 100.
“I haven’t quite absorbed the information that it’s happened,” said Ealey, who became Team USA's first world outdoor champion in the women's shot put. “It just feels really good.”
To remind herself to relax and breathe at big meets, Ealey glances at her forearm.
She has “breathe” tattooed on it. This competition certainly left her breathless.
After her first attempt, no one could match her. It's the first time a female thrower has won the competition at worlds on her first-round attempt in the final.
All part of her plan.
“I warmed up bigger than I competed, which happens a lot,” she explained. “I was really feeling myself — every throw was at 20 (meters). I was just like, ‘OK, I think I can do this.’ The minute I got in there and (heard) the cheers in the crowd, I knew it would happen. I felt really good about it.”
For Gong's final attempt, Ealey found a vantage point from which she could tell instantly if she would end up with gold or silver.
Gold it was.
After her last attempt — a scratch — she buried her face in her hands before heading for the stands, where her family awaited.
As for the makeup, “it's a whole thing,” she explained. The smear was caused by another reason.
“I don’t always cry it off into oblivion and have people having to fan my face,” cracked Ealey, who went to high school in Los Alamos, New Mexico, and attended Oklahoma State. “It’s all amazing. I feel like I did a bunch of firsts and I’m really proud of it."
Out of energy
Exhaustion caught up to Ferdinand Omanyala in the semifinals of the 100 meters. The Kenyan sprinter who arrived in Oregon late due to visa issues didn't have his normal burst near the finish line. He finished fifth in his heat in a time of 10.14 seconds and didn't make the final.
“Tired,” he said.
His visa finally approved, Omanyala embarked on a long journey to make it to the starting line in time. He traveled from Nairobi to Doha to Seattle and finally to the track in Eugene, Oregon, just in time for the first round Friday. His case was one of about 375 that had been flagged to local organizers, World Athletics and the U.S. Olympic and Paralympic Committee.
“The times I’m running are the (slowest) I’ve run this season, so that means it has really affected my performance,” he said. “We just move on from everything that happened and pick up ourselves.”
He's off to Birmingham, England, next week for the Commonwealth Games.
“I hope this time I get there earlier,” he said.
U.S. sprinter Twanisha Terry wore 10 different strands of beads around her waist when she advanced out of the first round of the 100 meters. The beads were adorned with pieces of jewelry that included stars, skull and a lightning bolt.
“I just love them for the fashion, for the design,” Terry explained.
The 23-year-old from Miami turned in a time of 10.95 seconds. Terry was one of six women to go under the 11-second mark. Dina Asher-Smith of Britain had the top first-round time of 10.84 seconds.
Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce of Jamaica took the blocks with long purple-highlighted hair. She won her heat in her quest to defend her world title.
“I love coloring my hair,” Fraser-Pryce said. “When you’re at big meets, you want to have something to occupy your time and coloring my hair is one of those things.”