A first night of action that had looked in doubt 24 hours earlier, as organisers strove to replace the turf and parts of the track which had received a pounding in Sunday’s Opening Ceremony provided England with reasons to be cheerful – and one tangible reward in the bronze medal earned by Gemma Prescott in the shot put F32-34/52/53 final.
In a 100 metres left wide open by the absence of many of the world’s top performers, Mark Lewis-Francis began to shape up as a medal prospect as he won both his opening rounds in the steamy Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium, the first of them in 10.15sec, the European silver medallist’s fastest time of the year.
Chris Thompson hung on to a trio of top class Kenyans and one inspired Ugandan in the 5000m final before dropping off the pace in a last lap sprint and finishing fifth. Ahead of him, Moses Kipsiro held off the challenge of three determined African rivals, the most determined of whom, former world champion Eliud Kipchoge, did everything he knew to pass him in the back and final straights – to no avail.
Kipsiro won in 13min 31.25sec, with Kipchoge settling for silver in 13:31.32.
Thompson, who clocked 13:39.28, was reflective afterwards.
“That was good fun but it really hurt,” said the European silver medallist. “The game plan was to sit and get an easy ride as far as possible and then get to the bell. After the bell I started to slip back. At that stage I had to look for positives around to carry me further.
“I’m really chuffed actually. In ran 58 (for the last lap), they ran 53, which means I have to find five seconds in the next year, and I bloody will do it.”
Lewis-Francis looked comfortable in both first and second rounds, winning the latter in 10.20sec, slowing towards the line and looking across to his opponents.
Speaking before his second round, he explained how his coach, Linford Christie – twice a Commonwealth 100m champion – had told him to come out to Delhi and “have fun.”
Lewis-Francis added: “That’s what I’m going to do. I will take it round by round and see how it goes. I turned 28 the other day so I’m not taking life too seriously any more. I’m just going with the flow. It would be nice to leave with a medal but it’s early days.
“It’s really hot out here and I’ve never run in conditions like this before. But India is putting on a great show, man. I’m enjoying my moment here.”
After the second win, he added: “I couldn’t be happier. I’ve had an amazing season. For me to keep running these times late in the season is great.”
Earlier in the evening Laura Turner, Montell Douglas and another of Christie’s athletes, Katherine Endacott, moved safely through from their first round 100m heats.
“That was good,” said Endacott. “This is my first individual championships and it was great to blow out the cobwebs. I’ve had five years out after tearing my cartilage five times and then getting pregnant. Making the final is my ambition, and then who knows.”
Turner commented: “I went through the motions – 11.60 is just a job for me. I’ve got the semi tomorrow and this is definitely an opportunity for me.”
Montell Douglas, complete with exciting hairstyle, was less than ecstatic. “I didn’t execute that race properly. My start was awful and I need to work on that. We were out there for a long time and I got a bit fatigued but I know what to expect now for my semi. I aim at least to make the final.”
Zoe Derham earned qualification for the women’s hammer final with an effort of 62.33m.