In an event usually dominated by Kenyans, Coburn’s strong finish in a championship record of 9:2.58 secured the United States their first global gold in the event since Horace Ashenfelter won the men’s event at the 1952 Helsinki Olympics.
The look of total astonishment on Frerichs’ face as she crossed the line in second place will remain one of the abiding memories of London 2017.
“Oh my goodness, what a race to be part of,” Coburn said. Frerichs added: “I feel like I am in a dream. This is just unreal, it has to be. I felt like the crowd gave me a lot of energy and lifted me to my greatest ever performance.”
The eighth night of the championships also saw Dutch sprinter Dafne Schippers, who won silver at the Rio Olympics last year, take the women’s 200m in 22.05 after a tight finish with Marie Josée Ta Lou of the Ivory Coast, who was also second in the 100m. It was Schippers’ second medal after a bronze in the shorter sprint. Shaunae Miller-Uibo of the Bahamas took bronze.
The most emotional title of the night went to American Brittney Reese who grabbed her fourth long jump world title with an effort of 7.02m to equal the quartet of golds achieved by compatriot Dwight Phillips and Cuban Ivan Pedroso in the men’s event.
Darya Klishina, a Russian competing as an authorised neutral athlete, took silver with 7.00m ahead of Olympic champion Tianna Bartoletta (6.97m) of the United States.
The result was a reverse of last year’s Rio Olympic final when Reese finished second behind Bartoletta. The 30-year-old American winner had written the nickname of her grandfather – “Paw Paw” – on the inside of her bib name and took it off to show the crowd after her final jump. He died last month.
"It has been an emotional few weeks for me after my grandfather passed away two weeks ago. But I was doing this for him and I know he would have been cheering for me,” she said. “He is the reason why I started track and field. He was my biggest fan. To have him in my heart, I am glad I came through with a gold medal.”
Poland’s Pawel Fajdek won a record third consecutive hammer gold with an effort of 79.81m after his triumphs at the 2013 and 2015 championships. The Pole had failed to qualify for the final of the event at the London 2012 Olympics.
"I waited for this competition at this stadium for five years so it was very important for me to get this revenge for the Olympics in here,” he said.
France’s Kevin Mayer led the decathlon after the first five events with 4478 points ahead of Germany’s Kai Kazmirek on 4,421. The competition is decided on Saturday.
But American world record holder Kendra Harrison had a scare in the 100m hurdles, hitting a barrier in her semi-final heat and just going through as the slowest qualifier for Saturday’s final with 12.86. Australia’s Sally Pearson, back in top form following injury setbacks, was fastest with 12.53.