A powerful thunderstorm with heavy rain disrupted the fourth day of the World Athletics Championships in Helsinki.  Three medal events did go ahead as planned.

Tuesday began with brilliant sunshine and a steady breeze.  But that changed abruptly before the evening session began at Olympic Stadium.  Dark storm clouds and heavy downpours suspended medal events that were just about to start.

The women were settling into the blocks for the qualifying heats of the 100-meter hurdles when they were quickly soaked and taken off the track.  Canadian Perdita Felician said the runners had to just wait out storm.

"You just make light of the situation," she said.  "You get around with all the 30 other women and you crack some jokes.  And you try to keep the energy up in there."

Felician said she was impressed with the track after the rain eased.

"No, no slipping at all," she noted.  "They did an excellent job of making it was safe as best they could.  They were out there three or four times sweeping.  So we were definitely thankful for that."

Kenyan-born Saif Saaeed Shaheen, who runs for Qatar, won the men's 3,000 meter steeplechase as expected.  Ezekiel Kemboi of Kenya could not keep up at the end.  While he took the silver medal, Kemboi felt the wet conditions held him back.

"The rain and wind affected me," he said.  "I think I could have run much better.  And I am proud that I won a silver medal."

Bershawn Jackson clocked a winning pace of 47.30 seconds to win the men's 400-meter hurdles while fellow American James Carter splashed to second place (47.43).  Dai Tamesue of Japan fell down after crossing the line for bronze (48.10). 

But Felix Sanchez of the Dominican Republic slipped at the first hurdle and did not finish.  South African L.J. Van Zyl placed sixth and defended the decision of race officials to run the event.

"The weather conditions were the same to everyone.  Everyone was level," he noted.

The women's discus final fell victim to the torrential rain and will instead be held on Thursday.  After four days of the nine-day championships, the United States leads the medal table with four gold and two silver.  Ethiopia is second with two gold, two silver and a bronze.  Sweden remains third with two gold and one bronze.