Brilliant Naser blazes to super quick 400M win
Bahraini athlete clocks third-fastest time ever to defeat Miller-Uibo for the World Championships gold.
Minutes after the women’s 400M final of the World Championships, Shaunae Miller-Uibo sat on the track, trying to comprehend what had hit her. The Olympic champion from Bahamas had run a fast race but out in front, a Bahraini fireball called Salwa Eid Naser had blazed away with the gold medal, leaving her rivals gasping in admiration and disbelief.
The stunned look on Miller-Uibo’s face captured the story of one of the marquee contests of these championships. Ahead of her, Naser also sported a look of incredulity, for she had run the third fastest 400M of all-time, a race in which beauty and brutality combined in equal measure to produce a stunning finish in 48.14 seconds.
Only Marita Koch (47.60) of erstwhile East Germany and Jarmila Kratochilova of former Czechoslavakia (47.99) have run faster than the Bahraini and their times came in the dark days of the sport. Miller-Uibo herself ran the fifth fastest race of all time but her 48.37 was good enough for only the silver on this day.
“This is crazy. I had already run the mixed relays and I was hoping for the best. But I am the world champion now, I am really short of words to describe how I am feeling,” said Naser. “I’m screaming, I’m so happy.”
Naser, the Asian Games champion and the Asian champion, has been the dominant runner of the season but Miller-Uibo was expected to have a strong say on this race. She had prepared well, running sizzling 200M races in Diamond League meetings and focusing only on the one-lap race here. In the end, though, she did not know whether to be disappointed or to be pleased, having clocked her career-best time.
“To run a time like that and not win is incredible,” she said. “I think I let her get away from me a little too much but I got a huge personal best so I have to be happy with that. She ran a crazy race.”
Indeed it was a crazy race. Naser, in lane five, seemed to have taken off a bit too fast while Miller-Uibo was running at a controlled pace in lane 7. The Bahraini caught Miller-Uibo near the 200M mark and then stepped up another gear before the straight. That kind of pace should have burned her out but Naser never lagged even as Miller-Uibo tried her best to catch up. The Bahamian soon realised she was trying the impossible – fiercely fast, Naser flashed past the finish, putting her hand to her mouth in wonderment as the trackside timer flashed 48.14.
“I didn’t want to chase because I’m so used to chasing all the time. So I had to go out fast and I just kept going. The world record? Anything is possible,” a delighted Naser said.
Behind the two, Shericka Jackson of Jamaica won the bronze in a personal best of 49.47 while the next two finishers, Wadeline Jonathan (49.60) and defending champion Phylis Francis of the United States, also clocked career-best times, in what was quite simply the race of these championships.
A few minutes after the 400M, the Uibo household got their second silver medal of the night, with Shaunae’s husband Maicel finishing second in decathlon. Going into the 1500M, the last event, the Estonian (7869 points) led Damian Warner (7854) of Canada by 15 points. In third place was Niklas Kaul of Germany, a further four points behind. Kaul, a better 1500M runner than the other two, then stepped it up to grab his chance.
Kaul tallied 8691, a personal best, for the gold while Uibo too scored a personal best of 8604 for the silver. Warner took the bronze with 8529 points. Defending champion and world record holder Kevin Mayer had pulled out earlier, having suffered a hamstring injury.
Career-best performance was the order of the day in heptathlon too, with Katerina Johnson-Thompson setting a British record of 6981 points, the best in the world this year. Defending champion Nafissatou Thiam of Belgium was second with 6677, followed by Verena Preiner of Austria (6560).
Fans had filled the Khalifa Stadium in the evening, forcing the organisers to open up some sections that had been kept under covers earlier. But poor scheduling, with the first final starting only at 10.35 pm, meant many of them going home before the exciting duels of the night began.
China’s Gong Lijao defended her title in the first final, the women’s shot put, with a throw of 19.55 metres, the shortest winning distance in the championships’ history. It was Gong’s sixth medal of this event, after bronze successes in 2009, ’11, ’13, silver in ’15 and gold in ’17.
Meanwhile, Sifan Hassan serenely progressed to the final of the women’s 1500M while Qatar’s Abdirahman Saeed Hassan bowed out in the first round of the men’s 1500. He timed 3:42.25 to come 13thin his heat and was placed 37thoverall.
Spain’s Orlando Ortega, who finished fifth in the 110M hurdles, was awarded a bronze on a Spanish protest. The race was marred by Jamaican Omar McLeoad’s crash and it impeded Ortega’s progress in the adjacent lane. The Spaniard was third at the time and considering the fact, the jury of appeal decided to award an extra bronze medal in the event.