This is the biggest upset of the WC. Naser’s ascendance to 400m has many tongues wagging, as the Bahrainian, known to be quite a good sprinter, was not thought to be in Miller-Uibo’s level. Shaunae told the media at the presser that she had misjudged the distance she gave Naser. The 400m in 2019 will be amazing!
What is it about the Women’s 400m at the World Championship which produces so much drama? Remember Moscow 2013, when Christine Ohuruogu broke the British record to win by the smallest margin from Amantle Montsho? 2015 saw Allyson Felix , win comprehensively. In London 2017, the race was to be between Shaunae Miller and Allyson Felix. Shaunae had it won but stumbled in the final few strides to allow Phyllis Francis to be a surprise winner. However, all that excitement faded into nothing compared to tonight’s drama.
Shaunae Miller-Uibo ran the 6th fastest time in recorded history for the event (48.37). The problem was that Salwa Eid Naser ran 48.14 the third fastest time ever! Poor only Phyllis Francis, the defending champion, ran a PR of 49.61 and was fifth. All of the top five ran PRs.
For the first time the World Championships included a 4 by 400m Mixed relay. At the 2017 World Relays, Miller-Uibo had helped Bahamas win the race. This week, she told me, she would have loved to have been able to run it, but not before the individual event. Naser, however, ran the heat and prelim for Bahrain as they took bronze in that relay. Thus, this was Naser’s fifth quarter mile in six days and she only ran the third fastest time ever!
Miller-Uibo, the overwhelming favorite, got out well and seemed to be in control. After 200 meters Naser changed gear and caught Miller-Uibo and forged ahead. Even so, we expected Naser to tie up in the closing meters. Miller-Uibo finished strong and was gaining but the lead was too big. Miller-Uibo had lost in the 2017 World Championship final but not since until tonight. She had to settle for silver. And an hour later husband, Maicel Uibo, followed suite, finishing second in the decathlon. The event website described it as “one of the greatest races of all time. Stunning”. It is hard to disagree.
Naser, who is 21and Nigerian-born, moved to Bahrain in 2015. Her mother was an athlete. In 2015 she won the World Youth Championship and was second in the 2017 senior World Championship. She looked shocked at the end but commented afterwards: “I have settled down now but the time is mind-blowing. I can’t stop thinking about it. I hope I will sleep well tonight because, really, I can’t stop thinking about it. She said that her “secret” was “hard work and more hard work and a belief that I can do it because nothing is impossible. I thought I might run that time in 3 or 4 years but for it to happen now, I am excited”.
The question can also be asked if Miller-Uibo made a mistake in choosing 400m rather than 200m. I asked her about it last year. “I’ve been asked that a lot of times”, she said. “I love both events but I love the 400m a little bit more. Even though some people think I’m better at 200m, I would still put the 400m ahead. I feel with the 400m, I’m still learning a lot of things so hopefully, when I put it all together, we can see the times drop but it’s my favourite and the one I think I’m better at. I feel I’m still learning the 400m and when I get to the bottom of it I’ll see times drop. The 400 is a tough event, but that’s what I love about it. It’s not an event that anyone can just pop in and do but that’s what makes me love it a bit more. It’s a tough event and I love to go at it. I feel that 400m is the hardest event in the sport. That it is a tough event that not everyone can do, makes me like it even more. The pain is not the best, but the results make me happy”.
Tonight she had the pain without the result while Naser went to bed happy.