The women’s 400m final was a sizzling affair that produced spine tingling moments as soon as the starter’s pistol cracked until the dramatic winning plunge. It was easily the most competitive and adrenaline charged event of the night. It was also the closest finish witnessed of all the sprint finals in Rio.
Bahamian superstar Shaunae Miller came of age as she earned the right to be ranked as one of her country’s greatest athletes ever. The former world youth and junior champion added the prestigious Olympic title on Monday (August 15) in a most thrilling fashion. She joins her countrywoman Tonique Williams-Darling who won the event in 2004 in Athens, Greece as the only Caribbean women to lift this title at an Olympics.
Miller drawn in lane seven being cognizant of the danger behind her went out at a rapid pace. She employed an all-out strategy similar to that of the men’s 400m champion on the previous night. She had built up a sizeable lead after 300 metres.
Meanwhile lurking on the inside was the dangerous Allyson Felix who was running a measured race. She began quickening her strides moving up on a tiring Miller who was now relying on her strength to take her home. Joining the fray, as she did in Beijing, was world championship bronze medallist Shericka Jackson from Jamaica with a determined run.
However it still remained a two-horse race between Miller and Felix bringing the crowd to its feet. The final 50 metres evoked several emotions from the spectators and one can only imagine what was going on in the Bahamas and United States.
With victory within her sights it seemed as if Miller’s legs were going to betray her, however, her mind was not giving up. The finish line was now fast approaching but so too was a determined Felix. Both athletes were now running flat out until they were neck and neck with 15 metres to go then 10 metres then 5 metres until Miller reaching desperately for the finish inadvertently lost her balance. However, her momentum thankfully carried her over the tape to add to the drama. It was an extremely close affair almost like a photo finish.
Both athletes and indeed everyone watching had an anxious wait and Miller who remained spread-eagled on the track before covering her face with her palms could barely look on the giant screen but kept on praying. It was indeed a nail-biting moment.
Miller said, “While I was laying on the ground I could hear my mother screaming ‘Get up, get up.’ And I was like, not right now, just leave me to catch myself real quick.”
She continued, “That’s how I found out. I was laying on the ground, the results hadn’t come out yet. I heard her scream and she was like, ‘Yeah, yeah, yeah.’ So I was like, OK, I had to have won the race,” she said.
Miller was overcome with emotions when she realized that she was the new Olympic champion. She achieved it in style with a lifetime best run of 49.44 seconds. Felix in her last Olympic individual appearance ran a season’s best of 49.51 but had to settle for the silver medal as she did on her first appearance in 2004. Ironically, Felix was beaten out of a 200m spot in a similar fashion at the US Olympic trials in July.
Jamaica’s Shericka Jackson, whose father’s birthday will be the same day as the medal ceremony got bronze in 49.85 just 0.02 shy of the surprised PB she ran in the semi-finals.
It was a great night for the Caribbean with two medals coming from two countries – Jamaica and Bahamas – that continue to produce Olympic champions. Shaunae Miller’s victory extended Team USA’s wait of winning a gold medal in any of the sprint events contested so far.