A lot is being made regarding the positioning of the finalists in lanes for tonight’s feature event at the 16th International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF) World Championships in London, England.
One of the marquee events will unfold. Reference is to the women’s 400 meters final. The reigning Olympic Champion and our very own Shaunae Miller Uibo will be running out of lane seven. There have been many conversations about the lanes’ draw placing her on the outside of her chief rival American Allyson Felix (lane 5), also the Bahrain newcomer Salwa Eid Naser (lane 4) and American Phyllis Francis (lane 6).
In The Bahamas, social media has been abuzz, the general view being that Miller- got the short end of the stick by being put where Felix can gauge her early movements. The view I hold is that just like last year in Rio, Miller-Uibo has to simply go for it from the blocks and depend upon her staying power to cross the finish line first.
No matter what the situation, Felix figures to be her chief adversary in the race and the pace will be brutal. Naser seems to be one of those dark horse athletes who always shows up at the major events.
Nevertheless, the Bahamian sensation and Felix are clearly, on paper, the class of the field and the overwhelming expectation is that they will battle for the gold. Last, year, in this space, I expressed that Miller-Uibo could not afford to let Felix get too far ahead. She did not. It was Miller-Ubio who went out fast at the Rio Olympics and she had enough left for the dive that splashed around the world.
A year earlier at the Beijing World Championships, she had seemed too careful over the first 150 meters and Felix was gone in a flash and ended up the comfortable winner over Miller-Ubio who crossed the finish line in second, but seemingly with something left in the tank. Fast-forward to now, and Miller-Ubio is more seasoned, her body is stronger, she is speedier and her heart is a bit stouter.
I like her chances, despite the lane placements.
Unless, some injury sidelines her, Miller-Uibo will have a long and bountiful career. At 23, she looks to have several more World Championships and at least another Olympics (Tokyo 2020) in her legs.
However, yet another extreme test confronts her.
Tonight (today, for us here in The Bahamas and the region), Felix will want to take command of the rivalry.
Naser will be hoping to electrify her country, Bahrain, a nation of 30 islands that juts out of the Arabian Gulf.
Three Jamaicans, Shericka Jackson (who has finished third behind Miller-Uibo and Felix at both the 2015 Championships and the Rio Olympics), Novelene Williams-Mills and Stephanie Ann McPherson will be out to enhance Jamaica’s global sprint reputation.
Rio finalist Francis and Kabange Mupopo of Xambia complete the field.
The race will be on around 4:50 p.m. our time.
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