Previews08 Aug 2013

Women's 400m – Preview


(L-R) Anastasiya Kapachinskaya of Russia, Amantle Montsho of Botswana and Rosemarie Whyte of Jamaica compete during the women's 400 metres semi finals during day two ot the WCH Daegu 2011 (© Getty Images)

Amantle Montsho attempts to become only the second woman in history – the other being Australian great Cathy Freeman in 1997 and 1999 – to land back-to-back 400m titles at the IAAF World Championships and she will be buoyed by an outstanding season.

The 30-year-old Botswanan pipped Allyson Felix in a thrilling 400m final in Daegu and after recording six wins out of eight this season, including five maximum points hauls on the IAAF Diamond League circuit, it is difficult to ignore her claims.

As a further illustration of Montsho’s pre-eminence, her national record of 49.33 set in Monaco propelled her to the top of the 2013 world lists and she also owns four of the six fastest times in the world this year.

Montsho's path to potential gold has been eased to some degree by the absence of London 2012 Olympic Games champion Sanya Richards-Ross, who underwent toe surgery last autumn and failed to qualify for the USA team.

Nonetheless, there are plenty of challengers, led by the 2007 World champion Christine Ohurougu.

The British athlete, who also landed 400m gold and silver medals, respectively, at the past two Olympic Games, is a proven championship performer and is clearly in top form, which she demonstrated by her final pre-Moscow competition in London, which she won in 50.00 – the fourth-fastest time of her career and her fastest outside of a major championships.

The host nation has a strong tradition in the women’s 400m and this year is no different as they boast the second and third fastest women over one lap of the track in 2013.

The 2010 European champion Antonina Krivoshapka has competed sparingly this year but, after blitzing to an eye-catching season’s best of 49.57 in her most recent outing on July 15 in Moscow, she is clearly in great form.

She is joined on the Russian team by Kseniya Ryzhova, who was formerly known as Kseniya Vdovina before she got married recently, who set an impressive personal best of 49.80 in June.

The USA may be missing Richards-Ross, but they are well stocked with other top-class talent.

Natasha Hastings produced her fastest run for six years by clocking 49.94 to land the US title in June and she will also be a danger.

Her countrywoman Francena McCorory, who finished fourth at the 2011 World Championships, is also another with chances. The 24-year-old is a consistent performer and will be boosted by setting a personal best – and dipping below 50 seconds for the first time in her career – with 49.96 for third in Monaco.

World junior champion Ashley Spencer rounds out the three-strong US contingent. Aged just 20, she landed the NCAA title with 50.28 and finished third at the US Championships to secure her place on the team.

One of the most heart-warming stories of the 2013 season is the presence of 2007 World Championships bronze medallist Novlene Williams-Mills, who has battled back from breast cancer, first diagnosed in the countdown to last year’s Olympics.

The experienced Jamaican athlete has returned to top form this year, clocking a season's best of 50.01 to land her national title, and would be a hugely popular medallist.

Watch out too for Williams-Mills' countrywoman Stephanie McPherson, who set a personal best of 49.92 in Monaco, and has made a real step up in class this season. Jamaica’s third entrant is Patricia Hall, who has a best of 50.86, and who is also entered for the 200m.

Other names to look out for include the Nigerian champion Regina George, Guyana’s World junior silver medallist Kadecia Baird and Ukraine’s former European indoor 400m silver medallist Nataliya Pyhyda.

Also entered are Sweden’s 2012 European champion Moa Hjelmer and Senegal’s 36-year-old Amy Mbacke Thiam, the 2001 World champion.

Click here for OFFICIAL ENTRIES in the Moscow 2013 Athletes section.

Steve Landells for the IAAF