Mujinga Kambundji (left) wins the 60m at the World Athletics Indoor Championships Belgrade 22 (© Getty Images)
“It’s crazy!” was the immediate post-race reaction from Mujinga Kambundji after she stormed to a sensational 6.96 60m win at the World Athletics Indoor Championships Belgrade 22 on Friday (18).
And it was crazy. The whole race was wonderfully crazy.
Given the strength in the event this season, and then the performances in the earlier rounds in Belgrade, the final looked set to be a race for the ages. And so it proved.
Not only did Kambundji – bronze medallist in the 60m and 200m in the past two world championships – break seven seconds for the first time, she led the top six all under 7.05.
USA's Mikiah Brisco also went sub-7.00 for the first time with 6.99 to claim silver, and her teammate Marybeth Sant-Price dipped for bronze in a PB of 7.04.
It was a record for depth, with 7.04 previously the best ever mark for third place. Actually, that is still the case, but now it is also the best ever mark for fourth, fifth and sixth place, with Ewa Swoboda, Shericka Jackson and Briana Williams all matching the bronze medal-winning time.
With the fastest time in the world since 1999, Kambundji now sits equal fourth on the world all-time list and this world final is the fourth time in history that two women have broken 7.00 in the same race.
“I was thinking that the gold medal was going to be won in sub-seven-seconds, but I didn’t know what time I could run,” said the 29-year-old Swiss sprinter, who lined up in the outside lane eight. “I was ready for a PB, but I did not expect it to be so fast. It was so crazy today.
“At first sight, I was a bit disappointed with lane eight because usually I like to run in the middle, to feel the other opponents," she added. "But I just focused on myself, tried to do my best race and I think I did.”
Kambundji’s previous national record had been the 7.03 she ran when winning the Swiss title in 2018, the month before she claimed world indoor bronze in 7.05 in Birmingham. Her best this season before Belgrade had also been 7.05, run to win another Swiss title, and her campaign in Serbia started with 7.17 to win her heat. She was then second in her semifinal in 7.08 but improved that time by more than a tenth of a second to get her first global gold.
It was Swoboda who led the world rankings going into the event, courtesy of her 6.99 to win the Polish title – the first sub-seven-second women’s 60m since the 6.97 that Murielle Ahoure ran to win world gold four years ago.
Brisco, meanwhile, had been edging closer to the 7.04 PB she set in 2020 and she won the US title in 7.07, while Sant-Price was second in that US final and had also run 7.04 earlier in the season.
Brisco got a strong start in the Belgrade final, running in lane four with Sant-Price to her left and Swoboda to her right. But she was never without company and Kambundji’s strong finish saw her surge narrowly ahead. In such a close final, there was a tense moment while the medallists were confirmed, but then to Kambundji’s apparent amazement, her name appeared first of all.
“To become the world champion, that sounds beautiful,” she said. “The girls were showing great performances already in the morning, and I also have to congratulate them. I knew I was able to put everything right, at the right moment.”
Brisco said: “The goal going into this meet was to get a gold, of course, but I'm happy to come away with a medal. We came here and got second and third for USA, so we're excited and happy to have some medals.”
Jess Whittington for World Athletics
|WOMEN'S 60M MEDALLISTS|
|🥇||Mujinga Kambundji 🇨🇭 SUI||6.96|
|🥈||Mikiah Brisco 🇺🇸 USA||6.99|
|🥉||Marybeth Sant-Price 🇺🇸 USA||7.04|