Shaunae Miller-Uibo wins the 400m at the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games (© Getty Images)
Blowing away the field with a blistering sprint in the final straight, Shaunae Miller-Uibo completed a Bahamian sweep of the Olympic 400m titles at the Tokyo Games and won her second consecutive gold in the one-lap event.
Miller-Uibo crossed the line in an area record of 48.36 on Friday (6), becoming only the second woman to win back-to-back Olympic golds in the 400m and the first since France’s Marie-Jose Perec in 1992-1996.
“I am so happy right now I could cry," the 27-year-old Miller-Uibo said. “I've been dealing with a whole lot of injuries and to be able to pull this one off is amazing. To be able to pull off matching gold medals, and to get an area record as well, I am so thankful."
Marileidy Paulino of the Dominican Republic took the silver medal in a national record 49.20. USA legend Allyson Felix earned the bronze in 49.46, bringing her career total to 10 Olympic medals to become the most decorated woman in Olympic athletics history. In fourth was Jamaica's Stephenie Ann McPherson, her time of 49.61 bringing her home one place ahead of her compatriot Candice McLeod (49.87).
Miller-Uibo’s victory came 24 hours after Steven Gardiner took gold in the men’s 400m to become the first man from the Bahamas to win an individual Olympic gold in any sport. Now the two can share the distinction of owning the Olympic titles together.
Miller-Uibo said at the start of the year that she was focusing on the 200m and would likely not run the 400m in Tokyo. She only recently decided to defend her Olympic title and compete in both events. She finished eighth in the 200m final on Tuesday.
"I just had to go through a whole lot of things,” Miller-Uibo said of her disappointing performance in the shorter distance. “To put it out of my mind, that it was okay. So I came out and was able to not focus on the time but to pull off another gold medal run. The best thing is I have another gold medal right now."
Returning for the 400m final, Miller-Uibo was back in her element, primed to defend the title she won in Rio by diving at the line to edge Felix by 0.07 for the gold.
This time, there was no need to dive, or even lean.
Unmistakable with her bright pink hair, Miller-Uibo stormed around the final bend and accelerated away from her rivals over the final 100m, sailing across the finish with a lead of several metres.
The 24-year-old Paulino finished strong to grab her second silver of the Games, adding to her medal from the new mixed 4x400m relay on the opening weekend of the Olympics.
Competing in her fifth and final Games, and first as a mother, the 35-year-old Felix broke a tie with Jamaica’s Merlene Ottey for most athletics medals by a woman and equalled Carl Lewis for most medals held by a US track and field athlete.
“I feel like I have come a long way from all the other Games,” Felix said. “This one is just different. Sometimes it sounds like a cliche, but it honestly is more than just me running out there. I’m not too wrapped up in winning more medals. The biggest thing for me was coming back.”
Felix is competing in Tokyo less than three years after giving birth to her daughter, Camryn, via an emergency delivery that threatened the life of both mother and child.
"Earlier today I looked through some of the videos again of things that we had taped when I was in hospital with Cammie and on the comeback trail – those really, really hard moments – and that’s what I tried to tap into.”
Friday’s race produced Felix’s first bronze medal, adding to the six gold and three silver she already owned. She can win an 11th medal on Saturday if selected to run in the women’s 4x400m relay, and that would leave her one short of the all-time record of 12 medals held by Finnish distance runner Paavo Nurmi.
Tokyo is proving to be a remarkable swansong for Felix, who made her Olympic debut as an 18-year-old at the 2004 Games in Athens.
Her legacy and place in Olympic history are secure.
“I’ve just tried to be more vulnerable and be more transparent this time around,” Felix said. “Being an older athlete I think that’s something we don’t see as much. So I have been sharing some of my own struggles.
“I think a lot of times I tied my work to what happens at these championships and I didn’t want to do that this time around. Obviously, I always run for gold but I just wanted to have joy no matter what happened tonight.”
Steve Wilson for World Athletics
|WOMEN'S 400m MEDALLISTS|
|🥇||Shaunae Miller-Uibo 🇧🇸 BAH||48.36 AR|
|🥈||Marileidy Paulino 🇩🇴 DOM||49.20 NR|
|🥉||Allyson Felix 🇺🇸 USA||49.46 SB|