BIRMINGHAM, ENGLAND - MARCH 03: Courtney Okolo of the United States wins the Women's 800m Final during Day Three of the IAAF World Indoor Championships at Arena Birmingham on March 3, 2018 in Birmingham, England. (Photo by Tony Marshall/Getty Images) (© Getty Images)
When the pain sets in and the lactic acid starts to flow, there’s one sure-fire way to stay out of any trouble in an indoor 400m: get to the front and stay there.
And the USA’s Courtney Okolo did just that, knocking more than half a second off the personal best she set in winning the US indoor title to win the 400m in Birmingham in 50.55.
The 22-year-old had judged each of her previous two races in Birmingham to perfection; not driving out of the blocks too hard, but doing enough through the first 200 metres to ensure a lead at the bell.
The final followed a similar script, as Okolo’s US teammate Shakima Wimbley blasted out from the gun and appeared to be leading at the break, before Okolo edged ahead and then strode clear, her first lap timed at 23.98.
Wimbley, the silver medallist at February’s US Indoor Championships by only one hundredth of a second, found herself in traffic at the bell, jostling for position with Great Britain’s Eilidh Doyle and that allowed Okolo to build a substantial lead.
It was a lead that she wouldn’t relinquish, and she floated down the track unchallenged.
Wimbley, meanwhile, had to first move past Doyle down the back straight, before being passed herself with 40 metres remaining, as the 2013 European indoor silver medallist appeared to kick.
Wimbley had other ideas, however, and regained second place, crossing the line in 51.47, with Doyle 0.13 behind.
Winning at a World Indoor Championships was a familiar feeling for Okolo, who had been part of the victorious quartet in the 4x400m in Portland two years ago, but an individual title was understandably an altogether different sensation.
"World champion sounds really good,” she explained. “It means a lot to know that I can hold my own and do it by myself.”
"I never lost confidence in myself during training and it means a lot to me to be back at this point.”
"I run my best races when I'm relaxed and I can't wait to watch the race back and see how well I executed it but I'm so proud of myself."
The 21-year-old Wimbley was also pleased with her efforts, acknowledging the form of her teammate.
"I just came out there to represent well,” said Wimbley. “It is always great to be the top two and my teammate has just got a gold medal so it is great. I think Okolo is in a good shape and we both ran a good race.
"A silver medal feels great and I am so proud to be a part of this team. This is my first year as a professional – I was looking forward to it and I am expecting a couple of SBs and PBs later on outdoors."
Doyle, at 31 the oldest of the medallists, was the athlete who had been least expected to make the podium given how close she was to not even making the final, and she expressed her delight in securing another medal to add to her collection.
"It was a rollercoaster yesterday thinking I'd gone out and then being put in the final,” she acknowledged. “I knew I had another chance to get a medal and I'm delighted to have done that.
"I was apprehensive as to whether I'd be in the final or not but I thought if I could dig deep and hang on and win a medal I'd be over the moon and I can't believe I've done that.
“I can't ask for anything more than a bronze medal."
Dean Hardman for the IAAF