The women’s 400m final is expected to be one of the highlights of Day 4 of Track and Field at the Rio Olympic Games even as the main actors all booked their spots for the showdown during the semis on Sunday, August 14.
USA’s Phyllis Francis was the woman to beat in Heat 1, taking the lead from Bahrain’s Oluwakemi Adekoya to coast home in 50.31s. Commonwealth Champion Stephenie Ann McPherson crossed the finishing line in 2nd (50.69s) to take the second automatic slot.
Olha Zemlyak of Ukraine set a Personal Best (PB) of 50.75s to take one of the fastest losers slots ahead of World Indoor Champion Adekoya who was 4th in 50.88s, while former Olympic Champion Christine Ohuruogu followed in 51.22s. Nigeria’s Margaret Bamgbose finished 7th in a time of 51.92s.
Beijing 2015 Bronze medallist Shericka Jackson was stunned to realize that she had raced to a PB of 49.83s to overtake Natasha Hastings (49.90s) just before the finishing line to win Heat 2 of the semis. Bahrain’s Salwa Eid Naser was inspired to race to her second PB of the Games, clocking 50.88s, which incidentally, was the same time run by teammate Adekoya.
Both Nigerian-born athletes however missed out on the fastest losers position after Italy’s Libania Grenot (50.60s) finished 3rd in Heat 3, which was the fastest overall heat, denying Christine Day a shot at the final.
This is not surprising, considering that two fastest women in the world this year, Shaunae Miller and Allyson Felix were facing each other for the first time this year, and would each want to prove a point having last met at the 2015 World Championships where Felix took GOLD, with the Bahamian settling for Silver.
Felix took the lead once again with a Season’s Best (SB) of 49.67s, with the Miller following in 49.91s. The two African athletes in action, Kabange Mupopo and Nigeria’s Patience Okon-George finished 7th and 8th, clocking 52.04s and 52.52s respectively.
Felix would be hoping to add the Olympic 400m title to her World Championships GOLD having failed in her quest to do the 200m/400m double in Rio.
Miller came to the Games as the World Leader and would be aiming to demonstrate that she has come of age by winning a global title at senior level.