If there was ever a montage made of the Track and Field event at the Rio 2016 Olympic Games, very few videos would struggle to beat the clip of Shaunae Miller-Uibo diving through the finish line in the women’s 400m race to win her first Olympic medal.
Her winning time of 49.44s, which was a PB for her, might not have sent shivers down the spine of Marita Koch who holds the World Record (WR) in the event. Nevertheless, it must have made spectators wonder why she had to deploy such a method to win a race.
The answer is simple — it was because of the rivalry that had started between herself and Allyson Felix at the World Athletics Championships in Beijing in 2015.
Another school of thought has it that she dove because it would take another four years to get another shot at winning an Olympic GOLD medal. Either ways, the World Championships in London offers us yet another opportunity to re-ignite the intense rivalry between the duo.
Miller-Uibo, who got married to her college sweet heart and Estonian decathlete Maicel Uibo in February, came into the season looking to combine the 200m with the one lap event. She began that quest in an emphatic fashion at the Prefontaine Classic in Eugene as she became the first woman from the Bahamas to run under 22s by breaking her own National Record (NR) of 22.05s, setting a new Bahamian Record of 21.91s.
The Bahamian athlete also kick-started her Diamond League season in the 400m in Shanghai as she stormed to a Season’s Best (SB) of 49.77s to notch her second victory at the Asian city. She also was able to claim victory at the Diamond League in Rabat, though her winning time was 0.03s shy of her SB.
For her counterpart Felix, it has been a bit of a lackluster season, especially in the 200m. The nine-time World Champion came a distant 5th at the Eugene Diamond League in the same race that saw Miller-Uibo come 2nd, as Tori Bowie stormed to a World Lead (WL) of 21.77s. At the US Track and Field Trials in Sacramento, Felix withdrew from the 200m final.
Her less-than-perfect form in the 200m must have informed her decision to focus on the 400m at the World Championships where she already has a bye as the defending champion. The 31-year old athlete however, was able to run an SB and WL of 49.65s at the London Anniversary Games.
Although Miller-Uibo might face the grueling schedule of having to compete in the 200m and 400m (the 400m final comes about 2 1/2 hours after the 200m heats), she would still be bent on getting the 400m GOLD medal to add to her growing list of accolades. Also, a win for her in the event would put her amongst the respected list of athletes to have won GOLD at the Youth, Junior and Senior levels.
Meanwhile, the ‘Smiling Assassin’ as Felix has come to be known over her sixteen years of racing professionally, would be able to count on her experience to see her through.
Other athletes such as Quanera Hayes and Phyllis Francis, both of whom have run under 50s, might yet spring up a surprise, but it’s difficult to see past Felix and Miller-Uibo not finishing Top 2 in London. Whatever the case, viewers are in for yet another epic race in the women’s 400m.