Against all expectations, Phyllis Francis stunned a stacked field at the Olympic Stadium, storming to a Personal Best (PB) of 49.92s to win the women’s 400m title at the World Championships in London.
It was not the kind of finale many had anticipated, as both Olympic Champion Shaunae Miller-Uibo and defending champion Allyson Felix were tipped as the favourites and expected to recreate a rematch of that spectacular race in Rio last year.
Miller-Uibo was comfortably in the lead in the last 30m, but the pressure got to her as she clipped her right leg and lost momentum, allowing her other competitors to close in.
However, it was not Felix who took advantage, but a rejuvenated Francis who out-ran others to take the win ahead of both Felix and Nigerian-born Bahrain athlete Salwa Eid Naser.
Even Felix was caught on the line by Naser who out-dipped her to take Silver in 50.06s, which is a new Bahrainian Record. Felix finished 3rd in 50.08s.
An overjoyed Francis said: “It is amazing. I am so excited. It is such an amazing feeling. Being World Champion sounds pretty cool. This win has not hit me yet, but I guess tomorrow when I will wake up.
“Allyson and Shaunae are amazing finishers, we are that talented. When I went down the home straight I just believed in myself and stayed patient. I just knew what I was capable of doing, so I stuck to my race model.
“At the finish line I was surprised, I thought I was second or third, but then they told me ‘you are first’. That is crazy.”
Felix who was disappointed at not defending her title said: “I cannot lie, I am disappointed to lose one GOLD tonight, but the championships is not over yet so we keep going. But this was the race that mattered to me, the individual race, that is what it is about. So to come up short tonight is never fun. But I am happy for my team mate. At this level, you cannot underestimate anyone”.
She added: “I am not hurt, it is just the 400m, it is what it is. The conditions were the same for everyone, I am not sure if that was the factor tonight. It all seems wet to me. I still feel it is not over yet. I still did not give everything so I am excited to keep going until 2020.”
In what was another surprise win on the night, Karsten Warholm became the first Norwegian athlete to win the men’s 400m Hurdles, storming through the barriers with a time of 48.35s.
Immediately Warholm went into the lead, he did not wilt under pressure as he held his own over a strong field to win. Turkey’s Yasmani Copello finished 2nd in 48.49s, with Kerron Clement finishing 3rd in 48.52s.
Warholm, who could not believe his good fortune, had this to say: “Thank you, London! I truly don’t believe it. I’ve worked so hard for this but I don’t know what I have done. This is an amazing feeling. I’m world champion, that’s crazy.
“A lot of hard work and dedication has got me here so thank you to my coach for getting me in a position to challenge for a world title. I got out well and managed to hold it really well. I’m so proud of my performance. I hope people back in Norway are as happy as I am.”