In what has been the biggest upset of the 2019 World Championships in Doha, Nigerian-born Bahrain athlete, Salwa Eid Naser produced one of the best performances ever in a women’s 400m final, running the third fastest time in history to win in an astonishing 48.14s.
Many expected the race to be very fast, but not many envisaged it would be that fast, and for Naser to beat the installed favourite, Shaunae Miller-Uibo? It was a shock not anticipated.
Billed as a final that would entertain, it lived up to the hype and spectators all over the world got thrilled watching a race that produced the expected fireworks, as all the top 5 finishers in the race each ran Lifetime Bests.
Coming into the World Championships, Both Miller-Uibo and Naser had the two fastest times in the world, with Season’s Bests (SB) of 49.05s and 49.17s respectively, and with Miller-Uibo running the fastest time in semis clocking 49.66s, she was understandably the favourite.
Miller-Uibo controlled the first 100m running from lane 7, but Naser made a strong move to close in on her just after the 200m. It was a made that paid off as the Bahrain athlete gained a big lead going into the 300m and then stretching it into the home straight.
Not even Miller-Uibo’s long stride overhaul that massive, making a late push to claw it back. It was too late, because even if the race was extended by 20m, Eid Naser would still have won, running with vigour and great intent, not displaying an ounce of tiredness till she crossed the line.
The race was so fast that Miller-Uibo who got the Silver medal, ran a Bahamian Record of 48.37s, the second time in her career that she will be going under 49s. Miller-Uibo last year ran a then Personal Best of 48.97s at the Monaco Diamond League.
Jamaica’s Shericka Jackson also ran a PB of 49.47s to get the Bronze, and the impressive Wadeline Jonathas who had a run PB in the semis, ran another PB, this time joining the sub 50s league to finish 4th in 49.60s Although she might not have finished, Jonathas would be delighted with her outstanding performance, having started this season with a PB of 52.19s. Defending champion, Phyllis Francis also ran a new PB of 49.61s finishing 5th in the race.
Two years ago, Naser finished 2nd in London, and Miller-Uibo stuttered despite having a big lead as she approached the finish line. It laid the framework for 2019, as both athletes had a lot on their sleeves coming to Doha.
Naser has hardly beaten Miller-Uibo, and to do it on the biggest stage would be very gratifying for someone who six years ago was still running at the Secondary School sports championships in Nigeria.
Since moving to Bahrain from Onitsha, Anambra state in South East Nigeria, Naser has grown in leaps and bound since then. It might look 10 months early, but with her performance in Doha, it’s hard seeing beyond Eid-Naser not winning the Olympic title as well in Tokyo.