LONDON – American Phyllis Francis won a surprise World Championships 400 meters gold today as Olympic champion Shaunae Miller-Uibo inexplicably stumbled when seemingly certain of victory in an extraordinary finale.
Francis looked out of the medals with 80 meters to go but maintained her form amid the carnage to post a personal best time of 49.92 seconds and take a shock gold that even after crossing the line she had no idea she had won.
Bahrain’s Salwa Eid Naser, 19, claimed a brilliant silver in 50.06, her third national record this week, as defending champion Allyson Felix of the United States faded to get bronze in 50.08.
Bahamian Miller-Uibo, who famously dived over the line to pip Felix to Olympic gold last year, was clear with less than 20 meters left but as she tired and tied up she tripped on her own foot, stumbling almost to a standstill as her rivals stormed past.
It was an incredible finish to a race that had appeared to be going to form for the first 300 meters. Felix looked her usual smooth self despite the sodden track and had made up the stagger on Francis, a lane outside her, by the end of the first bend.
However, she did not come off the final bend with her usual authority and Miller-Uibo surged ahead into the final straight.
The title seemed secure as Felix began to fade further but Miller-Uibo lost her form in the most dramatic style. Her legs seemed to stiffen, perhaps through cramp, and became entangled.
As she virtually stopped running, the fast-finishing Francis, Naser, Felix and fourth-placed Shericka Jackson of Jamaica all went past.
“I am so excited. It is such an amazing feeling, being world champion sounds pretty cool,” said Francis, who finished fifth in the Rio Olympic final but took a gold in the 4 x 400m relay.
Felix’s bronze took her world championship medal haul to 14, matching the record of Jamaican sprinters Usain Bolt and Merlene Ottey. The American’s tally includes nine gold and she could not disguise her frustration at not making it 10 – though she still has the 4x400m relay to come.
“I can’t lie, I’m disappointed to lose one gold tonight but the championships are not over yet so we keep going,” Felix said.
Battered and bruised he may have been but Mo Farah took it all in his long, loping stride as he negotiated the minefield of the 5,000 meters heats in the rain at the World Championships today to set up one final assault on track gold.
Even with three stitches in his spiked left leg and suffering from a bruised left knee, the legacy of his turbulent 10,000 meters triumph on Friday, Britain’s endurance maestro had the quality and nous to qualify easily for Saturday’s final.
Having finished runner-up in his heat in wretched conditions in a modest 13 minutes 30.18 seconds, the 34-year-old now has one race to put the exclamation mark on his extraordinary track career before concentrating on the marathon.
In Saturday’s final, he will be seeking an incredible fifth consecutive 5,000m/10,000m double at global championships.
“The rounds are the hardest part,” Farah said after finishing behind 20-year-old Ethiopian Yomif Kejelcha (13:30.07) in the first heats, easing into one of the five automatic qualifying positions.
“It was cold and miserable out there, but job done. The 10,000m did take a lot out of me but I am okay now. The knee is fine now, just the body is a bit tired but anything is possible.
“It isn’t easy to win the double, we saw that with Usain Bolt. It would’ve been nice to see him win, I was looking forward to that, but it didn’t happen. No-one is going to give it to you no matter who you are.
“It would be pretty amazing and something historic if I could do the double. You can’t take anything for granted. They are coming for me and they are hungry.”
Norway’s Karsten Warholm announced himself as one of the sport’s brightest new powerhouses as he recorded a magnificent gun-to-line triumph to lift the world 400 meters hurdles title in the pouring rain.
The 21-year-old former decathlete demonstrated all the strength he has acquired from competing in the multi-event discipline as he led from the first hurdle and held off his pursuers on the home straight to win in 48.35 seconds.
Still effectively a novice at the “man-killer” event, the youngster clasped his face in disbelief as it dawned that he had beaten Turkey’s European champion Yasmani Copello (48.49) into the silver medal position.
Warholm also spoiled Olympic champion and favourite Kerron Clement’s dream of becoming the first man to win three world titles at the discipline as the 31-year-old American had to settle for bronze in 48.52.
It was the first track victory at any World Championships by a Norwegian since Ingrid Kristiansen’s 10,000 meters triumph in Rome in 1987 and Warholm’s smile of incredulity said it all.
“I truly don’t believe it. I’ve worked so hard for this but I don’t know what I’ve done. This is an amazing feeling,” he told the 55,000-strong crowd after somebody gave him a Viking helmet to wear on his lap of honour.
“I found the helmet in the crowd and it just felt right. I thought it was suitable for the occasion. It is cold and wet like Norway so I guess it suited me!”
Warholm had been touted as one of the bright new faces of global athletics all year, especially after sending his compatriots into raptures at his home Bislett Games in Oslo in June when he triumphed, breaking the national record in 48.25 seconds.
Botswana’s Isaac Makwala reached the 200 meters final against all the odds today, negotiating a solo heat before coming through his semi-final via the difficult inside lane after gaining a reprieve from the IAAF.
South African Wayde van Niekerk, bidding for a double after his 400 meters gold, sneaked into the final as second of the two fastest losers after edging third place in his heat from Christophe Lemaitre by two-hundredths of a second.
Jamaica’s Yohan Blake, double Olympic silver medallist on the same London Stadium track five years ago, failed to qualify after finishing third in his heat in 20.52.
Makwala, one of the leading contenders for a race left wide open by Usain Bolt’s absence, was pulled out of Monday’s heats by the IAAF for medical reasons after he was struck down with a stomach virus.
Having also been barred from Tuesday’s 400 meters final, he was given an unexpected reprieve today when the IAAF said he was fit to run as he no longer considered an infection risk. But he still had a lot to do.
First, he had to run alone in the rain inside 20.53 seconds – the slowest of Monday’s qualifiers – to reach the semi-finals.
Although conditions were much worse than the competitors had in the first round two days ago with the rain teeming down in the London Stadium, Makwala sped round the wet track in 20.20 seconds.
Barely two hours later, he had to run again in the semi-finals where he was given the inside lane, made even more difficult than usual by the accumulation of rain water.
But he still managed to finish second in 20.14 seconds, two-hundredths of a second behind American Isiah Young who was the fastest qualifier.
“I’m still running with my heart broken, I was ready to run the 400, that’s the race I’ve been training for, I don’t run the 200 very often,” Makwala said.
“The crowd was amazing, they helped me to believe.”
Van Niekerk was sprawled on the track after finishing behind Turkey’s Ramil Guliyev (20.17) and American Ameer Webb.
“It was tougher than I thought it would be, (I) had to dig quite deep,” he said.
Blake finished behind Jereem Richards of Trinidad and Tobago and Japan’s Abdul Hakim Sani Brown in his race. Britain’s Nethaneel Mitchell-Blake completed the line-up as the other fastest loser.