Shaunae, Steven set to run in Shanghai
SHANGHAI, China – The Bahamas’ two biggest stars in athletics are about to hit the track, as the 2018 IAAF Diamond League Shanghai gets underway today in Shanghai, China.
Shaunae Miller-Uibo and Steven Gardiner are among the world’s elite athletes and are both looking to have record-breaking years. The latter has already gotten off to a blazing start, shattering the national record in the men’s 200 meters (m) at the Miami Hurricane Alumni Invitational, and lowering his own national record in the men’s 400m at the Diamond League opener in Doha, Qatar, last week. The new national records stand at 19.75 seconds and 43.87 seconds respectively, placing Gardiner in the top 15 in the world in the history of athletics in both disciplines.
The Bahamian phenom said that he just wants to go out there and have some fun while running, and hopefully put down some very fast times in the process. He will run in the men’s 400m at Shanghai Stadium at 7:35 p.m. tonight, 7:35 a.m. back in The Bahamas.
“I feel amazing. I feel like this is my second best year so far. Last year was my first because I finally made a final and won a medal. This year I feel so much better about everything. I just want to go out there and do my thing on the track,” said Gardiner. “This is an off year, but I just want to go out there and have some fun. There’s no pressure. I just want to go out there and do what I do in practice.”
After breaking the national record for the first time at the 2015 Bahamas Association of Athletic Associations’ (BAAA) National Championships, Gardiner has lowered it three more times since. He ran under 44 seconds for the first time at last year’s world championships in London, England, winning his semifinal heat in 43.89 seconds. Gardiner went on to win the silver medal in the final behind world record holder Wayde van Niekerk of South Africa.
With van Niekerk sidelined with a knee injury, this could be the year for Gardiner to rise to the top of the men’s 400m. He’s already gotten off to his fastest start ever, splitting time between the 200m and 400m. The Shanghai Diamond League meeting record is certainly within reach – a time of 44.02 seconds shared by American Jeremy Wariner and Kirani James of Grenada.
“I’m really focusing on both the 200(m) and 400m this year,” said Gardiner. “I just want to go out there and win. If I could get a meet record to go along with it, then that’s money in the bag.
“With Wayde being out, that’s kind of sad because I always like stiff competition. I always just go out there and focus on my lane in any event, and don’t worry about anything else.”
As for Miller-Uibo, she confirmed that she’s focusing more on the 200m this year, and looking to go under her national record time of 21.88 seconds that she ran in the Diamond League final in Zurich, Switzerland. In Zurich, Miller-Uibo blazed past Marie-Josee Ta Lou of the Ivory Coast, Dafne Schippers of the Netherlands and Jamaican Elaine Thompson for her first Diamond League title. A week later, she won the IAAF Diamond League title in the women’s 400m in Brussels, Belgium, running her second best time ever, 49.46 seconds, which was also a world-lead for 2017.
“I feel great – just getting my mind ready and my mindset ready. I’m just getting ready to compete,” she said. “Every time that I step on the track, I’m not just focused on the top ones, but all of the others that line up against me. It’s going to be a competitive group of girls, and I’m excited to see what I could do tomorrow (today).
“I want to progress each year, so I’m definitely looking for another PR (personal best) this year. Everything is looking good, and I’m ready to run to see what I could do. Once I’m healthy, I think we will see a good time.”
Just last month, Miller-Uibo won the Commonwealth Games title in the Gold Coast, Australia, in a games record of 22.09 seconds, erasing Debbie Ferguson-McKenzie’s former mark of 22.20 seconds. Miller-Uibo said that she just wants to remain healthy, and once she does that, she’s confident that she will continue to perform well.
Speaking after the pre-event press conference on Friday, Schippers had nothing but high praise for Miller-Uibo.
“I think she’s in really good shape. She did the Commonwealth Games and she did a really good time. She’s a good competitor and I like to compete against her. That’s why I train – to run fast races with other girls. I’m looking forward to it,” said Schippers.
Schippers and Ta Lou are both entered in the women’s 200m here in Shanghai, setting up a race between the top three finishers from the London World Championships. Schippers won gold – her second straight world title in the women’s 200m, Ta Lou settled for silver, and Miller-Uibo won the bronze. In the Diamond League final, Miller-Uibo won, followed by double Olympic sprint champion Thompson, Ta Lou and Schippers, in that order. Thompson was also entered in the women’s 200m here in Shanghai, but withdrew at the last minute.
The women’s 200m at the IAAF Diamond League Shanghai is set for 8:14 p.m. tonight, 8:14 a.m. back in The Bahamas. The meet record is a modest 22.36 seconds, ran by Blessing Okagbare-Ighoteguonor, of Nigeria, in 2014.
With this being an off year, in terms of world outdoor championships and the Olympics, both Miller-Uibo and Gardiner said that they both just want to take it easy and continue to develop. Both have long-term goals of performing well at the 2019 World Championships in Doha, Qatar, and the 2020 Olympics in Tokyo, Japan, and both are looking to duplicate their podium success from London.
Miller-Uibo is also the Olympic Champion in the women’s 400m, setting her lifetime best of 49.44 seconds in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, in 2016.
Both Miller-Uibo and Gardiner said that they just want to thank the Bahamian people for their continued support, and are asking Bahamians to stay with them as they march toward Doha in 2019 and Tokyo in 2020.
The 2018 Diamond League Shanghai is the second stop on the International Association of Athletics Federations’ (IAAF) Diamond League Tour for 2018.
The Diamond League meets compose the top tier of the IAAF’s global one-day meeting competition structure and are spread across four continents – Asia, Europe, Africa and North America.
Athletes earn points in the first 12 meetings on the road to the final. At the two final meetings, held in Zurich and Brussels on consecutive days this year, $100,000 will be at stake in each of the 32 Diamond disciplines, including $50,000 for each winner.
Miller-Uibo was the only athlete to cart off two Diamond League titles last year.