DOHA, Qatar – Shaunae Miller-Uibo gave it her all last night, and that was evident by the stunning area record that she ran, but the miniature but powerful Salwa Eid Naser, of Bahrain, literally ran the race of her life, dropping jaws along the way.
Miller-Uibo’s chief rival over the past two years blazed to victory in a world-leading 48.14 seconds, the third-fastest time in history and the fastest time in the world in 34 years.
It was the race of a lifetime, expected by no one inside the Khalifa International Stadium at the 17th International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF) World Championships in Doha, Qatar, on Thursday night.
Miller-Uibo was fantastic in defeat, running an area record, national record and personal best time of 48.37 seconds, making her the sixth-fastest of all-time, but with her out in lane seven and Naser sneaking up behind her from lane five and powering to the lead by the 300m mark, there was little the Bahamian Olympic Champion and four-time Diamond League Champion could do.
Miller-Uibo charged hard on the home stretch, but Naser’s lead was too insurmountable to overcome.
Jamaican Shericka Jackson was third in a personal best time of 49.47 seconds. American Wadeline Jonathas finished fourth in 49.60 seconds, and defending champion Phyllis Francis rounded out the top five in 49.61 seconds as the top five all went under 50 seconds and all five ran personal best times.
For Miller-Uibo, it was her first loss in over two years, but she said she’s happy with the silver, and coincidentally, it came on the same night her husband won silver as well.
Maicel Uibo relinquished the lead in the final event of the men’s decathlon, but finished with the silver medal, scoring a personal best of 8,604 points.
“It was a very competitive race and I can’t be disappointed with that. I saw her coming off the curve but we were sticking to the race model. I came in with the intention of dropping a 48-low and I did just that. I can’t be disappointed with that at all,” said Miller-Uibo.
Miller-Uibo and her team devised a race strategy to have her at the top of the podium at the end of the night. Up until the 200m mark, it appeared that that strategy was working to perfection. However, that’s when Naser shifted into another gear and didn’t tire out like most expected she would, especially after running two rounds of the mixed relay and two rounds of the women’s 400m going into last night. Naser maintained her speed and form into the home stretch and onto the finish line.
Miller-Uibo was looking to win her first ever world championships gold medal, and bring home another global gold to The Bahamas. She even tried something different with her hairstyle, going with the Bahamian colors, that she hoped would be flying high in victory.
At the end of the night, it just wasn’t to be. Running out of lane seven, the same lane where she won the Olympic title three years ago, Miller-Uibo didn’t see Naser until around the 250m mark when the petite Bahraini pulled up alongside of her. Still, she stuck to her race plan and tried to finish strong. Coming on to the home stretch, Naser was just out too far ahead and wasn’t going to be caught.
“I didn’t panic,” said Miller-Uibo when asked about her reaction when Naser pulled alongside her. “I figured it was probably going to happen, but the main thing was just trying to stick to the race model. It was a really big run and to finish off with a PR (personal best time) like that, that’s pretty huge. It was a great performance and I can’t be disappointed. To take home the silver, I’m happy with it. It was a great season overall.”
At the end of the night, Naser’s fantastic sprint around the track was totally unexpected. Going into the race, Miller-Uibo was the only athlete in the field who had run under 49 seconds with her run of 48.97 seconds at the Monaco Diamond League Meet last year. If she had been told prior to the race that she would have gone more than half of a second faster here in Doha, she likely would have taken it. All credit must be given to Naser who was just on another level. Her victory ended a winning streak by Miller-Uibo that stretched for more than two years – ever since the Birmingham Diamond League Meet in 2017.
Prior to that stunning race, Miller-Uibo had won seven straight races in the women’s 400 meters, and 26 straight in all of her events overall.
One can only wonder now if she regrets not competing in the women’s 200m here in Doha as opposed to the 400m. She would have been a heavy favorite for the gold in either one.
A world championships title is just about the only title to elude Miller-Uibo in her illustrious career. She has won an Olympic title, four Diamond League titles and just about every gold medal in her junior career. She was also the favorite for the women’s 400m title at the last word championships in London, England, but stumbled in the final 50 meters of the race and was passed by three competitors. She settled for fourth, and later came back and won bronze in the 200m.
Her silver medal here in Doha is her second in the women’s 400m at the world championships. She also won silver behind American Allyson Felix in 2015 in Beijing, China.
Miller-Uibo said she’s taking everything in stride, will wind down her season and then start preparing for next year. She is expected to once again be one of the favorites when the Olympics roll around next year in Tokyo, Japan.
For now, she he is content with the silver medal, and at just 25-years-old, she has a long way to go in world athletics.