That’s the best way to describe it after Steven Gardiner ran to a new national record in the men’s 400 meters (m) finals at the Khalifa International Stadium in Doha, Qatar, on Friday night. With his victory, Gardiner became The Bahamas’ second world champion in that event behind Avard Moncur (2001 in Edmonton, Canada), The Bahamas’ first gold medalist at these world championships and the sixth-fastest man of all time.
With the weight of an entire nation on his shoulders, particularly his home island of Abaco that was ravaged by Hurricane Dorian at the beginning of September, Gardiner ran 43.48 seconds, ending The Bahamas’ participation at the 17th International Association of Athletics Federations’ (IAAF) World Championships on a strong note.
The Abaco native said all along that wanted to go out there and represent that island well, and by extension, represent the entire Bahamas well at these world championships. His victory today brought joy, healing and a semblance of relief to Bahamians, particularly those who were affected by the deadly hurricane, if only for a moment.
Pan Am Games Champion Anthony Zambrano, of Colombia, finished a distant second behind Gardiner, running an area record and national record time of 44.15 seconds. American Fred Kerley was third in 44.17 seconds.
The Caribbean representation was strong. Jamaican Demish Gaye finished fifth in a personal best time of 44.46 seconds, former World and Olympic Champion Kirani James, of Grenada, was fifth in 44.54 seconds, and the other two Caribbean athletes, Machel Cedenio, of Trinidad & Tobago, and Jamaican Akeem Bloomfield were seventh and eighth respectively.
For Gardiner, it’s his second medal at the world championships after winning silver in London, England, two years ago, but his first global gold medal and it came a night after his close friend and fellow national record holder Shaunae Miller-Uibo ran a lifetime best in the women’s 400m for second.
Miller-Uibo was expected to win the gold while Gardiner was not. At the end of the day, the reverse proved to be true.
Overall, gold and silver at the Doha World Championships is special for The Bahamas.
It’s the eighth world championship in which The Bahamas has won at least two medals, the eighth gold for The Bahamas in world championships history and the 25th medal in total for The Bahamas at the world championships.
With Gardiner and Miller-Uibo, The Bahamas will go into the 2020 Olympics in Tokyo, Japan, with two of the finest quarter-miles, in their respective genders, in the world.
The thought now realistically surfaces of whether or not both could challenge world records that once seemed untouchable. Both are the sixth-fastest of all-time in the 400m in their respective genders.
Gardiner is less than a half of second off of South African Wayde van Niekerk’s world record of 43.03 seconds that he ran at the 2016 Olympics in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, and with her area and national record of 48.37 seconds on Thursday night, Miller-Uibo is now creeping up to the 47-second range. The women’s world record is 47.60 seconds, set by Marita Koch, of the former German Democratic Republic, in 1985.
The sky is the limit for both.