DOHA, Qatar ‑ Shaunae Miller-Uibo was not rattled at all by Jamaican Shericka Jackson setting a fast pace in their semifinal heat of the women’s 400 meters (m) on Tuesday, and just focused on her race. She circled the track in majestic form and stopped the clock in 49.66 seconds to win the heat and qualify for the final.
The Bahamian world leader and national record holder will go into Thursday’s final as the fastest qualifier out of the semis, as the 17th International Association of Athletics Federations’ (IAAF) World Championships continue at the Khalifa International Stadium in Doha, Qatar.
Jackson was still in the lead at the 300m mark but faded on the home stretch. Miller-Uibo passed her and cruised to victory. A charging Wadeline Jonathas, from the United States, also eventually passed Jackson, finishing second in a season’s best time of 50.07 seconds. Jackson, who was third behind American Allyson Felix and Miller-Uibo at both the 2015 Beijing World Championships and the 2016 Rio de Janeiro Olympics, settled for third in 50.10 seconds, but advanced to the final based on time.
“I just wanted to go out there and get through it as easy as I can,” said Miller-Uibo yesterday. “I realized Shericka really got out there but my goal was just to stay relaxed and come home strong. I was focusing on my lane. I’m confident in my shape right now and my ability. I knew I was going to be able to come home strong. I’m really excited and really looking forward to the final. I wasn’t expecting that time, but I’m really happy with it. Right now, I’m just going to relax a bit and get ready for the final.
Salwa Eid Naser, of Bahrain, who has been Miller-Uibo’s chief rival in the women’s 200m over the past two seasons, won the first of three semifinals heats yesterday and qualified for the final with the second-fastest time. She ran 49.79 seconds.
Jonathas has the third-fastest time going into the semis, and Jackson the fourth. Defending champion Phyllis Francis, of the United States, was second behind Naser in her semifinal heat, and qualified for the final with the fifth-fastest time. She ran 50.22 seconds.
Jamaican Stephenia Ann McPheson, Justyna Swiety-Ersetic, of Poland, and her Polish teammate Iga Baumgart-Witan complete the eight finalists.
“There are going to be eight ladies out there and you can’t sleep on anybody,” said Miller-Uibo. “I know everybody will come out hungry, so my main goal is to go out there and just run my race and try to come home with the win. I’m going to give it my all in the final and I’m looking for the best possible result. I’m looking to go out there and get the title. Hopefully, I could get it.”
Miller-Uibo is the world leader at 49.05 seconds and is the only one in the field to ever run under 49 seconds with her national record setting run of 48.97 seconds at the Monaco Diamond League Meet last year.
She hasn’t lost a race, in any one of her events, in over two years, dating back to the Birmingham Diamond League in 2017.
The graceful Bahamian Olympic champion says she feels fantastic and is ready to go after gold in the final. A world championships title is just about the only title to elude her in her illustrious career. She has won an Olympic title, four Diamond League titles, and just about every gold medal in her junior career. Now, the 26-year-old Bahamian sprinter is going after gold at the world championships, and says she feels like she is in the best shape of her life.
“I feel great. It really didn’t feel like a 49.6 out there today so I guess that shows that I am in really good shape. I was just glad to see how things turned out and I’m looking forward to the final,” she said.
Miller-Uibo 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.
She has improved her personal best time in three of the past five seasons, climaxed with a national record run of 48.97 seconds in Fontvieille, Monaco, last year. She said she’s not focused on time here in Doha, adding that as long as she wins the gold medal, she would be content.
The women’s 400m final is set for 11:50 p.m. Thursday in Doha, 4:50 p.m. back in The Bahamas.