DOHA, Qatar ‑ Shaunae Miller-Uibo is in fantastic shape and she proved it on Monday, cruising to an opening round win in the women’s 400 meters (m) and putting herself in great position to go after just about the only title to elude her during her athletics career.
Miller-Uibo jogged the last 50 meters, finishing in 51.30 seconds at the Khalifa International Stadium at the 17th International Association of Athletics Federations’ (IAAF) World Championships in Doha, Qatar, yesterday.
The Bahamian Olympic Champion said she just wanted to get a feel for the track and get in race condition, having not run in over a month. Her last action on the track, prior to yesterday, was at the IAAF Diamond League Final at the end of August in Zurich, Switzerland, where she won her third consecutive Diamond League title in the women’s 200m, and fourth in total.
“I just wanted to go out there, get through to the semis, and then move on to the final,” she said. “I haven’t raced in a while so I was excited to get back out there, but today it was all about moving through the rounds and taking things as they come.
“I’m in great shape and ready to put down some good times. It was good to go out there and get a feel of the track. I’m real excited about what’s to come.”
Finishing second in Miller-Uibo’s heat was Deborah Sananes, of France, in 51.76 seconds. Mary Moraa, of Kenya, crossed the finish line in third place in 51.85 seconds.
Overall, Miller-Uibo is the ninth-fastest qualifier for the semifinals, but has the world lead of 49.05 seconds and is the only athlete in the field to run under 49 seconds in her career. She is the overwhelming favorite for the gold medal .
American Wadeline Jonathas qualified for the semis with the fastest time, winning her opening round heat in 50.57 seconds. Galefele Moroko, of Botswana, was the second-fastest qualifier for the semis, running a personal best of 50.59 seconds, Salwa Eid Naser, of Bahrain, qualified as the third-fastest in 50.74 seconds. Defending Champion Phyllis Francis, of the United States, is the fourth-fastest qualifier, finishing in 50.77 seconds.
Miller-Uibo’s main competition is expected to come from Naser, but having ran two rounds of the mixed relay, it’s uncertain what kind of condition Naser will be in after running four 400m races.
Miller-Uibo has won just about every athletics title in her career with the exception of a world title. This is the one she really wants. She said she has been training hard year-round for this moment and is ready to take full advantage of it.
“I’ve been waiting for a few weeks to get back on the track,” said Miller-Uibo. “To finally get out there and be able to compete was a great feeling. I was real excited about getting back on the track. This means a whole lot to me. I’ve worked really hard this year, and we’re here. Everything has been falling into place, and now I’m just looking forward to going out there and competing. I’m really happy and I hope I could take the title home this time round.”
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 focussed on time here in Doha, adding that as long as she wins the gold medal, she would be content.
“I’m not looking at the time. As long as I win, I’ll be happy. To me, it’s all about going out there, doing my best, and getting the title right now,” she said.
The women’s 400m semifinals will be held at 8:50 p.m. today in Doha, 1:50 p.m. back in The Bahamas. Miller-Uibo hasn’t lost a race in more than two years, and has every intention of continuing that streak in Doha today.