It’s been a long road back for Bahamian female hurdler Devynne “Sonic” Charlton – battling injuries, inactivity and a pandemic that is in its second year.
It all came full circle for her on Sunday, running faster than she ever has in her life, and solidifying her place among the world’s elite in the women’s 100 meters (m) hurdles.
Charlton suddenly entered the conversation of athletes to watch at this year’s Olympic Games, running a stunning national record of 12.61 seconds at the 62nd Mt. SAC Relays – USATF (USA Track & Field) Golden Games and Distance Open 2021 at Hilmer Lodge Stadium, in Walnut, California, just outside of Los Angeles, yesterday. She was just out-leaned for the bronze medal, just being dipped out by Tobi Amusan of Nigeria. Both ran 12.61 seconds.
One got the feeling that Charlton would run fast after she clocked a season’s best of 12.77 seconds in the heats and qualifies for the final with the fifth-fastest time. Her previous season’s best was 12.84 seconds, which she made twice. Charlton turned it up a notch in the final, giving the pre-race favorites all they could handle and more. She was the early leader, setting the pace of what turned out to be a very fast final. The race produced four of the top 10 times in the world this year.
World record holder Kendra Harrison of the United States matched a season’s best in the final, running 12.48 seconds for the victory. Cindy Sembler, of Great Britain, ran a personal best of 12.53 seconds for second, and Amusan continued a strong 2021 campaign for her, edging Charlton for third.
“I’m still in a li’l disbelief right now because I got the call to compete very late. Friday morning, I was on a flight out,” said Charlton from Southern
California yesterday. “I didn’t feel like I had that much time mentally to prepare but I’m a competitor and any opportunity that I get to come out and race against the best, I’ll take it. It’s a sweet feeling because I wasn’t too sure of myself going into this race. It felt pretty good. I was just running very technical and under control in the heats and just trying to make it to the final. I knew that once I cut loose in the final, I would lower the time. I felt like I was leading the race, or at least second, for most of it, and just kind of lost it at the end. My finish is never my strong suit but it’s definitely getting a whole lot better. I believe once I clean that up, the sky is the limit. If I could lead the best in the world for eight hurdles, then it’s all about finishing with them. I just have to go back to the drawing board – get some more work in and definitely perfect my finish.”
American world silver medalist in the 400m hurdles Sydney McLaughlin switched to the shorter race yesterday, and ran a personal best of 12.65 seconds for fifth. Sembler’s sister, Tiffany Porter, ran 12.69 seconds for sixth. All six ladies went under the qualifying time for the rapidly approaching Tokyo Olympic Games.
The Olympics, set for July 23 to August 8, in Tokyo, Japan, is set to be held under strict guidelines and protocols due to the ever-present nature of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Bahamian female sprinters Shaunae Miller-Uibo and Tynia Gaither were also set to compete yesterday, but according to reports, both pulled out.
As for Charlton, she appears to be in the best shape of her life, and it couldn’t have come at a better time, with the Olympics just two and a half months away. Going into the race yesterday, her personal best time was 12.70 seconds, done at the LSU (Louisiana State University) Battle on the Bayou in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, three years ago.
Running out of lane three in the women’s 100m hurdles final yesterday, Charlton got out extremely fast, exploding out of the blocks, and appeared to still be in the lead at the seventh hurdle but Harrison, Sembler and Amusan were charging. They caught up to her, but Charlton maintained her form and ran through the finish line in 12.61 seconds, breaking Pedrya Seymour’s national record of 12.64 seconds, which she ran in the semifinals of that event at the 2016 Olympics in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. Seymour finished sixth in the Olympic final that year, becoming the first Bahamian to run in a final for any hurdles event at the Olympics.
Now, The Bahamas has two women qualified for the Olympics in the short hurdles, and both Charlton and Seymour have realistic shots of making the final in Tokyo, and even taking it a step further and winning a medal or two.
“I’m definitely looking forward to the Olympics and seeing how I stack up against the best in the world. I could be in the final – I could be on the podium. I’m just extremely excited and can’t wait,” said Charlton.
The heats of the women’s 100m hurdles at the Olympics is set for the morning of July 31. The semifinals are set for the evening of August 1, and the final will be held on August 2.