TOKYO, Japan ‑ Shaunae Miller-Uibo meant business on Friday! No leg injury, or fatigue from running both the 200 and 400 meters (m) at these Tokyo Olympic Games, was going to stop her.
The Bahamian superstar track and field athlete ran a new area record of 48.36 seconds in the women’s 400m at the Japan National Stadium in Tokyo, Japan, on Friday, obliterating the field and taking home her second consecutive Olympic title in that event.
It’s the first time that a woman has repeated as Olympic Champion in the women’s 400m since Marie-José Pérec, of France, in Atlanta, Georgia, in 1996, and Miller-Uibo also joined Pérec as the only woman in history to win multiple Olympic titles in the women’s 400m.
Not only that, but for the first time in history, The Bahamas has won two individual gold medals at the Olympics, both gold medals in the men and women’s 400m, and both in convincing fashion.
Miller-Uibo won by nearly a full second over second-place finisher Marileidy Paulino, of the Dominican Republic, who stopped the clock in a national record time of 49.20 seconds. The grand dame of athletics, the legendary Allyson Felix of the United States, continued her storied career with bronze. She stopped the clock in a season’s best time of 49.46 seconds.
Miller-Uibo is the only Bahamian to ever win two individual gold medals at the Olympics, and her golden run on Friday came about 15 minutes after Steven Gardiner received his gold medal for his 400m trot the night before.
An elated and relieved Miller-Uibo said she’s living a dream and is thankful to everyone who continues to make it possible and support her.
“I just give God all the thanks and praise. I truly believe that He came down and ran this race for me,” she said. “Just to be out there and finish the race and come out on top is truly a blessing.”
In running the lifetime best, Miller-Uibo remains the sixth-fastest woman in history in the women’s 400m. Apart from her husband Maicel who competed in the men’s decathlon for Estonia, and teammates and team officials, she was unable to celebrate with close family members and friends because of stipulations on these Olympics as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. However, she got a pleasant surprise when trackside officials hooked up a Skpe call with parents Shaun Sr. and Mabeline and siblings.
“They were praying so hard for me and they are so proud of me. To be able to come out here and represent the family is a great feeling,” she said.
At 27, Miller-Uibo is still young and could realistically go after a third straight Olympic title in the women’s 400m which would be unheard of. It’s never been done, and could be one of the more talked about subjects leading up to the 2024 Olympic Games in Paris, France. Taking part in a heptathlon event in the not-too-distant future is still on the agenda as well.
“I’m just taking everything one step at a time,” she said. “We’ll see how things go. Taking part in a heptathlon is something that is definitely in mind.”
For now, Miller-Uibo is just reveling in what she has accomplished so far. Gardiner, one of her biggest supporters and friends, was trackside to greet her.
“I’m so happy for her. She deserves this,” he said. “I knew she would do this. She was completely focused. I called her earlier and wished her well and you could tell how focused she was. I’m just overjoyed and looking forward to celebrating with her.”
Miller-Uibo topped her national and area record on Friday night by one, one hundredth of a second. Running out of lane seven, she ran a controlled race, not overreacting when others sprung from their starting blocks like they were shot out of cannons.
Miller-Uibo paced herself down the back stretch and by the second curve, she was in full command of the race. She came off the second bend at least two to three strides ahead of everyone else. By that point, it was all over as Miller-Uibo is one of the fastest finishers in the world in the half-lap and one-lap events and no one was catching her.
“Around 50 meters to go, I took a small glance at the screen and I saw that I cleared the field, and from there I knew that I had it wrapped,” she said. “This time I finished standing up,” she added with a laugh. “I’ll take it. I’m very happy with it – new area record. I’m very grateful. I couldn’t be happier.”
Regarding her standing up, Miller-Uibo was referencing the 2016 title when she became known for falling across the finish line to edge Felix. It was one of the more talked about topics of the 2016 Olympics.
This time, Miller-Uibo’s double attempt with the 200 and 400m, and her nagging injuries, hogged headlines. They were the focal points of most of the conversations on her. She said a twitch in her hamstring forced her to shut it down in the final of the women’s 200m.
“We’ve been going through so much these past few days. My coach just told me to suck it up tonight, go in with the right mindset and go in to conquer it and that is what I did,” she said. “I was able to pull it off and I’m just so thankful. It was all about running through the pain. To be able to take home the gold medal is truly a blessing.
“I believe the 200-400 double is a wrap for me right now. They can’t seem to ever make the schedule conducive for it. In this sport, everything surrounds the 100 and the 200, so I think that is going to be our last time attempting it, but it was a good run.”
Running six races over the course of five days, at one point five races in three days, Miller-Uibo said she’s glad and relieved over and is now looking forward to coming home and celebrating with the Bahamian people.
“I just thank you guys so much for all the support. I know that you are celebrating and I can’t wait to come home and celebrate with you guys,” she said.
The Bahamian superstar admitted to being physically drained with the amount of work that she put in over the past week.
Despite nagging injuries, she was spectacular through the rounds of both the 200 and 400m, advancing to the final of both events and culminating these Olympics for herself, and Team Bahamas, with a gorgeous gold medal winning run on Friday.