It seems like there will be no change to the schedule for the athletics portion of the Tokyo Olympic Games, meaning Bahamian superstar athlete Shaunae Miller-Uibo will again have to choose between the 200 and 400 meters (m) in her quest for gold. If she remains healthy, she is a heavy favorite for the title in both events at next year’s Olympics.
Miller-Uibo has said repeatedly that the longer race is her favored event and she usually chooses that race when forced to pick between the two, but recent revelations suggest that may not be the case, come 2021. The postponed Olympics is set for July 23 to August 8, 2021, in Tokyo, Japan.
Miller-Uibo chose the 400m at last year’s world championships in Doha, Qatar, and despite running a stunning area record of 48.37 seconds, listing her as the sixth-fastest in history, she was beaten to the tape by the petite but powerful Salwa Eid Naser, of Bahrain, who now faces a provisional suspension after a ruling by the Athletics Integrity Unit (AIU), which functions independently of World Athletics (WA), for “whereabouts failure”. Naser ran the third-fastest time in history in Doha, 48.14 seconds, but could possibly see that performance rescinded and her world title taken away depending on the outcome of the “whereabouts failure” case.
It can be argued that, had Miller-Uibo chosen the 200m in Doha, she very well could have come out victorious. She was the world leader in the women’s 200m for 2019, and defeated eventual world champion Dina Asher-Smith, of Great Britain, both times they faced each other in 2019.
Now, it appears the 2021 Olympics could be Miller-Uibo’s moment for the 200m.
“As it is now, the schedule isn’t set up for me to do two events, so I would have to choose one event and we’re leaning more toward the 200 meters seeing that we already have the 400 meters title,” she revealed. “We wanted to do both – I wanted to go after the 200 meters title and also wanted to defend my 400 meters title, but the way the schedule is set up, it would be difficult to do both. It’s been that way for a few years now. When they didn’t change the schedule, we had to make some decisions and right now, we’re leaning toward the 200. Nothing is finalized as yet, but that’s the way it is right now.”
Despite making requests to have the schedule changed in her favor to go after the double, nothing has been done as it relates to that. As it stands now, the heats of the women’s 400m and the final of the women’s 200m are on the same day, making it virtually impossible for Miller-Uibo to successfully do both events.
Miller-Uibo said she is disappointed that her requests have not been approved, particularly since it was done in the past for other athletes – more notably former double world record holder Michael Johnson of the United States, Marie-José Pérec of France, and most recently Allyson Felix of the United States. The attempt for Felix didn’t pan out, as she failed to make the United States’ team for that event by a hundredth of a second. Also, at the Rio de Janeiro Olympics in 2016, Miller-Uibo’s last-minute request to do both events was ignored by team management when she was not entered for the heats of the 200m. She went on to win the 400m title in one of the more memorable races of the games, falling across the finish line to beat Felix.
To date, Johnson and Pérec are the only athletes to ever successfully win both the 200 and 400m at a single Olympics – both accomplishing the feat in Atlanta, Georgia, in 1996.
“We understand that the Olympic schedule is a very complicated one, but exceptions have been made in the past where the schedule was changed to accommodate an athlete or two and we’re simply asking for the same treatment,” said Bahamas Olympic Committee (BOC) President Romell Knowles. “We have made an appeal to have the schedule changed. We’ve not received a positive response as yet, but we remain hopeful that they would take another look at it because it means so much to us and it means so much to Shaunae Miller-Uibo. To come from such a small island and to get an opportunity to be among the best in the world in both the 200 and 400 meters is just phenomenal. The precedence has already been set and we would just like to be given that opportunity. It means so much to a little country like ours that has produced such great athletes.”
Miller-Uibo said she’s just taking everything in stride – still working out and training on a regular basis, in the face of COVID-19. With facilities recently opening up, she is able to get back on the track and put in the work in preparation for the remainder of the year and heading into 2021. Until that time, she was forced to work out at home and on grass by nearby parks.
“It’s been tough but I’m not complaining about it,” she said. “I’m thankful for the access that I had to the parks where I could go on the grass fields and still do some training. I’m just trying to stay in shape the best way that I could. Now that the track is open again, I could get back on the track and try to maintain fitness. The schedule is still a bit messed up, but for now, we’re just going with the flow,” she added.
It remains to be seen if the BOC will further appeal on behalf on Miller-Uibo to have the schedule changed for the athletics portion of the 2021 Olympics and whether or not the International Olympic Committee (IOC) in conjunction with The Organizing Committee Of the Games (TOCOG) will grant the request.
If the schedule remains unchanged, the world may see Miller-Uibo running just the 200m at the Olympics next year in Tokyo. It would be her first time contesting that event at the Olympics.