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World Athletics denies Shaunae’s request

According to Yahoo! Sports, World Athletics has reviewed the request from Shaunae Miller-Uibo for a schedule change for next year’s Olympics and could not grant the request. It stated that the decision is final.

All that means is that for the first time in her Olympic career, the Bahamian superstar athlete will contest the women’s 200 meters (m) at the Olympics. She will not defend her 400m title, unless, of course, she changes her mind.

As it is set up right now, the two events cross in the middle of the track segment of the games with the 400m first round taking place in the morning session, and the 200m final in the evening – about 12 hours apart. World Athletics has stated that that would be the best case scenario given the nature of other events – particularly as it relates to the introduction of the mixed 4x400m relay.

Miller-Uibo has stated that more would have to be done to accommodate a 200-400 double at the Olympics. With the revised schedule not yet announced, given the postponement of the games due to the novel coronavirus pandemic, there is a glimmer of hope that a schedule change may occur, but given World Athletics’ statement on Miller-Uibo’s request, it appears that a change is unlikely. Be that as it may, the Bahamas Olympic Committee (BOC) has said it will continue to beckon on Miller-Uibo’s behalf.

The Olympic schedule has been altered in the past to accommodate a 200m-400m double attempt, particularly for Americans Michael Johnson and Allyson Felix.

“While it may look simple to move one race to a time which would allow increased rest time between the 200m and 400m, there is a knock-on effect with other events, which are then impacted,” World Athletics told Yahoo! Sports. “Following the review of various scenarios, we concluded that the current timetable provides the best opportunity for a 200m-400m doubling opportunity without adversely affecting other events. The current timetable does allow the possibility to compete in both the 200m and 400m, although we do acknowledge this requires racing twice in the same day on one occasion. Having taken that into consideration, we have tried to allow the maximum time in between the events, which results in almost 12 hours on that particular day.”

It would actually require racing twice on back-to-back days – running two rounds of the 200m on the same day, then coming back the following day and running the first round of the 400m, as well as the final of the 200m. The postponed Olympics is set for July 23 to August 8, 2021, still in Tokyo, Japan, and if the schedule is unchanged, a women’s 200-400m double is still possible, but unlikely, given the circumstances.

Additional to running back-to-back on successive days, the women’s 400m semifinals is the day after the 400m heats, meaning Miller-Uibo would actually have to run five races in three days if she is to go after the double. She would then finally get a day’s rest before the 400m final is held.

“It’s still a little bit tricky,” Miller-Uibo said last August. “We’re just asking them to clear it up a little bit more for us, where we can focus on three [rounds in the 200m] and then focus on the other three [rounds in the 400m]. I think it’s always been so simple for the 100m-200m runners. The 200m-400m being a more complex double, I think we’re asking for a day, if they can at least do that for us.”

It’s a daunting task, even for one considered a transcendent athlete and arguably the best over both distances in this Olympic cycle. With her national record setting run of 21.74 seconds in Zürich, Switzerland, a year ago, she is the world leader in this Olympic period in that event. Her area record of 48.37 seconds in the women’s 400m is second only to Salwa Eid Naser’s fantastic run of 48.14 seconds last year – the third-fastest time in history. Miller-Uibo is or has been the world leader in the women’s 400m in four of the past five years.

She went undefeated for two years in the 200 and 400m before finishing second to Naser, of Bahrain, at last year’s Doha World Championships. Naser was provisionally suspended for a “whereabouts failure”, missing three doping tests in the span of 12 months. She said the missed tests all came before the world championships, and it appears that she could face losing the world title as well as missing the Olympics.

To date, Miller-Uibo remains one of only five women to ever run under 22 seconds in the women’s 200m and under 49 seconds in the women’s 400m.

Miller-Uibo said a final decision is yet to be made, but as it stands now, she will likely run just the 200m in Tokyo. She started her Olympic journey eight years ago as an 18-year-old, running the 400m in London, England. Four years later in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, she was the Olympic Champion, falling across the finish line to beat American legendary sprinter Allyson Felix.

Miller-Uibo expressed a late interest in going after the double in Rio de Janeiro, but was hindered in that attempt by team management.

It remains to be seen whether any changes will be made when the new Olympic schedule is released.

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