Career records will be up for grabs when the women take the track for the 400-meter final of the World Championships Thursday in Beijing. Christine Ohuruogu knows the setting well, as she won the gold medal at the Bird’s Nest at the 2008 Olympics, and she was fourth in the semifinals at 50.16 seconds. With World titles from 2007 and 2013, a third win for the 31-year-old Briton would surpass Marie-Jose Perec and Cathy Freeman for the most ever, but she’ll have to contain Allyson Felix, among a gang of Caribbean youngsters.
“I brought out what I needed,” the London Olympic silver medalist Ohuruogu said following the semifinal. “I will go home and rest and ponder that (the final) tomorrow.”
Felix has already won more gold medals (eight) than any other woman in history, but the 400 has eluded her. She won the 200 three times consecutively from 2005 to 2009, before winning silver in the 400 at Daegu in 2011. She is a two-time national champion in the event, including this season. She ran the quickest in the semifinals at 49.89.
“I’m looking at this as a good opportunity to step up and see what happens,” Felix said of the 400. She is currently tied with Carl Lewis and Michael Johnson for the second-most World golds ever, being passed by Usain Bolt (nine) in Sunday’s 100 meters. Only Merlene Ottey (14) has more career medals.
Shericka Jackson of Jamaica, 21, was second in the semifinals at 50.03, a personal best for her. Third was Shaunae Miller of the Bahamas at 50.12. Also age 21, Miller has ran under 50 seconds, is the 2010 world junior champion and is the reigning world indoor bronze medalist.
“I’m feeling back in the junior days it was much easier,” Jackson said. “Then I went onto high school and university, but this is my first major final, so I am happy.”
Stephanie Ann McPherson, the 26-year-old Jamaican Commonwealth Games champion, just missed the podium in fourth place at Moscow two years ago, and she ran 50.32 in the semifinal. The senior Jamaican of the four is Novlene Williams-Mills. The 33-year-old ran 50.47 in the semis and is appearing in her record fifth final, with a bronze in 2007. She slipped to fourth at Berlin and was eighth in both Daegu and Moscow. A national champion at Oregon, Phyllis Francis of the U.S. ran 50.50 to qualify, and Jamaica’s Christine Day ran 50.82, second in her heat to advance despite two others with better times.
“I was kind of nervous towards the last heat, I just made it,” the 23-year-old Francis said. “I left a lot of room space, I’m just happy to that I get to try this all over again, I’m excited.”