THE FINISH LINE: A strange World Championships

By BRENT STUBBS

Senior Sports Reporter

bstubbs@tribunemedia.net

LONDON, England: Some strange things happen in sports and the 16th IAAF World Championships has had many moments of its own.

Steven Gardiner finally landed a medal on day five, but disaster struck for Shaunae Miller-Uibo at the worst possible time in the final of the women’s 400 metres on a rainy day six.

Just when Miller-Uibo was about to complete a sensational run out of lane seven and in front of the pack, there was an incredible sequence of events in the last 50m.

Well in control of her third showdown with American Allyson Felix, Miller-Uibo appeared to wobble. As she tried to regain her composure and accelerate, she was slowly reeled in by American Phyllis Francis, Bahrain’s Salwa Ed Naser and Felix for the gold, silver and bronze in that order.

All Miller-Uibo could do was hold onto the fourth spot.

While last year’s win was physically painful as she suffered some bruises, Miller-Uibo had to deal with the mental letdown of watching her quest for the 200/400m double evaporate. She dropped from gold and a hefty cash prize of $60,000 to fourth and $20,000.

There was no way that Miller-Uibo should have lost the race, no way with the lead that she had developed. You could have looked away and waited for the celebrations to take place.

Unfortunately, Miller-Uibo’s perfect race up to that point turned into a nightmare.

It was one of those “what just happened” moments and it’s still hard to fathom that she actually got beat.

Not only was Miller-Uibo seeking to become the first woman to win the coveted 200/400m double feat, she was looking to join the elite list of Bahamian quarter-milers who have excelled at the global level.

She would have joined national record holder Tonique Williams, the first Bahamian to turn in back-to-back triumphs after winning gold at the 2004 Olympics in Athens, Greece and the 2005 Worlds in Helsinki, Finland.

Now she has the opportunity to be just the second Bahamian to win a World title in the 200m following the achievement of Debbie Ferguson-McKenzie in 2001 in Edmonton, Canada – albeit at the expense of American Marion Jones after she was stripped of her title for doping.

Tonight, Miller-Uibo will have company as TyNia Gaither turned in a gutsy come-from-behind performance in her heat for fourth place and the last of the two fastest losers times.

What a night it will be at 4:50 pm EST when they compete against defending champion Dafne Schippers (100m bronze medalist) and the Ivory Coast’s Marie Josee Ta Lou (100m silver medalist), who will be out to claim their second medals in the championships.

In contrast, Gardiner was sensational from the preliminaries to the final and in between. In the semifinal he came up with some excitement of his own, shattering his national record for the second time this year.

Gardiner is coming into his own. And he had some quality company to help him celebrate, including world record holder Wayde van Niekerk, who helped to push him to the next level.

After there was so much dialogue in all quarters about his ability to run the rounds, Gardiner silenced his critics, even though he felt that he should have saved the national record breaking performance for the final.

Looking at his series of races, Gardiner did what he had to do.

After becoming the first Bahamian to break the 44-second barrier, there was no telling if he would have been able to either duplicate or surpass that effort in the final. He was in the right zone at the right time in the semis.

To win a silver medal at this stage behind van Niekerk, the most dominant quarter-miler for the past two years, was no small accomplishment.

In time, Gardiner will get to the top of the podium. He’s just 21-years-old and he’s only going to get better with time.

When Chris ‘Fireman’ Brown makes his formal exit off the scene next year, Gardiner will be the face of the event.

And right now he has every right to enjoy this moment as just the second male athlete to medal in the one-lap race, eight championships after Avard Moncur stood atop of the podium as the world’s best in 2001 in Edmonton.

I predicted three medals for Team Bahamas at the start of these championships.

Gardiner got one, Miller-Uibo let one slip way from her grasp, but she has the opportunity to redeem herself in the 200m.

There’s still the men’s high jump with Donald Thomas and the women’s 100m hurdles with Deyvenne Charlton before the championships wind down with the always exciting 4 x 100 and 4 x 400m relays this weekend.

So before the curtain comes down on Sunday night, we could very well be looking at least another medal or two.

Who knows? With all that has taken place so far, anything is possible because this has been a strange championships.

For those who missed some of the events, Canadian Andre de Grasse withdrew from the men’s 100m and Jamaican Usain Bolt’s parade as the most dominant sprinter ever came to a halt with a bronze medal behind American Justin Gatlin, who was booed for his efforts.

Coming off her double victory as the Rio Olympics, Jamaican sprint queen Elaine Thompson could do no better than fifth place in the women’s 100m final as American Tori Edwards sped to gold, then tumbled and got so bruised that she could not line-up for a clash with Miller-Uibo – her training partner – in the 200m.

And on the men’s side, Botswana’s Isaacs Makwala made a spectacle of his reinsertion in the 200m after he withdrew from illness that also forced him from the final of the 400m.

He got to run alone in the heats of the half-lap race, dropped to the track and did some push-ups to show his fitness after having qualified.

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