With Sydney McLaughlin breathing down her neck, Dalilah Muhammad knew she had to better her best. And that is precisely what the Olympic champion produced at the Khalifa International Stadium last night.
After having had to settle for silver at the 2013 Moscow and 2017 London Worlds, Dalilah bagged that elusive 400m hurdles gold medal by breaking her own world record at the IAAF World Championships in Doha.
It was the 29-year-old’s second world record in the space of three months and it couldn’t have come at a better time for her. McLaughlin, long anointed as Dalilah’s heiress apparent, gave a tough fight to her American compatriot but had to settle for silver in a personal best of 52.23, just .03 off Dalilah’s old record. Jamaica's Rushell Clayton took bronze with her own PB of 53.74.
“This means so much. It is difficult to describe. I just wanted the world title so much but to break the world record again is fantastic,” said Dalilah. “I just decided to go for it from the start and I felt Sydney coming at me around hurdle nine, then I just gave everything I’d got. It hasn’t really sunk but it feels good,” she added.
After the race, Dalilah was still coming to terms with her world record feat. “I did not expect to break the world record today, I was definitely just trying to win that race. Two world records, that sounds quite crazy, now that it is done. My coach told me that it is possible and I just had to go there and believe in it. I believe that we can drop under 52s, the race was so tight, that was anybody's race tonight. It was so close, we will continue to push each other. It is definitely possible,” she said.
USA's Dalilah Muhammad celebrates after winning and poses next to the screen reading the new world record in the Women's 400m Hurdles final at the 2019 IAAF Athletics World Championships in Doha
Dalilah knew she was under pressure from the U-20 champion and was off the blocks quickly, but McLaughlin was not far off either at the 200 mark. However, around the top bend, Dalilah raced to the lead and further increased it in the straight line before the prodigious young talent McLaughlin made a last-ditch effort from the 100m to catch her senior rival.
Dalilah though held on to win, after which McLaughlin was the first one to congratulate her compatriot. “I knew it would be fast but I didn’t think it would be that fast, said McLaughlin.
“I did everything I could and at least US got one-two. I gave it everything I had, I’m still young, and every day is a new experience for me,” the 20-year-old added.
In another stunning race which sent the packed crowd into raptures, Kenyan Conseslus Kipruto defended his 3000m steeplechase title. Kipruto had his heart in his mouth as he crossed the line with Ethiopia’s Lamecha Girma in photo finish, but as the big screen flashed his name as a world champion, the Kenyan climbed on top of a hurdle as he celebrated his dramatic win.
Kipruto’s winning time was 8:01.35, with Girma just 0.01 seconds behind. A Kenyan or a Kenyan-born man has won every Olympic and world title in the steeplechase since the 1988 Seoul Games.
“I said I’m going to win, I’m going to take the victory to Kenya,” Kipruto said. “That’s what I promised the nation before we came to the start line.”
Kipruto joined Moses Kiptanui, Saif Saaeed Shaheen and Ezekiel Kemboi as multiple steeplechase gold medallists at the Worlds.
“It was a very strong competition. The Ethiopians really pushed hard because they knew I was kicking. They had their plans before the race started. But I had made my own plan and wanted to go in front to control the race, but it was not possible. But in these big championships experience matters a lot. I set my mind and my heart very well. When I got to the start line, I told myself, ‘I’m going to do it’. This strong mentality helped me win the race,” he added.
The 18-year-old Girma had powered into the lead with about 120m go, but Kipruto gave a final push and stole the gold from the Eithopain’s feet. Soufiane El Bakkali of Morocco was third in 8:01.36.
Meanwhile, Yaime Perez of Cuba won the women’s discus after a 69.17m throw, which came in her penultimate attempt. Her countrywoman Denia Caballero took silver in 68.44m, while former champion Sandra Perkovic has to settle for bronze, which was her fourth successive Worlds medal.
The 28-year-old Perez finished fourth at the two previous World Championships and no-marked in the Olympic final having led the qualifiers. But she exorcised those demons with a composed performance.
“I am very happy and grateful to my physio Abdel Kurgia. I was injured three days ago and I thought I would not be able to recover. My life could not be enough to thank him for this medal,” Perez said,
“This is my fourth World Championships and I always arrived in top shape but left without medals. It shows that you should never give up. I would like to thank my coach Hilda Elisa Ramos for supporting me,” the Cuban added.
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