Caribbean athletes bagged three gold medals on the track at the just concluded World Athletics Indoor Championships Belgrade 22, including a pair of individual titles in the 400 meters. Read more: Day 3 Results: World Athletics Indoor Championships Belgrade 22
Shaunae Miller-Uibo and Jereem Richards won the women’s and men’s 400m crowns on the second day at the championships before the Jamaican women’s 4x400m relay team closed out the track competition with the other gold medal.
Miller-Uibo came well prepared
Olympic champion Miller-Uibo hadn’t raced competitively this season before traveling to the world indoor championships, but almost everyone knew the Bahamas wouldn’t make such a long trip if she wasn’t confident about winning the title.
Despite her displeasure at competing in the 400m indoors, the Bahamian navigated through the first two rounds of the event impressively before dominating the final after pulling away from the field to clock 50.31 seconds.
The build-up to the race was centered around the head-to-head clash between Miller-Uibo and European champion Femke Bol, and the clash lived up to the hype, despite the Bahamian showing superior strength in the closing meters.
The 27-year-old who won a pair of Olympic gold medals and two silver medals at the world championships, was winning her first world indoor title. Read more: Yulimar Rojas breaks world triple jump indoor record with 15.74m
“It feels great. It’s the first championships of a long season so I just wanted to come out here and get one in the bag,” said Miller-Uibo. “I’m training really for a long summer season, but this gives me great confidence that I’m on the right track.”
Fast start was deliberate, says Miller-Uibo
The Bahamas star started in front and led the entire way after covering the opening 200m in a very quick 23.42 seconds.
“I knew I was in great shape but it’s great to be able to show it to all the fans. It was just about coming out here and performing well,” she added. “I have so much respect for all the girls out here so I had to go off fast to control it.
“It’s the best way for me to run. I knew I’d have to do that to get away from Femke and with Stephenie Ann [McPherson].”
Bol, the Olympic 400m hurdles bronze medalist from Tokyo, last summer, ran 50.57 secs for the silver in Serbia, while Jamaica’s McPherson took the bronze in a national indoor record time of 50.79.
Richards competed with a lot of emotions
Meanwhile, Richards overcame some difficult moments to secure the victory in the men’s 400m race. Read more: Duplantis breaks pole vault world record again with 6.20m at Belgrade22
The 200m specialist who concentrated seriously on the 400m this indoor season, battled through the emotional feelings of losing his former Trinidad and Tobago teammate and close friend Deon Lendore, to set a championships record of 45.00 to win the gold.
He also broke Lendore’s national indoor record and improved his personal best from 45.83 seconds.
“World indoor champion – that sounds just great,” Richards said after his victory run. “For the last few months, I had it in my mind. I told my coach I wasn’t going to come here unless I came to win it.
“And I came with that mindset. I’m so glad I was able to come out victorious. The pure 400m guys definitely have the strength on me but if I can pull them out with the speed then that equals it out so I used it to my advantage.”
Some losts before the championships
Besides losing his friend Lendore, who passed away earlier this year in a car accident, Richards also revealed that he lost a couple of close family members.
“We lost a big teammate this year – a mentor to us, a friend to us, a teammate. He was a brother to us. We could have relied on him for anything and we lost him in such an unexpected way,” the 28-year-old added.
“After that, I lost my grandfather’s dad, he passed away and yesterday was my grandmum’s funeral. I wasn’t even able to attend it.
“It was just emotional for me because so many family members and friends who supported me all my career passed away. I just had to come out here and do it for them, to make them proud. Let them be remembered.”
Meanwhile, just like his training partner Miller-Uibo in the women’s race, Richards led the entire way in the final on Saturday and then held off a strong finish from American Trevor Bassitt, who took the silver in 45.05, while Carl Bengstrom set a Sweden indoor record of 45.33 for the bronze medal.
Jamaica wrap up track events with gold
Both Caribbean stars will now continue their respective preparations for the outdoor World Athletics Championships 2022 in Eugene, Oregon, later this summer in the United States.
In the meantime, the Jamaican quartet of Junelle Bromfield, Janieve Russell Roneisha McGregor, and McPherson, battled to the gold medal in the women’s 4x400m.
The Caribbean sprinters posted a time of 3:28.40 to win the world indoor championships women’s 4x400m gold medal for only the second time in the nation’s history, following its success in 1993.
The Netherlands, with a strong anchor leg from Bol took the silver with the bronze going to Poland in a time of 3:28.59.