Harare,Zimbabwe (News of the South)- Fate handed Allyson Felix a gift, but she couldn’t hold on.
All eyes in the 400-meter world championship race Wednesday were on the matchup between Felix, one of the world’s most decorated track and field athletes, and Shaunae Miller-Uibo, whose controversial dive snatched a gold medal from Felix at last summer’s Rio Olympics. Everyone else was running for third place.
Felix geared her entire season toward winning this race. Coming off the final turn, she trailed Miller-Uibo by about two meters as the 6-foot-1 Bahamian’s long strides gobbled up the track. Not an insurmountable deficit, as Felix closed a similarly large gap in Rio.
Then things fell apart — for both of them. Thirty meters from the finish line, Miller-Uibo winced, looked down and her stride fell apart with an apparent injury. At the same time, Felix faded, and was passed by her American teammate Phyllis Francis, who took gold in a personal-best 49.92 seconds.
“I just tried to make a move, and it wasn’t there,” Felix said. “Legs were just heavy, and I didn’t have it coming home.”
As Felix willed herself toward the line, 19-year-old Salwa Eid Naser of Bahrain, who grew up idolizing the 31-year-old Felix, passed her to win silver in 50.06, a personal-best and national record. Felix was left with a disappointing bronze in 50.08 seconds.
Miller-Uibo limped home in fourth. She spent several minutes lying on her back with one shoe off, then left Olympic Stadium without discussing what happened.
Francis admitted that she didn’t start the race expecting to win. Naser said she wasn’t even counting on a medal.
Francis was fourth coming off the curve. “I told myself, ‘Don’t freak out, be patient, trust in yourself, and you know, I’m meant to be here. I’m strong enough, I’ve been training, putting in the work. You got this.'”
Naser focused on her lane and didn’t realize she was closing in on the great Felix, who she follows on Instagram and calls her a “role model.” She didn’t even know she had medaled until the scoreboard flashed the results. “It’s not about beating Allyson Felix,” said Naser. “It’s about getting a medal and having a personal best.”
The race was run in a steady rain, with temperatures in the high 50s. Francis, who went to college at the soggy University of Oregon, said she liked the conditions. Felix said they were “not ideal,” but did not blame them for her loss.
“You just have to roll with it,” Felix said. “I’m not quite sure what was the factor with me coming home, why it wasn’t there when it typically is for me, but it wasn’t there tonight.”
The bronze tied Felix with Jamaica’s Merlene Ottey and Usain Bolt for the most career medals at the world championships (14).
Felix should surpass that number later this week, with the United States favored to win the 4×400 relay. Felix’s nine Olympic medals trail only Carl Lewis and Finland’s Paavo Nurmi.
She’s been a star since winning the 200 world championship in 2005 and helped set the world 4×100 record (40.82) at the 2012 Olympics in the same stadium.
Yet most of her gold medals have come in relays. Felix has no plans to retire, but as the years roll by, she knows each opportunity for an individual victory is precious.
“You always go into a race wanting to win, this was my goal all season. When you fall short of that, it’s definitely disappointing,” she said.
L”At the same time, I feel very grateful to have done this for a very long time now. To be competing at the top still means a lot to me.”
“But I can’t lie. I’m very disappointed.”0
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