American Sanya Richards rids herself of her championship demons, taking gold in the women’s 400m.
Day four of the 2009 world track and field championships proved to be a day for the Americans, as Sanya Richards took home the gold in the women’s 400m and Kerron Clement won gold in the men’s 400m hurdles.
In the first track final of the day, four-time US champion Sanya Richards, 31, looked to finally prove that she could win a major international championships title. Richards lined up against a stellar field including Jamaican Shericka Williams, Russian Antonina Krovoshapka and defending world champion Christine Ohuruogu of Great Britain. Richards was never challenged during the race and found herself crossing the line in a world-leading 49.00, good for her first world championship. Williams of Jamaica ran a personal best 49.32 to take the silver and Russian indoor champion Krivoshapka came through for the bronze in 49.71. Richards had collected four consecutive World Athletic Final titles, but she had been shut out in world championship and Olympic competition until now.
The men’s 400m hurdles saw a repeat champion, as American Kerron Clement ran a dominating race, taking the lead around 150m and never looking back. American Bershawn Jackson, the 2005 world champion, had the early lead but began to falter around the 200m mark. Puerto Rican Javier Culson came on strong out of lane 8, overtaking Jackson and taking second place in the final stretch. Clement finished five meters clear of the field to take the win in a world-leading 47.91, followed by Culson, setting a new national record of 48.09. Jackson rallied over the final hurdle to claim third place with a time of 48.23. Trinidadian Jehue Gordon finished just out of the medals in a new national record 48.26, not bad for a 17-year-old in his first international final.
The Kenyan men had a shot at sweeping the 3000m steeplechase, but they would need to hold off European record holder Bouabdellah Tahri of France to do so. The Kenyan contingent took the lead as they passed through the first kilometer and attempted to control the race from that point. Paul Koech did most of the work, taking the lead and hold it for more than 1,500 meters, keeping the pack of three Kenyans and the Frenchman on 8:00 pace. Over the final lap it appeared the Kenyans might be able to hold off Tahri, as they went over the final water barrier 1-3. World leader Ezekial Kemboi, a three-time world silver medalist, finally got his due as he took the win in 8:00.43, a championship record. Kenyan teammate Richard Mateelong held on for silver in a personal best 8:00.89 as Tahri outkicked Koech for the bronze in a European record 8:01.18. The top four men all ran fast enough to cement themselves as top-10 performers all-time in the event.
Qualifying rounds continued in other events, including the women’s 1500m. Favorites Maryam Jamal of Bahrain, Gelete Burka of Ethiopia and Anna Alminova of Russia won their heats to move on to the semifinals. Americans Christin Wurth-Thomas and Anna Willard qualified automatically for Friday’s semifinal round. US champion Shannon Rowbury was tripped in her heat and finished outside of the qualifying spots, but a protest by American coaches was accepted, allowing Rowbury to join her teammates in the next round.
Elsewhere around the stadium German fans were elated to find hometown favorite Steffi Nerius take the title in the women’s javelin with a mark of 67.30m, a season best. British triple jumper Phillips Idowu won his specialty with a new world-leading mark of 17.73m. All of the contenders, including Jamaican phenom Usain Bolt, qualified for the semifinal round of the men’s 200m. American hopefuls Jeremy Wariner and LaShawn Merritt both qualified, easily, for the next round of the men’s 400m. World leader Lashinda Demus of the US qualified for the final of the women’s 400m hurdles and Americans Dawn Harper, Damu Cherry and Ginny Powell all qualified easily for the semifinals of the women’s 100m hurdles. Defending world champion, American Michelle Perry, failed to qualify on in the 100m hurdles.