Sunday, 09 August 2009

Women's 400m - PREVIEW

Sanya Richards records another convincing 400m victory, winning by more than a second  (Getty Images)

Sanya Richards records another convincing 400m victory, winning by more than a second (Getty Images)

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    • Christine Ohuruogu comes through at the end to win the 400m title
    • Antonina Krivoshapka on her way to gold in the 400m, having gone through half way in 23.12
    In this event the 2009 season has been all about one athlete - Sanya Richards.

    Five times the US athlete has dipped below 50 seconds, she boasts a season’s best time of 49.23 (achieved in Oslo) and has a flawless four out of four record in the ÅF Golden League series and is targeting the $1 m Jackpot prize. And yet despite the overwhelming weight of such impressive statistics – her only one-lap defeat this season came at the hands of Novlene Williams-Mills back on May 2 in Kingston – doubts still remain.

    That is because Richards has dominated the event for each of the previous three seasons but has still yet to deliver the global championship title her talent undoubtedly deserves. Illness sidelined her bid for glory at the 2007 World championships and last season a poor tactical run cost her in the Olympic final and she wound up with the bronze. So, can she finally deliver in Berlin?

    The defending World and Olympic champion Christine Ohuruogu appears, on the face of it, an outside bet. The British athlete’s campaign has been hampered by illness and injury and she has managed only four 400m outings this season with a modest best time of 51.14 placing her only 25th on the world lists. But she should never be discounted. She struck a surprising gold at the last World championships in Osaka off of a limited build up and was far from the favourite in Beijing last year but again delivered when it mattered.

    The No.2 on the World Lists is Russian find Antonina Krivoshapka who has emerged as a genuine medal contender in Berlin. Last season she was ranked 34th in the world with a lifetime best of 51.24 but this season she has progressed to a whole new level. She started the year in stunning fashion by winning the European Indoor 400m title and blitzed to a new PB of 49.29 in the semi-finals of the Russian championships. However, in her first outing outside of her homeland this season she was beaten into first place by Shericka Williams of Jamaica in Stockholm.

    Krivoshapka’s compatriot Anastasiya Kapachinskaya ran 49.97 to finish runner-up at the Russian championships and the 2003 World 200m champion will also be a threat. Now running the 400m she finished fifth in last year’s Olympic final. The third string Russian is 2007 European Under-23 champion Lyudmila Litvinova (50.27).

    The Jamaican challenge must be respected thanks to a pair of non-related Williamses. Olympic silver medalist Shericka Williams dipped below 50-seconds in Oslo with 49.98 and will fancy her chances of grabbing more precious metal in Berlin. Novlene Williams-Mills (50.05), the Jamaican champion, will be keen to banish the memories of the last World championships when she led until the last two strides but had to settle for bronze.

    Other contenders include: US duo Jessica Beard (50.56) and Debbie Dunn (50.66), Botswana’s Amantle Montsho (50.61) and 2001 World champion Amy Mbacke Thiam (50.71) of Senegal. The 2007 World silver medallist Nicola Sanders has suffered an injury disrupted season and has a season’s best of 51.21.

    Steve Landells for the IAAF