IAAF World Championships 2017

Fine finale from Francis

Botswana's Isaac Makwala running alone in a 200m heat on Wednesday. The time trial was arranged for him following an appeal by Botswana's athletics federation. He had been barred from running in Monday's 200m heat and Tuesday's 400m final after falli
Botswana's Isaac Makwala running alone in a 200m heat on Wednesday. The time trial was arranged for him following an appeal by Botswana's athletics federation. He had been barred from running in Monday's 200m heat and Tuesday's 400m final after falling ill with the contagious Norovirus. He claimed he had recovered but was prevented from entering the stadium on Tuesday.PHOTO: REUTERS

Unfancied American claims shock 400m gold, thrower Gong delivers China's first title

LONDON • American Phyllis Francis won a surprise World Championships 400m gold on Wednesday as Olympic champion Shaunae Miller-Uibo inexplicably stumbled when seemingly certain of victory in an extraordinary final.

Francis looked out of the medals with 80m to go but maintained her form amid the carnage to post a personal best time of 49.92 seconds. It was enough to claim a shock gold that even after crossing the line, she had no idea she had won.

Bahrain's Salwa Eid Naser, 19, claimed the silver in 50.06sec as defending champion Allyson Felix faded to get bronze in 50.08sec.

Bahamian Miller-Uibo, who famously dived over the line to pip Felix to Olympic gold last year, was clear with less than 20m left but as she tired, she tripped on her own foot, stumbling almost to a standstill as her rivals stormed past.

"I am so excited. It is such an amazing feeling, being world champion sounds pretty cool," said Francis.

Felix's bronze took her World Championships medal haul to 14, matching the record of Jamaican sprinters Usain Bolt and Merlene Ottey. The American's tally includes nine golds and she could not disguise her frustration at not making it 10 - though she still has the 4x400m relay to come.

"I can't lie, I'm disappointed to lose one gold tonight but the championships are not over yet so we keep going," Felix said. "But this was the one that mattered to me, the individual race, that is what it is about. So to come up short tonight is never fun. But I am happy for my team-mate. At this level, you cannot underestimate anyone."

China's Gong Lijiao made the most of the absence of reigning champion Christina Schwanitz and four-time champion Valerie Adams to win gold in the women's shot put. After claiming six major silver or bronze medals since the 2008 Olympics, the 28-year-old Chinese managed a best of 19.94m for her country's first gold medal at this edition of the championships.

In difficult conditions under pouring rain at the London Stadium, Hungary's Anita Marton claimed the silver with 19.49m, while American Olympic champion Michelle Carter took the bronze (19.14m).

Gong was left delighted with China's first shot put title since Huang Zhihong won her second gold in Stuttgart in 1993, saying: "It is 24 years since China won a shot put medal, so it's a very special moment for me."

Botswana's Isaac Makwala admitted to being heartbroken and fuelled by anger as he ran two rounds of the 200m - one on his own - to reach the final, which took place this morning (Singapore time).

The 30-year-old had been given the go-ahead by the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF) after missing Monday's heats and then the 400m final. He had been barred then because the quarantine period for the highly contagious norovirus, which he had been diagnosed with, had not expired.

However, the fastest man in the world this year made light of it in his semi-final. Running in Lane 1, he finished second, raising his arm as he crossed the line.

"I'm still running with my heart broken," he said. "I wish the IAAF had given me the decision to run the 400m first.

"I was ready to run. I don't know who made the decision. I'm running with anger."

REUTERS, AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on August 11, 2017, with the headline 'Fine finale from Francis'. Print Edition | Subscribe