Miller-Uibo, Thompson in showdown

Jamaica's Aisha Praught competing during the 3,000m steeplechase final. She defeated Kenya's Celliphine Chespol and ended the East African nation's record of sweeping the podium at the last two Games.
Jamaica's Aisha Praught competing during the 3,000m steeplechase final. She defeated Kenya's Celliphine Chespol and ended the East African nation's record of sweeping the podium at the last two Games.PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

GOLD COAST (Australia) • One might assume the Commonwealth Games to be less of a pressure-cooker environment than the Olympics.
 

But try telling reigning 400m gold medallist Shaunae Miller-Uibo that when retired sprint star Usain Bolt is watching from the stands.

The Bahamian - who dramatically dived over the line to win in Rio de Janeiro - did, however, use Bolt's presence as motivation to grab a psychological edge over double Olympic champion Elaine Thompson in the 200m semi-finals yesterday.

Miller-Uibo swept into the 200m final in 22.95 seconds, nearly half a second ahead of the current 100m and 200m gold medallist, setting up an intriguing final today when Thompson will attempt to win Jamaica's first non-hurdles sprint title of the Games.

Thompson's outing came after Aisha Praught had broken Kenya's stranglehold on the women's steeplechase, a result that also gave Jamaica their first Commonwealth medal in a race longer than 800m.

Praught caught Kenyan favourite Celliphine Chespol on the final bend to win in 9min 21sec, ending the East African nation's phenomenal record of sweeping the podium at the last two Games.

Chespol (9:22.61) took silver while her compatriot Purity Cherotich Kirui (9:25.74) landed the bronze medal.

"I just put in the work every day and believe that I can race anyone," said Praught. "I knew the Commonwealth Games was what I wanted and I worked towards it every day."

Her victory came as Jamaica were urged on by Bolt, who arrived for his first championships as a spectator following his retirement.

"I always expect Jamaicans to come out and do their best," said the eight-time Olympic champion.

"We are a big track nation so we always expect the best of them."

However, compatriot Stephenie McPherson missed his memo as the defending champion was dethroned in the 400m, finishing third (50.93sec) behind Botswana's Amantle Montsho, who clocked 50.15sec ahead of fellow Jamaican Anastasia Le-Roy (50.57sec).

Australian Brandon Starc cleared 2.32m to snatch gold in the men's high jump, while Kathryn Mitchell broke her personal best, the Games record and the Australian record with her opening throw of 68.92m in the women's javelin.

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, THE GUARDIAN

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on April 12, 2018, with the headline 'Miller-Uibo, Thompson in showdown'. Print Edition | Subscribe