Phyllis Francis disrupted the anticipated Allyson Felix–Shaunae Miller-Uibo rematch, surging in between the stars to win the world 400m title on Wednesday.
Miller-Uibo, who edged Felix by .07 in Rio, was poised to win her first world title through 350 meters. But the Bahamian stumbled with about 20 meters left and dropped back to fourth on a rainy, chilly night in London.
In came Francis, passing Felix to her left and Miller-Uibo to her right to grab gold in a personal-best 49.92 seconds, the slowest winning time in world championships history (that weather).
Qatar’s Salwa Eid Naser was second in 50.06, followed by Felix in 50.08 for bronze. Miller-Uibo slowed home in 50.49.
Francis, 25, improved on her fifth-place finish in Rio. The former University of Oregon standout from Queens, N.Y., was second at both the 2016 Olympic Trials and the USATF Outdoor Championships in June.
“At the finish line I was surprised. I thought I was second or third,” Francis said, according to The Associated Press. “But then they told me, ‘You are first.’ That is crazy.”
Felix, though she didn’t repeat as world champion, bagged her 14th career world championships medal, tying the record shared by Usain Bolt and Merlene Ottey. Felix can pass both of them with 4x100m and 4x400m medals this weekend.
“I cannot lie, I am disappointed to lose one gold tonight, but the championships is not over yet, so we keep going,” the 31-year-old Felix said, according to The New York Times. “But this was the race that mattered to me, the individual race. That is what it is about. So to come up short tonight is never fun.”
In other events, Botswana’s Isaac Makwala continued a whirlwind week by running a pair of 200m races, including one alone, to qualify for Thursday’s final. Makwala, the top-ranked 200m runner this year, qualified safely after being medically cleared to re-run following a stomach virus.
Meanwhile, favorite Wayde van Niekerk squeaked into the final in the last qualifying spot, third in his semifinal in 20.28 seconds. Van Niekerk is trying to join Michael Johnson as the only sprinters to sweep the 200m and 400m at one world championships. The South African won the 400m on Tuesday.
Karsten Warholm became the first Norwegian man to win a world championships race, clocking 48.35 in the 400m hurdles. Also the slowest winning time in worlds history. Olympic champion Kerron Clement took bronze, .17 behind.
Mo Farah headlined the qualifiers into Saturday’s 5000m final, which will be the last championship track race of his career before moving to road racing. Farah has won all five Olympic and world 5000m titles since 2011.
China’s Gong Lijao dethroned American Michelle Carter in the shot put, throwing 19.94 meters. Gong, the 2012 Olympic silver medalist, took fourth in Rio behind Carter, who became the first U.S. Olympic women’s shot put champ.
Carter, who came into worlds ranked fifth in the world this year, took bronze behind Hungarian Anita Marton, repeating her finish from 2015 Worlds.
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