Sun | May 28, 2017

Women’s 400m growing too

Published:Thursday | July 2, 2015 | 7:00 AM
Day

With Javon Francis, Rusheen McDonald and schoolboy Akeem Bloomfield all under 45 seconds this season, there's been much focus on the men's 400 metres.

It's the event that put Jamaica on the map, all those years ago in 1948 when legends Arthur Wint and Herb McKenley went one-two in the London Olympics. The revival in the event has fans thinking big

Yet, while the long wait for a return to glory in the men's 400 could soon be over, Jamaica's female one-lap runners look set to continue a long running tradition of success.

Commonwealth champion Stephenie McPherson was upset at last week's National Senior Championships by not one, but two of her training partners in the women's 400m final. The winner, Christine Day, matched her personal best of 50.16 seconds to cross the line first and young Shericka Jackson unwrapped a lifetime mark of 50.31 in second.

They are the latest in a line of world class Jamaicans in the women's 400.]

That roll call begins with Marilyn Neufville, who set a world record to win the 1970 Commonwealth Games. Sandie Richards won the silver at the 1997 World Championships a year before repeating Neufville's Commonwealth success. Lorraine Fenton-Graham did the business with medals at the 2000 Olympics and the 1999, 2001 and 2003 Worlds.

The reigning Diamond League champion, Novlene Williams-Mills, got a 2007 World bronze, before Shericka Williams took silver in both the 2008 Olympics and the 2009 Worlds.

In the latter meet, Williams scared the spikes off Fenton's national record of 49.30 seconds. She missed it by just 0.02.

Now, with Williams-Mills a veteran of three Olympics, a new generation of women have arisen to carry the flag in the 400 metres. Jackson has exciting potential and her former high school rival, Chrisann Gordon, is improving steadily too. Younger ones like the Papine High School pair of Tiffany James and Candice McLeod, Jackson's former Vere team-mates Olivia James and Yanique McNeil and perhaps leggy Saqukine Cameron of Edwin Allen may make the grade too.

Individual medals may be hard to come by. The women's 4x400m is another matter. A lane violation in the heats of the 2013 heats ended a long run of medal winning relay runs by Jamaica's women. A new account should be opened in Beijing, host city of this year's World Championships.

Last year, McPherson, Williams-Mills and Day went one-two-three in the Commonwealth 400m final and then with help from hurdler Janieve Russell in the heats and Anatascia LeRoy in the final, they set a Games record in the Glasgow rain. A return to the World Championships podium seems imminent.

n Hubert Lawrence has made notes at track side since 1980.