Watch the Rabat 400 hurdles
WHEN THE World Athletics Diamond League lands in Rabat, Morocco, today, the so-called Jamaican event I’ll be watching the closest is the women’s 400-metre hurdles. Don’t get me wrong. I really want to see how the likes of Shericka Jackson, Yohan Blake, Hansle Parchment, Rasheed Broadbell, Shaneika Ricketts, and Natoya Goule get on elsewhere in the meet. It’s just that the 400 hurdles has my sense of anticipation tingling.
Thanks to Sydney McLaughlin, Dahlilah Muhammad and Femke Bol, the event now rivals the 100 metres as the most compelling female track event. McLaughlin, Muhammad and Bol dominate the headlines.
In Rabat, Muhammad will face a Jamaican trio of Rushell Clayton, Janieve Russell and Shian Salmon. Clayton recently kept her balance in a blustery season-opening race in Freeport, Bahamas, to win in 54.41 seconds. Third at the 2019 World Championships when she was coached by Okeile Stewart, it appears that she has begun to assimilate the instruction of Reynaldo Walcott at her new club, Elite Performance. Olympic fourth-placer Russell has a flat 400 season’s best of 52.47 while Salmon, the runner-up at the 2018 World Under-20 Championships, has already confirmed her youthful promise with a NACAC gold in Freeport and a Commonwealth Games silver.
Their personal bests are 53.08 for Russell, 53.33 by Clayton and 53.82 for Salmon.
SENSE OF URGENCY
The effervescent Clayton is 30 and the gracious Russell is almost there, and you can almost feel a sense of urgency when you see them race. They’re all business in an event that Muhammad has helped to teleport into hyperspace.
When Clayton won her bronze, the American delivered a world record 52.16 seconds to win in the 2019 World Championships. Since then, in pursuit of McLaughlin, Muhammad has improved to 51.58 seconds.
She scored personal bests this past indoor season over 200 and 300 metres in a bid to match the speed levels of her brilliant countrywoman McLaughlin, as well as Bol, a spindly Dutchwoman, who forced her into a rare third-place finish at last year’s Worlds.
At 33, the age at which the peerless Edwin Moses ran his last race – a bronze medal effort at the 1988 Olympics, Bol is the oldest of the world’s elite 400-metre hurdlers.
Rabat launches a compelling season in the discipline, with Muhammad seeking to keep pace with McLaughlin, Bol trying to break the American dominance and the Jamaicans seeking to match the glory attained in the past by champions Deon Hemmings and Melaine Walker.