Shaunae Miller of the Bahamas won the women’s 400-meter final at the Summer Olympics Monday, edging America’s star runner Allyson Felix in a time of 49.44 seconds on a damp night in Rio de Janeiro.
Felix closed in on Miller in the closing meters – but she couldn’t get ahead of her, finishing at 49.51. At the finish, Miller dove, or perhaps collapsed, across the line. It was a move that Felix later mirrored, as the toll of the race hit home.
Jamaica’s Shericka Jackson won bronze, in a time of 49.85.
Felix, 30, now has seven Olympic medals, making her the most decorated female athlete in U.S. track and field’s history. She passes Jackie Joyner-Kersee — who is also married to Felix’s coach, Bob Kersee. We’ll note that when the pending milestone was mentioned to her here in Rio last week, Felix noted that Joyner-Kersee had won her six medals in the long jump and heptathlon — individual events — while Felix has won three of her medals as part of a relay.
Another three of Felix’s medals have come in the 200m — a race that she missed qualifying for in Rio. At these games, she has one event left, the 4×400-meter women’s relay.
In a field of eight runners Monday night, Felix was in lane 4 – right next to her U.S. teammate Phyllis Francis, and two over from another teammate, Natasha Hastings.
At the start, Monday night’s race looked similar to Sunday’s semifinal — a race in which Felix pushed across the finish in front of Miller. But tonight, Miller’s pace was too fast for Felix.
Hastings took fourth, in 50.34 seconds, while Francis was fifth in 50.41.
Miller, 22, was an NCAA track and field champion at the University of Georgia. As the Olympics’ bio of Miller tells us, her race in the 400 meters comes 48 years after her grand-uncle Leslie Miller ran it for the Bahamas at the 1968 Olympic Games.
Felix had run the fastest qualifying time for this final, and had not lost either of her preliminary races. Coming into Rio, she also owned the lowest personal best in this event, at 49.26.
The women’s 400-meter race was one of several events that were briefly postponed Monday evening, after a heavy rainstorm drenched Rio. Miller managed to run a personal best in the damp conditions, and Felix pulled out a season-best time, in a year in which she bounced back from an ankle ligament injury.
Earlier in the night, Team USA’s Sydney McLaughlin, at 17 the youngest member of the track and field team, narrowly advanced to the 400-meter semifinals.