Third Time Lucky for Pechonkina
Although acknowledged as one of the top exponents of the women’s 400 hurdles the last three years, it was not until tonight that Yuliya Pechonkina (RUS) could display tangible evidence of her superiority with a gold medal to hang on the wall of her Moscow flat.
Despite owning the world record since midway through the 2003 season, the 27-year-old had since missed out on two opportunities in global championships, winning only the bronze in Paris later that season and then finishing eighth at the Athens Olympics, both efforts being hampered by sudden physical ailments.
Tonight, Pechonkina refused to accept anything but the top step on the victory platform, as she finished strongly over the final five hurdles, overtaking early leader Lashinda Demus (USA) and speeding to the finish in a world-leading 52.90.
Not able to respond to the Russian’s late attack, Demus finished in a PB 53.27 for the silver medal, while the Paris silver medallist, Sandra Glover (USA), dropped one place to take the bronze in 53.32, also a career best.
Demus, who had run conservatively in the semifinals and had drawn lane eight tonight as a result, was forced to return to her usual fast-starting tactics since the rest of the field was out of her view.
The 22-year-old American sailed down the backstretch in the lead, as Pechonkina and Glover matched each other well until the fourth barrier when the Russian began to move ahead of Glover.
Pechonkina’s radar quickly locked in on Demus in the middle of the curve, and that’s when the Russian may have had flashback reminders of Paris and Athens. She didn’t fall short this time. With her arms swinging wildly like windmills, she finally was able to cross the finish line a winner as she dipped under 53 seconds for the only time other than in her world record.
“I have been waiting for this gold medal for two years now,” a relieved Pechonkina said afterwards. “I did not run a perfect race. There were some technical aspects I could have done better, and I feel like thre is still a lot left in me.”
The Russian didn’t seem concerned that Demus blazed to an early lead, possibly because she knew that this was frequently the American’s style. “My tactic was to start easy and finish strong,” she said, and it was the correct recipe for success tonight.
For Demus, tonight’s silver medal wiped out the bad memory of her semifinal elimination last year in Athens. The winner of the world junior championships three years ago, Demus found solace in her personal-best time and a silver medal. “It was difficult to run in lane eight where I could not see the others,” she admitted. “If I had been in any other lane, I could seen someone else. It would have been easier. I could have run smarter.”
Regarding Pechonkina’s final kick which led to the gold, Demus critiqued, “I think I started my kick a little too early. Otherwise, I might had had more to give at the finish.”
For the nearly 37-year-old Glover, the bronze medal was an award with which “I cannot be disappointed, since I ran a personal best. I still think there is a lot more to come.”
Winning the secondary race behind the medallists was Anna Jesien (POL) with 54.17, ahead of Huang Xiaoxiao (CHN) in 54.57.