Nnenya Hailey of the USA lowered her own World Youth leading performance to 57.93 to clinch gold in the Girls’ 400m Hurdles title here in Lille.
Running in lane 5, Hailey had made an impression as early as the semi-final round where she cut almost two tenths of a second off her personal best performance to jump to the top of the youth world lists at 58.44.
Tonight, she looked stronger from the blocks as Canada’s Sage Watson running immediately on her inside took an average start and had a messy first hurdle clearance which almost put her out of the race. She regrouped fast, most probably too fast, to remain in touch with Hailey, a clear leader.
Hailey was running a very balanced race at the front with Watson working hard but her misfortunes were not finished, she stumbled over the seventh hurdle and this time around she had clearly ran out of speed, she would finish last in 1:01.04, one of only two athletes not to improve on their personal bests tonight.
At the front, Hailey entered the final straight well clear of her pursuers, namely Zurian Hechavarria of Cuba in lane 7, Tasabih Mohamed El Sayed of Sudan in lane 3 and Japan’s Aya Takisawa in the inside lane 1.
Hailey stuttered as she approached the final barrier and although she lost her balance clipping the hurdle she remained focused and sprinted to the finish unchallenged.
On the outside, it was Sarah Carli of Australia who had remained off the radar up until that point that had the fastest finishing sprint as she moved from fourth up to silver in a new personal best 58.05. Hechavarria held on for bronze as she too ran the fastest race of her life in 58.37 with Takisawa closing in fourth (58.80PB) and El Sayed back in fifth (58.91PB).
“I feel a little bit tired,” said Hailey. “This morning I was still a little bit ill. The race was very hard, the girls were so fast. The last 80 metres I heard the crowd as the Australian girl came closer. Working hard for this success, I’m so happy now. Before athletics, I played basketball but this year I just focused on the 400m Hurdles.”
Laura Arcoleo for the IAAF