Zuzana Hejnova in the women's 400m hurdles at the IAAF World Championships Moscow 2013 (Getty Images) © Copyright
Preview Beijing, China

Preview: women’s 400m hurdles – IAAF World Championships, Beijing 2015

Will the final turn into a duel between Zuzana Hejnova and Kaliese Spencer, or will there be a breakthrough from one of the emerging stars?

Kaliese Spencer won 12 of her 13 hurdles races in 2014 and took the Diamond Race. This season, the Jamaican started off with three IAAF Diamond League victories in a row, but she subsequently injured her foot and was forced to miss two weeks of training and all of her scheduled races in July.

Her coach Stephen Francis says that Spencer is back to full fitness and expects his charge to run faster than she ever has done.

A desire to make up for a disqualification in the heats of the 2013 World Championships – along with three fourth-place finishes from the previous three global championships – will give Spencer extra motivation to do so.

The outdoor campaign of defending champion Zuzana Hejnova has been the exact opposite. She was injured early in the season, and impressively came back at the IAAF Diamond League meeting in Paris with a win in 53.76, the second-fastest time in the world this year.  The Czech followed that success up with two more IAAF Diamond League victories, confirming serious intentions for her title defence. If Hejnova succeeds, she will become the first woman ever to successfully defend a world title in this event.

The world-leading mark of 53.74 belongs to world junior champion Shamier Little. The 20-year-old ran that PB when winning at the NCAA Championships in Eugene. She gained another victory at the same venue two weeks later, this time to win the US title in 53.83.

In July, Little captured one more gold medal, winning the Pan American Games in 55.50. Despite her young age, Little has already assembled an impressive collection of international accolades. She is undefeated for more than a year, putting together a string of 23 victories including heats.

But with her outdoor campaign having started in March, four relentless months of competitions might finally take a toll.

Another young athlete to watch out for is Asian leader Kemi Adekoya from Bahrain.

This season, the 22-year-old has set national records in both the 400m (50.86) and the 400m hurdles (54.12), making her a medal contender in both events. The timetable in Beijing doesn’t allow for such a double, so Adekoya will have a difficult choice to make.

Returning from maternity leave, Denmark’s Sara Petersen approached this season with a whole new level of motivation and it immediately showed in her results. Throughout 2015, Petersen has lowered her personal best from 55.68 to 53.99. She has yet to beat the likes of Spencer and Hejnova in a head-to-head battle, but Beijing might be her place and time to shine.

Elena Dyachkova for the IAAF