Quanera Hayes and Ashley Spencer showed just how fast the Portland track could be when they finished first and second at the US Indoor Championships on Saturday in 51.09 and 51.29 to make themselves the favourites for the third consecutive US gold medal in this event.
Hayes’ time on Saturday would have been good enough for gold at the IAAF World Indoor Championships Sopot 2014.
The only question hovering over Hayes’ head, like that of many of her teammates in a US squad containing many new names, is how well she will cope with the different type of pressures she will face at her first major championship of any description.
Spencer won the world junior 400m title in 2012 but this will be her first realistic chance to get a global medal as a senior.
Kemi Adekoya could be the main threat to the US sprinters.
The Bahraini runner was unpressed when setting an Asian indoor record of 51.67 in Doha last month and it will be interesting to see how fast Adekoya can go when facing some serious rivals. She may also be motivated by the fact that Bahrain has never won a gold medal at the World Indoor Championships.
The other runner going to Portland who has run faster than 52 seconds indoors this winter is Jamaica’s Chrisann Gordon. She set a personal best of 51.69 when finishing second at the NCAA Indoor Championships on Saturday but faces the challenge of peaking again within the space of just a week.
A little further down the list, Gordon’s teammate Stephenie Ann McPherson could also feature in the battle for the medals.
McPherson has only had one indoor race this winter but the 400m finalist at the past two World Championships won handily at the IAAF World Indoor Tour meeting in Glasgow in 52.05.
Leading the European challenge is Poland’s Justyna Swiety, who was fourth at the 2014 World Indoor Championships and who improved to a season’s best of 52.30 at her national championships two week ago.
Phil Minshull for the IAAF