There are a million and one different ways of running the 400m and Allyson Felix produced one slightly unusual, but highly effective, version which proved golden inside an electric Bird’s Nest stadium on Thursday.
The astonishingly versatile US sprinter claimed a maiden global 400m title – to add to her enormous cache of gold medals earned on the world stage in the 200m, 4x100m and 4x400m – with an utterly destructive piece of one-lap running to stop the clock in a world leading 49.26.
Behind her, rising star Shaunae Miller of The Bahamas finished strongly to grab a deserved silver medal in a personal best of 49.67 with Shericka Jackson leading home a quartet of Jamaicans to take the final podium position in a lifetime best of 49.99.
Yet tonight was all about Felix who briefly matched Bolt, for 15 minutes until the Jamaican’s 200m triumph pulled him one clear of the American, with a record-equalling ninth world title which fully vindicated her decision to sacrifice the 200m to target the one-lap prize here in Beijing.
If we also include her four Olympic titles, the 29-year-old Californian now has 13 global crowns to her name and she also achieved the unique feat of becoming the first woman in history to win world 200m and 400m titles.
With four Jamaicans, two Americans and one Bahamian it was an all US and Caribbean affair with the sole exception of Great Britain’s defending champion Christine Ohuruogu.
With Miller drawn on the inside of Felix, the American opted to make a blistering start from the gun, possibly in an effort to slightly bewilder the less-experienced Miller.
Felix’s high-octane start raised gasps of astonishment from the crowd as she rapidly caught and passed the stagger on Ohuruogu on her immediate outside.
For the first 150 metres Felix, who won world silver in this event in 2011, maintained her blistering pace but then visibly slowed as if fearing she may have misjudged the pace.
We need not have worried.
With 200 metres to go, Felix kicked again and extended her already sizeable lead as she entered the home straight.
At that stage, Ohuruogu looked poised to strike with her all-too-familiar late run and was lying in second, Jackson was third with Miller, who had run a conservative first half of the race, back in fourth.
However, there was to be no late charge from Ohuruogu as her challenge withered while the tall, statuesque Miller powered past Jackson.
Felix always remained well clear of her rivals and her victory was never in doubt.
Miller, the former world junior and world youth champion, would have to settle for silver on this occasion, although still aged just 21, a bright future not only beckons but could be said to have arrived.
Jackson proved the best of the Jamaican quartet, trimming a further 0.04 from the personal best she set in the semi-final.
The Jamaican champion Christine Day also set a lifetime best of 50.14 in fourth with 2014 Commonwealth champion Stephenie Ann McPherson fifth in 50.42, 0.05 clear of 2014 Diamond Race winner Novlene Williams-Mills, who recorded a season’s best of 50.47.
There was huge disappointment for the normally hugely reliable championship performer Ohuruogu. The Briton who looked well placed for a medal with 100 meters remaining but faded rapidly in the final straight and wound up eighth in 50.63.
Felix, who had ran the fastest women’s 400m time for three years, explained of her race tactics: “It was my plan (to be at the head of the field from the beginning). I had to take advantage of my speed that I have and bring that to the 400m. I wanted to control the race. I wanted just to trust in my fitness, because I knew I had it.”
She did, and Felix finally got to fulfil her fulsome potential in this event and celebrated being a global 400m champion.
Steve Landells for the IAAF