World and Olympic champion Melaine Walker defended her World Athletics Final title as she outclassed the rest of the field in today’s 400m Hurdles final here in Thessaloniki.
The 26-year-old Jamaican also established a new Championships record 53.36 erasing World silver medallist Lashinda Demus’ four-year-old previous standard by just one hundredth of a second.
It will not be a day to remember for the American champion who had led until the ninth hurdle at the Berlin World Championships before she faltered and ended up with a somewhat disappointing second place. Demus had not raced since Berlin where she also contributed to the Americans' 4x400m gold medal by running a 50.1 third leg and was looking forward to reclaiming a title which had been hers in 2005 and 2006.
However the much awaited rematch between World gold and silver medallists was never to materialize as Demus fell to the floor just a few steps into the race with what seemed like a pretty serious hamstring injury.
With Demus an early casualty, there was hardly any challenge left for Walker who led from the gun and despite faltering on her approach to the eighth hurdle cruised to her third best of the year and the world’s sixth fastest of 2009.
“I had a pretty good race,” said Walker. “I felt very well during the warm up. I didn’t struggle at the finish. Next target will be the World record even though it is very difficult to achieve. I will try for the best.”
Walker netted a fine $30,000 pay cheque for the second year running while compatriot and MVP team-mate Kaliese Spencer prevailed in the race for second in 53.99. Spencer had a more conservative start but finished strongly over the final three barriers.
It was the second best ever performance for the former World Junior champion and fourth placer from Berlin who was well clear of Trinidad and Tobago’s Josianne Lucas in third.
25-year-old Lucas who has improved to a stunning 53.20 to claim bronze in Berlin was timed in 54.31 here three tenths clear of fourth placer Angela Morosanu of Romania.
2007 World Athletics Final winner Anna Jesien held on for fifth at 54.98 as the American duo of Sheena Tosta and Tiffany Williams never seemed to be in the mix for a prominent finish.
Laura Arcoleo for the IAAF