In what was one of the most impressive individual displays of the championships, USA’s Anna Cockrell blitzed the field in the women’s 400m hurdles final in Bydgoszcz on Friday night (22).
The 18-year-old carved a huge chunk off her previous best of 55.89 to clock 55.20, moving to equal ninth on the world U20 all-time list.
As is her style, Cockrell shot out of the blocks at full speed, charging through the first 200 metres, daring her competitors to follow the searing pace. “It’s a matter of getting out really fast for that first 200,” she said afterwards. “Once I get there I know I can maintain it and bring it home. The last 150 I just really went for it.”
The only one able to follow her pace to halfway was Jamaica’s Shannon Kalawan, who ran with Cockrell around the final turn. At that point, Bahrain’s Aminat Yusuf Jamal was a close third, but was beginning to pay a heavy toll for trying to follow Cockrell.
Into the home straight, Cockrell was maintaining her form and technique as if the race had just started as her rivals began to falter in her wake. Snapping down over each barrier with the precision of a true sprint hurdler, Cockrell powered clear in the last 80 metres to take victory by a wide margin.
“I knew I had this in me,” said the American, who had been eliminated in the semi-finals of the US Olympic Trials earlier this month. “I really wanted to make it to the finals. It was a bummer for me, but I took that frustration and let it fuel me here.”
Kalawan held on for second despite tiring considerably in the home straight, while Canada’s Xahria Santiago took third in a season’s best of 56.90.
“I knew Anna was that good so I was just pleased to come second,” said Kalawan. “My plan today was to get out hard and play catch me if you can. I wanted to be strong in the home straight, so I worked as hard as possible. This is awesome. I’m tearing up inside.”
Santiago was also pleased with her bronze medal. “This was my goal and I was really focused on these championships,” she said. “This is my first time being selected for the national team, so it’s a great win to get a medal.”
Next home was Eileen Demes of Germany in 57.83, with Slovakia’s Michaela Peskova fifth in 58.17. Jamal paid a heavy price for her early efforts and came home sixth in 58.23.
Cathal Dennehy for the IAAF