Kyron McMaster in the 400m hurdles at the IAAF World Championships London 2017 (Getty Images) © Copyright
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My greatest challenge – Kyron McMaster

IAAF Diamond League winner Kyron McMaster reflects on the disappointment of being disqualified in the heats of the 400m hurdles at the IAAF World Championships London 2017 after lining up as the world No.1.

Missed opportunity

“Back in 2015-16 I attended Central Arizona College but struggled with injuries and because things did not work out for me there I returned to the British Virgin Islands in the early part of the 2016 track season.

“Here I hooked up again with my old coach, Xavier ‘Dag’ Samuels. I had been through a difficult season but we managed to put in enough work for me to win a world U20 400m hurdles bronze medal in Bydgoszcz.

“Last winter and without the distractions and stress of college life, I focused more on training and got into better shape. My speed improved and in my first 400m hurdles race of the 2017 season at the Florida Relays I set a national record of 48.71 (taking 0.85 from his personal best). The time did not surprise me because my coach believed I could run that quickly, but I was surprised I achieved it in my opening race of the season.

“Then the next month I ran a world-leading time of 47.80 in Kingston. Times of 47-something are very rare in the 400m hurdles these days, so I was very pleased to be in this bracket.

“Although I went in to the IAAF World Championships in London as world No.1, I approached the competition with no expectation other than to take it round by round. Yes, of course, I was going for the gold medal but I did not put myself above anyone else in the field. I just hoped to advance and hope for the best.

“Unfortunately, in the heat I maybe got a bit ahead of myself. I ran well to 150 metres but then switched off. I did not run the race I wanted to, but I crossed the line in second, relieved to make the next round.

“I then settled down in the changing area to watch the races when some time later my coach said to me I had been disqualified for stepping on the line. I had no idea I had stepped on the line; I actually thought the rules allowed athletes to have three steps on the line, but I was later told this rule had been changed some time ago to one step.

“I was angry and frustrated with the decision and I thought it was harsh, but I tried to recover from the disappointment by focusing on the Diamond League final in Zurich. I convinced myself that this was my World Championships final. I was determined to bounce back and make amends for London.

“I managed to win the final in Zurich in 48.07. It was an overwhelming feeling. I knew everyone back home in the British Virgin Islands was watching and it was very satisfying to beat the three World Championship medallists in that race. I was happy to prove to people that I could perform under pressure and handle business.”

Steve Landells for the IAAF

Xavier ‘Dag’ Samuels, McMaster’s coach, tragically died on 9 September as a result of Hurricane Irma, which devastated the Caribbean and parts of the USA.

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