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August 9, 2017

Dissecting the Wild Ending To the Women’s 400 Meter Final

This World Championships has already been a wild one. Between Bolt losing, Bowie’s epic lean and that crazy women’s 1500 meters, I’m not sure we could’ve handled more drama from this meet.

But like so many races in London thus far, the preordained Allyson Felix vs. Shaunae Miller-Uibo story line was bound to be shattered.

With 100 meters to run, things had gone mostly how it was expected to. Miller-Uibo, the 2016 Olympic champion, had opened a solid gap over Felix — the same situation the two found themselves in a year ago in Rio.

In 2016, Felix closed on Miller-Uibo and even edged past the Bahamian in the final meters, but fell victim to Miller-Uibo’s now infamous dive to win gold.

This year’s race played out much differently as Felix was unable to make up any ground on Miller-Uibo. In fact, Felix was losing ground to the competitors behind her, American Phyllis Francis and Salwa Eid Naser of Bahrain.

We’ve seen Miller-Uibo tighten up in the final meters of a race before (like in Rio), but with 30 meters to go, she sputtered like a engine that ran out of gas.

It’s hard to tell exactly what happened. Ross Tucker of Science of Sport called it a cramp or strain in Miller-Uibo’s left leg.

Whatever it was, it hindered her normal stride pattern, forced her to clip the ground, and completely broke her momentum in a way we rarely see in track and field. The closest example I can think of was Lolo Jones hitting the ninth hurdle at the 2008 Olympics, causing her to go from first to seventh place in the span of just a few meters.

While the drama with Miller-Uibo was taking place, Francis had inched past Felix into second place and then surged past Miller-Uibo to earn the unlikeliest of world titles.

Just take a look at the odds — Francis was listed as 14/1 to win in the pre-meet betting odds.

Naser ended up winning silver while Felix faded back to bronze medal position, tying the record for most World Championship medals at 14. Miller-Ubio faded into fourth place, over a half-second behind Francis.

Another wild, wild race in what’s already been the most unpredictable championship meet I’ve ever seen. And with four days of #London2017 left to go, we could see even more madness — stay tuned!

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