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Event report: Women’s 200m Final

Allyson Felix became the first woman to defend successfully the 200m World title for 12 years with a stunning display of sprinting in the Nagai Stadium this evening that left her rivals floundering in her wake

It brought her the gold medal in 21.81, the fastest time in the world since 1995 and a full 0.3s improvement on her personal best.

“Tonight is special,” she said. “I have been waiting for so long to run such a time, to run under 22 seconds. It has not been an easy road, but finally I managed it. Running so fast feels great. But it was not really that easy.”

Maybe not, but it certainly looked it.

Felix simply destroyed a field that included the 2003 and 2007 100m champions, the Olympic 200m champion and the 2006 athlete of the year. It was expected to be close, potentially a three-way tie. It wasn’t. Not by a long way.

Felix’s winning margin was more than half a second – the biggest at a global championships since the flying Dutchwoman Fanny Blankers Koen won at the London Olympics in 1948. Yes, bigger even than Florence Griffith Joyner at the 1988 Olympics.

Felix crossed the line some 15 metres ahead of Veronica Campbell, the Jamaican who won the 100m on Monday and holds the Olympic 200m title. And Campbell wasn’t running slowly.

She finished in 22.34, her quickest of the year, while Susanthike Jayasinghe sprang the surprise of the race to take an unexpected bronze in 22.63, a second medal for the Los Angelese-based Sri Lankan who won the silver at this event 10 years ago.

Jayasinghe snatched the medal away from Torri Edwards, the American who now has the unwanted honour of two fourth places in these championships, while Sanya Richards, last year’s athlete of the year for her unbeaten 400m season, could only finish fifth.

Felix is the only woman to defend the 200m title apart from Merlene Ottey who won in 1993 and 1995. In truth she looked the most likely winner from the opening rounds, her graceful, long-striding style appearing to give her extra time, an ability to glide away from her opponents.

As they were called to their blocks she hung her head low, letting her long hair fall about her shoulders. The sprinters seemed to get away clean but after three strides there was a late recall. Jamaica’s Aleen Bailey had false started.

At the second gun Felix, in lane five, got a good start and was soon closing the stagger on Campbell in six and Richards in seven. She ran an impressive bend and led as they entered the straight.

But the manner in which she powered away from the best sprinters in the world from that point on was simply jaw-dropping. Feliz had spent the three previous rounds doing enough to get through, easing down for the last 20, 30, 40 metres. This time the foot stayed hard on the peddle and her stride seemed to get longer with every step.

She crossed the line with a broad grin across her face. Well might she smile. She’d made the rest look pedestrian.

Campbell held her form to finish a shell-shocked second but Richards faded as Jayasinghe in lane eight finished strongly to edge out Edwards in three, whose failure to dip cost a medal and left her in fourth for the second time in the week.

“I’m thankful; a medal is a medal,” said the stunned Jamaican. “In the last 100m she was on her own.” She certainly was.

“I knew that I have a strong finish, that I really had to take it off on the home stretch,” said Felix, who is now gunning for Campbell’s Olympic title in Beijing next year.

“I might consider doing both,” she added, “the 200 and the 400m. But even if I run the 400m more often, I would never give up the 200m.”

After tonight’s performance, why would she? She’s now level with Valerie Brisco-Hooks as the 12th quickest ever.

Osaka 2007 News Team/mkb