Steven Gardiner powers to the 400m title at the IAAF World Championships Doha 2019 (© Getty Images)
A little over a month after Hurricane Dorian wreaked devastation in his homeland of The Bahamas, Steven Gardiner lifted the spirits of his compatriots to climb sixth on the all-lists with a rip-roaring victory.
The Bahamian, whose last one-lap defeat when completing a 400m race came when winning world silver at the 2017 World Championships, bided his time before unleashing a devastating burst of speed over the last 150 metres to blow away his rivals and set a national record 43.48.
Behind, Pan American champion Anthony Jose Zambrano lowered his personal best of 44.55 set in the heats to record a South American record of 44.15 for silver.
Fred Kerley, who recorded a time of 43.64 to win the US title in July, had to settle for bronze in 44.17.
But this was Gardiner’s day as the Bahamian – a training partner of women’s 400m silver medallist Shaunae Miller-Uibo - stormed to gold.
After the elimination of pre-event favourite Michael Norman in the semi-finals, Kerley was installed as a tentative favourite. Gardiner too had looked impressive in the semi-finals with former World and Olympic champion Kirani James of Grenada rolling back the years to advance to the final after several years struggling to control Graves’ disease.
The climax of one of the great World Championship sessions saw Kerley make a rapid start from the blocks, although it was James running from lane seven who was probably the early leader and down the back straight he quickly closed the stagger on Zambrano on his outside.
Around the final bend it was James holding a marginal lead from Kerley but once the languid Gardiner started moving his long legs, by the time he entered the straight the 24-year-old Bahamian held a clear advantage.
Down the home straight Gardiner roared on home by the crowd extended his advantage and crossed the line in a time of 43.48, which only five other men in history have bettered. He also became the second Bahamian to land this title following Avard Moncur’s success in Edmonton 18 years ago.
In the battle for silver it was Zambrano who caused a major upset unleashing a late charge to claim Colombia’s first track medal at a World Championships.
Kerley’s challenge faded but at least he claimed bronze, a big improvement on his seventh place finish at the 2017 World Championships in London.
Gardiner’s grandmother’s wooden house was flattened by Hurricane Dorian and his father’s home was also badly damaged and he said: “I went through the rounds perfectly, I can’t believe I am a world champion. I was born in the Caribbean and everyone did their best tonight. It feels pretty good.”
“It’s so big to win two medals (the other being Miller-Uibo) for the Bahamas after the hurricane. We did it for our country.”
Jamaica’s Demish Gaye trimmed 0.09 from his personal best to record 44.46 for fourth 0.08 clear of James, who will earn huge encouragement at his return to the big time.
Kenyan 1:42 800m athlete Emmanuel Korir earned a respectable sixth in 44.94 with Machel Cedenio (45.30) of Trinidad & Tobago and Jamaica’s Akeem Bloomfield in 45.36 completing the final order.
Steve Landells for the IAAF