LONDON (Reuters) - American Kori Carter pulled off another of the growing number of shocks at the World Championships on Thursday, achieving the rare feat of winning the 400 metres hurdles title from the outside lane.
All eyes had been on Carter’s U.S. team mate, Olympic champion Dalilah Muhammad, who had been the strong favourite, but it was the former American champion in lane nine who maintained her form best to race to victory in 53.07 seconds.
Muhammad, the fastest woman in the world this year, earned the silver in 53.50 to complete an American one-two while Jamaican Ristananna Tracey, an Olympic finalist last year, took the bronze in a lifetime best 53.74.
Czech Zuzana Hejnova, who had been seeking to achieve an unprecedented third successive one-lap hurdles victory, had to settle for fourth, being overhauled by Tracey on the run-in despite clocking a season’s best 54.20.
“I am on top of the world right now. What a blessing to be world champion. This is just an incredible feeling like I’ve never experienced,” the 25-year-old Carter told the crowd.
“When you work so hard and sacrifice so much for something, for it to pay off in the end is so satisfying. It’s a surreal experience right now.
“It’s always great to run against great athletes because it brings the best out in you, going up against Team USA at trials really prepared me for this.”
Few, though, could have expected the Los Angeles-based Carter, who had won the U.S. title three years ago, to prevail from the outside lane where the race becomes a test of blind faith.
Wayde van Niekerk, famously, achieved his Olympic 400 metres win last year from that position, breaking the world record in the process, but that was a wholly unprecedented feat.
Muhammad, who ran 52.64 seconds this year when she beat Carter into third place in a high-quality U.S. trials race, had led through seven hurdles in lane four.
But Carter, who started her athletic career as a soccer player before falling in love with the hurdles, dug deep over the last 30 metres and pulled away from Muhammad.
Hejnova was also quickly running out of steam and twice Jamaican champion Tracey took advantage.
“I feel sorry for my performance tonight,” Hejnova said. “I am disappointed. I kicked it too much at the start and I was missing the energy in the last metres. I think I just let myself be blown away by this amazing atmosphere at the stadium.”
Muhammad talked of having suffered a “shaky” season even though she had been imperious in Sacramento at the U.S. Championships.
“I really wanted to win, of course, but I’ve had so many ups and downs this season. To come out with a silver, I’m proud of that,” the 27-year-old said.
“I’m just happy to even get on the podium - it’s been a shaky year. I am very proud of Team USA, we come out and show out.”
Editing by Ed Osmond