World Indoor Championships 2016 Sprint and Relay Review

Barbara Pierre (left) edges Dafne Schippers to win the 60-meter gold medal at the 2016 World Indoor Championships. Christian Petersen/Getty Images

Handicapping the individual sprint winners for the 2016 World Indoor Championships, held in Portland, Oregon, proved to be a difficult task, as several surprise winners emerged. The relay results were more predictable, however.

Women’s 60 Meters

One week before the World Indoor Championships, Barbara Pierre lowered her 60-meter personal best from 7.08 seconds to 7.00 to win the U.S. Championships. She maintained that momentum in Portland, winning all three of her races to earn the 60-meter gold medal.

Pierre was fastest overall in the opening heats, winning her race in 7.07. Pierre won the first semifinal in 7.06, but it was the third semi that partially foreshadowed the final. Jamaica’s Elaine Thompson used a fast start to win that race in 7.04, beating one of the event favorites, Dafne Schippers of the Netherlands, who finished in 7.08. The other semifinal winner was Michelle-Lee Ahye of Trinidad and Tobago, who matched the national record of  7.09 that she’d set in the opening heats. In the final, Pierre beat the main contenders out of the blocks, with a reaction time of 0.138 (a bit faster than one-seventh of a second), compared to Schippers’ 0.144 and Thompson’s 0.174. Once the 5-foot-10 Schippers got up to speed she began gaining on Pierre, but it was too late. The American crossed the line in 7.02, followed by Schippers (7.04), Thompson (7.06) and Ahye (7.11).

Learning Sprint Mechanics

Men’s 60 Meters

Unlike Pierre, Trayvon Bromell didn’t carry momentum into the men’s 60-meter competition. Indeed, he didn’t appear to be a likely winner until the moment he flashed across the finish line. At the U.S. Championships, Bromell finished fourth in his semifinal – qualifying for the final by just 0.02 – although he rallied to a very close second-place finish in the final, behind Marvin Bracy.

Bromell won both his quarterfinal and semifinal heats in Portland, but he wasn’t the big story entering the final. That honor belonged to Jamaica’s Asafa Powell, who ran a national record 6.44 in the quarterfinal and matched that time in the semis. By contrast, Bromell won his two preliminary races in 6.57 and 6.53, respectively. But the American had the field’s quickest start in the final (0.121) and led all the way, winning in a personal best 6.47. Powell, who’s never won an individual international championship, rallied into second in 6.50, while Ramon Gittens gave Barbados its second-ever World Indoor medal, finishing third in a national record 6.51. The 20-year-old Bromell is the youngest man to win the World Indoor 60-meter gold medal.

American Olympian Harvey Glance offers sprint coaching tips

Men’s 400 Meters

All of the eventual competitors for the men’s 400-meter title won their quarterfinal heats. Qatar’s Abdalelah Haroun was fastest overall in 46.15 seconds. Other heat winners included Bralon Taplin of Grenada (46.24), Trinidad and Tobago’s Deon Lendore (46.38) and defending champion Pavel Maslak of the Czech Republic (46.57). One potential contender did drop out, however, as American champion Vernon Norwood was disqualified for running outside of his lane, after apparently finishing second in his heat to Haroun.

Taplin won the first semifinal in 45.38, while Maslak edged Haroun in the second semi, with both runners finishing in 45.71. Taplin dashed into a solid lead in the final, going through 200 meters in 20.89. But he paid for his fast start during the final 50 meters, as three men ran past him. First came Maslak, followed closely by Haroun. The Qatari gained ground on Maslak down the home straight, but the Czech held him off to win in 45.44. Haroun was second in 45.59 and Lendore took third in 46.17, with Taplin fading to fourth in 46.56.

Track coach Harvey Glance explains his 400-meter racing philosophy

Women’s 400 Meters

Oluwakemi Adekoya of Bahrain wasn’t among the favorites in the women’s 400 meters. She entered the Championships with a season best of 51.67, making her the seventh-fastest in the world in 2016.

Furthermore, most of her previous successes came in the 400-meter hurdles. But the Nigerian-born Adekoya was fastest overall in the quarterfinal heats, winning her race in 52.27. Other prominent heat winners included Americans Ashley Spencer (52.96) and Quanera Hayes (52.98). Adekoya then broke her own Asian record while defeating Hayes in the second semifinal, finishing in 51.47 to Hayes’ 51.54. Spencer won the first semi, in 52.39. In the final, Hayes seemed to have gained the key inside position as the runners broke from their lanes during the first lap, but Adekoya quickly passed the American to lead at the bell. Hayes made two moves on Adekoya without success during the final lap, as Adekoya won in 51.45 to re-break the Asian record. Spencer took advantage of Hayes’ late run at Adekoya to pass her fellow American to the inside and took the silver medal in 51.72, leaving Hayes with the bronze in 51.76.

Speed training is a key to success in the 400-meter run

Women’s 4 x 400-Meter Relay

The heavily favored American team didn’t disappoint the home crowd, rolling to a decisive victory in the 4 x 400-meter event. Lead runner Natasha Hastings went to the front and stayed there, running a 51.89-second leg. Hayes then took the baton and increased the U.S. lead by running her 400 meters in 51.02. The U.S. victory was already all but secured at that point, but third-leg runner Courtney Okolo took no chances, dashing around the track in 50.71 seconds. Spencer, the American anchor, then ran virtually alone, cruising home in 52.76, as the U.S. crossed the line in 3:26.38.

The race’s only drama occurred on the first lap, when Jamaica’s Patricia Hall got her feet tangled with a competitor, fell to the track and stayed there. That left the battle for the secondary medals wide open. Poland ran second most of the way and fended off a late Romanian charge to take the silver in 3:31.15, while Romania gained the bronze in 3:31.51. The U.S. victory gave Hastings her ninth major international relay gold medal. She’s earned three 4 x 400-meter golds at the World Indoor Championships (2010, 2014, 2016), three more at the outdoor World Championships (2007, 2009, 2011), two at the World Relays (2014, 2015) and one at the Olympics (2008).

4 x 400-Meter Relay Tips

Men’s 4 x 400-Meter Relay

Unlike the women’s event, the men’s 4 x 400-meter relay featured two rounds, both of which were dominated by the Americans. The U.S. squad was the fastest overall in the semifinals, as the quartet of Elvyonn Bailey, Calvin Smith Jr., Christopher Giesting and Patrick Feeney won in 3:05.41. Belgium, featuring brothers Dylan, Jonathan and Kevin Borlee, won the other semi in 3:07.39. In the final, Kyle Clemons ran a 46.47-second opening leg to give the U.S. a slim lead over Bahamas. Smith kept the U.S. in front by running 45.66, although Bahamas, Trinidad and Tobago, and Belgium were still close behind. Belgium fell out of contention during the third leg when their only non-Borlee runner, Robin Vanderbemden, dropped the baton. He picked it up and continued, but the Belgians were too far behind, and ended up in sixth.

Meanwhile, Geisting produced a 45.34-second third leg to give the U.S. a solid lead. Norwood then slammed the door shut with a 44.98-second anchor leg to give the Americans the gold in 3:02.45. Chris Brown anchored Bahamas to the silver medal in a national record 3:04.75, while Lendore ran the final leg for Trinidad and Tobago, taking the bronze in a national record 3:05.51.

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