Dutch star’s hard work paying off as she becomes the second-fastest woman in history over 400m hurdles with a landmark win in London
Femke Bol admits she likes a challenge, so when faced with the prospect of making significant changes to a 400m hurdles recipe which had brought her plenty of success, the Dutch star didn’t blink.
Take 14 strides in between hurdles rather than 15? No problem. Change the leg which leads into the barriers? Sure. It meant plenty of hard work at her training base of Pappendal in the Netherlands under coach Laurent Meuwly but, with the long-term plan of Olympic glory in mind come Paris next summer, there was a clear incentive for doing so.
The 23-year-old won’t pretend it’s been easy but the fruits of her labour were clear for all to see at the London Athletics Meeting on Sunday (July 23) as she flowed her way seamlessly to a time of 51.45 which shattered her own European record by over half a second and represented the second-fastest time ever in the women’s event.
Bol’s previous best had been the 52.03 which was clocked on her way to Olympic bronze in Tokyo two years ago, but this performance put the world indoor 400m record-holder on another level.
The only person to have ever run faster is the reigning Olympic and world champion Sydney McLaughlin-Levrone but, with the American openly stating that she will be going for gold in the flat 400m at next month’s World Championships, Bol is now a very clear favourite to finish on top of the hurdling podium in Budapest.
Last year’s world silver medallist and European champion is taking it all in her commanding stride, though.
“I’ve been wanting to run this 51 and to race in this stadium for so long. It’s amazing.”
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“I had wanted this [51 seconds] and to race in this stadium for so long so to do so well in this atmosphere… I couldn’t be happier,” said Bol, who finished ahead of Janieve Russell (53.75) and Shamier Little (53.76) while British champion Jessie Knight equalled her personal best with a run of 54.09 in fifth.
“I’d been feeling great in training and that I could not only run 51 but do it in my last competition before Budapest is great. I have all the information I think we need in what we can do better – now it’s time to work hard and get the last things perfect.
“Changing my stride pattern is one of the biggest changes I will make in my career. I like the challenge. I knew it would be tough but I really like the feel of the 14 strides compared to 15 so I think we made a really good decision.
“Everyone brings their A game to the championships and I hope to do the same.”
Wayde van Niekerk is certainly edging closer to his best as the 400m world record-holder and former Olympic champion continues his resurgence following the knee injury he suffered not long after defending his world title in London back in 2017.
It has been a long road back for the South African but, having recently posted 44.08 – his fastest time in five years – he secured another Diamond League victory in London with a slightly untidy, albeit hard fought, race as he held off Bryce Deadmon’s 44.40, the 44.46 of Vernon Norwood and a season’s best 44.72 from Britain’s European champion Matt Hudson-Smith.
“To an extent I wanted to replicate the result I had here six years ago,” said van Niekerk. “Last time I ran here I was so much more in control, there’s a bit more of a fight needed from me so I’m glad that I could show myself that I can fight through difficult days and get a victory.
READ MORE: Full coverage from the London Athletics Meet
“Physically I’m ticking all the right boxes, so hopefully I can just use this for myself as a reference moving forward to just constantly improve and grow. Then, when I get to Budapest I can compete for medals.”
Grant Holloway is no stranger to World Championships success either and the American warmed up for the defence of his 110m hurdles title by taking the London win in 13.01 from Shunsuke Izyumiya (13.06) and Jamal Britt (13.25).
“It feels good to be in London – the crowd was absolutely amazing,” said Holloway. “It’s made me really excited for Budapest.”
He’s not the only one.
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