Strong U.S. women’s 400m hurdles corps looks to return to World Championship glory

06-10-2005

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In anticipation of the 10th IAAF World Outdoor Track & Field Championships later this summer, USATF will take a look back at many of the great moments provided by U.S. athletes at the previous nine World Outdoor Championships, and look forward to 2005, with a series of feature stories. The series will continue until the beginning of the 2005 World Outdoor Championships, August 5-14 in Helsinki, Finland.

INDIANAPOLIS - During their highly successful careers, Kim Batten, Tonja Buford and Sandra Farmer-Patrick made their mark on previous World Outdoor Championships with great performances in the women's 400m hurdles. Following a brief down period in that event for U.S. competitors, the track world can now look for a talented foursome of top-10, world-ranked American hurdlers who'll try to put their own names in the history books at the 2005 World Outdoor Track & Field Championships this summer in Helsinki.

Farmer-Patrick wins silver at Stuttgart

After Janeene Vickers captured the first U.S. women's 400m hurdles top-three finish in world outdoor championships history with her bronze medal winning performance in 1991, Sandra Farmer-Patrick made a podium appearance at the 1993 championships at Stuttgart, Germany, following an unforgettable battle for the gold medal with Great Britain's Sally Gunnell.

Gunnell entered the championships as the favorite, although Farmer-Patrick had improved steadily during the season following a coaching change. After posting a season's best in the semifinals (53.88 seconds), Farmer-Patrick grabbed the lead early in the final running out of lane 6. After Gunnell caught her at the eighth hurdle, Farmer-Patrick pulled slightly away again before Gunnell caught her with 40 meters to go.

They crossed the finish line side-by-side, with Gunnell barely winning the race in the new world record time of 52.74 seconds. In finishing as the runner-up, Farmer-Patrick also bettered the existing world record with her time of 52.79 seconds. Farmer-Patrick's U.S. teammates, Kim Batten and Tonja Buford, offered a preview of what was to come at the next world championships with their respective fourth- and fifth-place finishes.

Batten sets WR with gold medal winning performance

Although Kim Batten had established herself as one of the world's top 400m hurdlers, an emergency appendectomy in May of 1994 put her out of action until she qualified for the next world championships team at the 1995 USA Outdoor Championships. With Gunnell, Farmer-Patrick and Marie-Jose Perec out of the 1995 championships in Gothenburg for various reasons, experts predicted a less than memorable final with Batten and Tonja Buford considered favorites for medal contention.

It was quite a battle throughout the race prior to Batten developing a slight edge over Buford just before stuttering at the 10th hurdle. Ultimately, it was Batten's better lean that made the difference as she won the gold medal in the world record time of 52.61 seconds. For the second World Outdoor Championships in a row, an American had bettered the existing world record with a runner-up finish as Buford grabbed the silver medal in 52.62.

In addition to her remarkable gold medal winning performance in Gothenburg, Batten added a bronze medal to her collection at the 1997 World Championships in Athens.

What about Helsinki?

In entering the 2005 season with four of the top ten ranked women's 400m hurdlers in the world, prospects for success this season in that event have never been brighter for Team USA.

2003 World Outdoor Championships silver medalist Sandra Glover entered this season ranked #1 in the world by Track & Field News, and currently owns the second and third fastest times in the world in 2005. But it is the young guns in the hurdle corps that may be most deadly.

Look for 2004 NCAA Outdoor champion and Olympic Trials winner Sheena Johnson to be a factor in Helsinki. Johnson just missed an Olympic medal with her fourth-place finish in Athens last summer, and ended the 2004 campaign ranked #7 in the world.

2004 NCAA Outdoor runner-up and 2002 World Junior Championships gold medalist Lashinda Demus placed third at the 2004 Olympic Trials and acquired valuable experience by making it to the semifinals in Athens. Demus, who ended the 2004 season ranked #10 globally, currently owns the fastest time in the world this year off her win (53.56 seconds) May 22 in Belem. Also look for 2004 Olympic finalist and 2001 NCAA champ Brenda Taylor to vie for a spot on the Helsinki podium in August. Taylor, who finished second at last year's Olympic Trials and third at the World Athletics Final, was ranked #10 in the world at the end of last season.