Newspaper article International Herald Tribune

A 400-Meter Race Decided by .004 Second ; British Sprinter Surges at End to Snatch Victory by Narrowest of Margins

Newspaper article International Herald Tribune

A 400-Meter Race Decided by .004 Second ; British Sprinter Surges at End to Snatch Victory by Narrowest of Margins

Article excerpt

Christine Ohuruogu, the 2008 Olympic champion, threw her body at the line to cap a great comeback and win the 400 meters at the track and field worlds by less than a hundredth of a second.

It was not as if Amantle Montsho had not been warned.

In June, Montsho was in the lead in a 400-meter race in Birmingham, England. The finish line was beckoning and then -- suddenly -- there was Christine Ohuruogu surprising Montsho with a surge from behind and snatching the victory by one hundredth of a second.

On Monday night in Moscow, in the 400 that mattered most this season, Ohuruogu ambushed Montsho by an even smaller margin.

"You have to be careful, because she is strong in the mind," said Montsho, looking close to tears.

After Tuesday, five days of competition remain in these world track and field championships, but the suspicion is that the race of the meet has already been run.

It did not look like much of a classic when Montsho emerged from the final curve with a healthy lead, but Ohuruogu, the captain of the British team this year, has long been a formidable finisher, confident in her strength and her back-half closing power.

With 70 meters to run, she was still three strides behind Montsho. But Ohuruogu relentlessly closed the gap. With five meters remaining, she still looked destined for silver, but she made a final surge and leaned forward at the line while Montsho, believing she was in command, did not.

"I did not see Christine coming from behind," Montsho said. "I think if I knew that, I would pull my chest forward and I would have made it."

It was still too close to call immediately and Ohuruogu was hardly beaming like a winner as she stood, hands on hips, past the finish line.

Her handshake with Montsho was friendly, but then a name finally flashed on the electronic scoreboard. It was Ohuruogu's, giving her a second world outdoor title to go with her victory in 2007.

Hundredths of seconds are usually quite sufficient to determine 400-meter champions, but this duel -- the closest in world championships history over the distance -- required thousandths.

Ohuruogu won in 49.404 seconds, with Montsho in second at 49.408. The bronze medal went to Antonina Krivoshapka of Russia in 49.78.

Based on career results, it was no upset: Ohuruogu won Olympic gold in 2008 and a silver behind Sanya Richards-Ross in 2012. Montsho, a nomad whose training base is in Dakar, Senegal, but trains farther afield, has yet to win an Olympic medal; she finished fourth last year, as her coach was not in London because his visa and accreditation had not been processed in time.

But she was the reigning world champion and the slight favorite, and the surprise was that a year after her draining Olympic season, Ohuruogu was able to find the energy and motivation to produce a national record, one that dated to 1984, when Kathy Cook ran 49. …

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