Ed’s World Champs Blog: Terrific 200s – Brought to you by PUMA

Right, I’m sitting down to write this World Champs blog just after watching two incredible 200m finals, which wrapped up the programme for day seven of the Champs in Eugene, and I’m still buzzing. – BY SEAN FALCONER

The 200m sprint often plays second fiddle to the 100m at the big meets, like Olympics and World Champs, because the shorter sprint is seen by many as the premier event of athletics, the one that gets all the media coverage, and crowns the king of athletics. Ask the average Joe spectator of the big athletics meets who won the 100m and they get the answer right, but the 200m? Chances are they won’t know. It’s not that the 200m is ignored or forgotten, it’s that the 100m just gets more hype and coverage. But there is something really special about the 200m.

Where the 100m is about raw speed and power (on top of the intricacies of starting, maintaining form, not tensing up, etc), the 200m brings in a tricky technical aspect with the running of the curve in the first half of the race, followed by the proverbial million dollar question: Which athletes can maintain top speed most consistently in for the second half. For that reason, watching the heat maps of each athlete in the live coverage was fascinating, seeing which athletes decelerated the least as they hit the last 50 metres. While running is (supposedly) a simple sport – you just one foot in front of the other as quickly as you can – there is also a fascinatingly intricate technical side to every event in the sport, from the 100m to ultra-distance races.

Local Hero Does Us Proud

Before I talk about the winners, I first want to say a few words about our own Luxolo Adams. I was absolutely thrilled to see him lining up for the men’s 200m final in an absolutely stellar line-up. As I wrote in yesterday’s blog, he has had an amazing season, breaking through the 20-second barrier and winning a Diamond League title in Paris, and now he’s appeared in his first global final. Just as is the case with Akani Simbine making 100m finals at this level, it’s a far cry from not so very long ago when we didn’t have any South African sprinters performing at that kind of level. Now to have a finalist in both the 100m and the 200m at this World Champs, added to other success the country has enjoyed in sprints and relays in recent years, really warms this South African heart!

I know some may point to the fact that Luxolo finished eighth out of eight finalists, and that his time of 20:47 was a little disappointing, given that he clocked 20.09 in the semi-final and ran that 19.82 less than a month ago, but one has to factor in that finals are super tense, with athletes making extra sure that they do not false start and get DQed after doing all the hard yards to make the final. Also, the final is usually the third race in jus ta few days for these athletes, so there is also a fatigue factor that can affect times. All that said, I choose to focus on Luxolo making his first global final, and I hope it is just the first of more to come.

Winners Totally Dominate

Now to the winners. In the women’s race, Jamaican Shericka Jackson proved that her 21.67 in the semi-final was no fluke as she went still faster in the final, clocking 21.45 to not only shatter her 20.55 PB, set in the Jamaican Champs less than a month earlier, but she became the fastest woman alive over 200m by clocking the fastest time since the late Florence ‘Flo Jo’ Griffith Joyner set the World Record of 21.34 way back in 1988. Jackson has often played ‘bridesmaid’ or supporting cast to her Jamaican compatriots, five-time World Champion Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce and four-time Olympic champion Elaine Thompson-Herah – she finished third, behind them, in the 100m final at these World Champs – but today she ruled supreme, and her post-race celebrations were a joy to watch.

Then came the men’s 200m final, and the USA’s Noah Lyles successfully defended the title he won at the 2019 World Champs in Doha – and probably also redeemed himself, in his own eyes, for ‘only’ winning bronze at the Olympics last year. Like Jackson, he also looked unbeatable as he led home US compatriots Kenneth Bednarek (19.77) and Erriyon Knighton (19.80) for another American clean-sweep of the podium, as they did in the men’s 100m final. But it was Lyle’s winning time that really stood out. Coming into the final, his personal best was the 19.50 he ran in 2019, and his season best for 2022 thus far was the 19.61 he ran in New York in June, but he blew the final away with a new PB 19.31, which moved him up to third place on the all-time list for the 200m. Only Jamaicans Usain Bolt (19.19 & 19.30) and Yohan Blake (19.26) have ever gone faster.

After he won and realised just how fast he had managed to go, Lyle ripped the top of his running suit as he celebrated. To be honest, I am not always a fan of the way some athletes behave on the track, especially the sprinters, and especially the Americans, but this time I was OK with it. The performance merited going a little crazy.

Catching My Breath

Now we have three days of competition left, and there is still a lot to look forward to. Last night Prudence Sekgodiso made it into the semi-final round of the women’s 800m, taking place later today, as will be the heats of the men’s 4x100m relay, where we hope our SA men can do make it through to the final, but the big one has to be Wayde van Niekerk in the men’s 400m final. And the mouth-watering women’s 400m hurdles will round out the programme. So that’s where I will be in the early hours of the morning.

Image: World Athletics

Rising Sprint Star Signs for PUMA

Global sports brand PUMA has signed 22-year-old US-American track and field athlete Abby Steiner. The rising star’s victory in the women’s 200-metre final of the US Outdoor Championships in 21.77 seconds made her the second-fastest woman in the world over this distance up till that point in 2022, and this week she made it through to the 200m final at the World Athletic Championships in Eugene, going on to finish fifth with a time of 22.26 in her first appearance in a world final.

Steiner currently boasts impressive personal bests of 10.90 for 100m and that 21.77 for 200m, and she holds both the women’s indoor 200m American record with a time of 22.09, as well as the collegiate-level NCAA 200m record (outdoors) at 21.80, which she set at the NCAA Championships in June this year.

In 2018, Steiner was named her nation’s best high school female athlete, having excelled both in athletics and soccer. That year she began studying at the University of Kentucky (UK) on a dual-sport scholarship, but after tearing her knee ligaments on the soccer field, she decided to focus on the track, and Steiner cites this decision as a key to her track development: “Before, with soccer, I’d be training soccer in the fall, then I would come to track. I think really allowing myself to dive fully into the process of the periodisation of training that we do, so fall training and then going into indoor and outdoor seasons, it’s all really important in developing speed and getting to where you want to be.”

Eyes on the Prize

Since focusing solely on the track, Steiner has quickly developed into a world-class athlete. She won the 2021 NCAA Division 1 Indoor Championship 200m title with a meeting record 22.38. Then in 2022, she completed a full sweep of medals at the next installment of the NCAA Indoor Champs, taking gold in the 200m (with a meeting record 22.16), silver in the 60m (with a PB 7.10), and bronze in 4x400m relay.

Next up was the 2022 NCAA Division 1 Outdoor Champs, where she won gold in the 200m and set that 21.80 NCAA record, added a bronze medal in the 100m with her 10.90 PB, and helped her UK varsity team win the 4x400m relay (in another meeting record 3:22.55). Steiner followed that with her title-winning 200m run at the US Champs, with yet another PB.

Earlier this year, Steiner was named the National Women’s Track Athlete of the Year and the 2022 Honda Sport Award winner for Track & Field, presented annually to the most outstanding women’s college athlete in each of 12 NCAA Division 1 women’s sports. Therefore, PUMA is thrilled to announce that she has signed to run in the company’s shoes and apparel. “Abby Steiner is one of the most exciting upcoming stars in Track and Field,” said Pascal Rolling, Head of Running Sports Marketing at PUMA. “We believe that she will have a brilliant career, and we want to be by her side and support her.”

Ready to Fly Faster

Steiner graduated with a bachelor’s degree in kinesiology and exercise science in May 2022, and has been accepted to the UK’s physical therapy programme, but has decided to defer her enrolment in order to concentrate on her professional track career, and she is understandably happy to land a lucrative sponsorship deal with a sport brand so prominent and involved in track and field. “PUMA’s list of high-performance athletes is impressive and being one of them just feels amazing,” says Steiner. “I am very happy to be part of the PUMA family now, and I can’t wait to take off.”

More About PUMA

PUMA is one of the world’s leading sports brands, designing, developing, selling and marketing footwear, apparel and accessories. For more than 70 years, PUMA has relentlessly pushed sport and culture forward by creating fast products for the world’s fastest athletes. PUMA offers performance and sport-inspired lifestyle products in categories such as Football, Running and Training, Basketball, Golf, and Motorsports. It collaborates with renowned designers and brands to bring sport influences into street culture and fashion. The PUMA Group owns the brands PUMA, Cobra Golf and stichd. The company distributes its products in more than 120 countries, employs about 16,000 people worldwide, and is headquartered in Herzogenaurach, Germany.