Watson Wins The 400m Gold, 40 Years After Cameron’s Triumph

Antonio Watson

21-year-old Antonio Watson was amazing at the men’s 400m final on day six of the World Athletics Championships Budapest 23.

Without a trace of three top fastest men in 2023, two of whom have broken 44 seconds this season, this year’s final was opened up.

It was the 2017 world U18 gold medallist who adapted to the situation, battling against eminent loss to pass through the line and strike gold in his first international final at senior level with an amazing 44.24 timing – the second-fastest season of his career.

Watson additionally becomes the first Jamaican gold medallist in the event since the legendary Bert Cameron won the title at the debut World championship in 1983.

The bronze medallist from Oregon, Extraordinary England’s Matthew Hudson-Smith, had ‘taken over’ the first half of the race, but drained as he moved toward the finish line, raising the stakes to take the silver in 44.31.

The Commonwealth Games silver medallist came to Budapest with a lifetime best of 44.35, and sped to a European record of 44.26 in the semifinals, breaking Thomas Schonlebe’s 26-year-old record of 44.33, set at the 1987 World Championships in Rome. His aim was to become the first British man to win the coveted title, but will have to be content with silver for now.

USA’s 2019 NCAA champion Quincy Hall made a late flood to beat his comrade Vernon Norwood to bronze in the wake of timing a lifetime best of 44.37, 0.02 better than the latter.

Watson’s colleague Danielle Williams had established the rhythm with her victory in a distinctly challenged women’s 100m hurdles final, reclaiming the crown she previously won in 2015, and with Wayne Pinnock and Tajay Gayle taking silver and bronze separately in the men’s long jump, the Jamaican runner realized he had his work cut out.

The silver medallist from the 2018 Youth Olympics, who is coached by the legendary Glen Mills (who guided multiple world record-holder Usain Bolt) was ranked 29th and started in Budapest with a lifetime best of 44.54 set at the Jamaican Trials, where he finished second to Sean Bailey. Thusly, nobody had guessed that he would cause some disruption to the big boys.

Having distinguished South Africa’s Wayde van Niekerk – the world record-holder – as his deity, Budapest gave him the chance of sharing the stage with the two-time world champion and 2016 Olympic gold medallist.

Twice he got the chance to race alongside the South African and twice he made the most of the window of opportunity he’d been handed, using the races as launching pads to the next level in his budding career.

Watson’s blazes of splendor had come to the front during the semifinal. Drawn in heat one along with Van Niekerk, who was unbeaten this year and ranked No.1, and the equally experienced Norwood, a three-time world gold medallist in the 4x400m, the Jamaican was the newcomer in this elite field.

Watson sprung a surprise as he dug deep to upstage the rest the field, blazing to a 44.13 PB to become the joint third-fastest Jamaican in history alongside Nathon Allen, and just behind McDonald (43.93) and Akeem Bloomfield (43.94).

Norwood ran a strong 60m to cross the line ahead of the Olympic gold medallist from Rio in a PB of 44.26, leaving Van Niekerk in the unfamiliar position of fighting for a spot in the final through a non-automatic place.

He in the long run got it, unlike the world leader and 2019 gold medallist Steven Gardiner, who appeared to suffer a hamstring injury and did not finish, with a similar fate befalling one of Africa’s hopefuls, Botswana’s Bayapo Ndori.

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But it seemed Van Niekerk never recuperated from the experience as he remained to some degree imperceptible in the last, in the long run putting a far off seventh (45.11), the second slowest time he’s run this season.

The 31-year-old has faced a serious challenge trying to get back to his prevailing form since experiencing a career-threatening injury during a celebrity touch rugby match in 2017.

It was also a race to forget for 2011 world gold medallist Kirani James of Grenada, who has won all three shades of medals at both the World Championships and Olympics. He had initially finished in fifth but was subsequently disqualified for a lane violation.

Watson’s teammate and Tokyo Olympics finalist Bailey settled for fifth with a time of 44.96, while the youngest athlete in the field, European U23 gold medallist Havard Bentdal Ingvaldsen of Norway, who set a national record of 44.39 in the heats and is one of the revelations in the event, finished sixth (45.08).

2023 World Athletics Championship

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