Sanya Richards, Steffi Nerius and Ezekiel Kemboi shook off the ghosts of the past with gold medal performances at the world athletics championships.
US runner Richards got her first global title in the women’s 400 metres Tuesday and the retirement-bound Nerius did the same in the javelin, the first gold for hosts Germany in Berlin.
Kemboi continued a proud Kenyan 3,000 metres steeplechase tradition with his first title after three previous runner-up finishes.
Kerron Clement of the US defended his 400m hurdles title, Phillips Idowu followed in the footsteps of Jonathan Edwards with triple jump gold for Britain, and Usain Bolt jogged into the 200 metres semis.
Richards, 24, led from start to finish en route to a winning 2009 world best 49.00s.
Shericka Williams of Jamaica got silver like at the 2008 Olympics in a personal best 49.32 seconds. Antonina Krivoshakpa of Russia took third place with 49.71 seconds
“To come here and to win the race, it means the world to me. Finally, I have own a major title! Before, I had difficulties standing the pressure. But now I am a better athlete,” said Richards.
Richards was the dominant 400m runner over the past years, but failed to qualify for the 2007 worlds and then tired dramatically on the home stretch at the 2008 Olympics to finish third.
Richards is suffering from Behcet’s syndrome, a rare illness that causes chronic inflammation of blood vessels in the body which had led to the disappointments of the past.
“It flared up a little bit here because it comes when I am stressed. But I now know how to handle it,” she said.
The defending champion and Olympic gold medallist Christine Ohuruogu of Britain was no factor in fifth place.
Kemboi proved strongest on the home stretch to win the steeplechase in a championship record 8:00.43 minutes from compatriot Richard Kipkemboi Matelong, who had 8:00.89.
Frenchman Bouabdellah Tahri denied Kenya a second straight sweep at the worlds, stealing the bronze on the finish line by eight hundredth of a second from Paul Kipsiele Koech with a European record 8:01.18. Kemboi won Olympic gold in 2004, but had never managed to top a podium at worlds, coming second in 2003, 2005 and 2007.
Nerius got a gold at last after bronze at the last three worlds and an Olympic silver in 2004, shocking the opposition with an opening round throw of 67.30m which proved good for gold.
Czech world and Olympic champion Barbora Spotakova had to settle for second with 66.42m and Maria Abakumova of Russia was third with 66.06m.
Antil, Poonia disappoint
India ended their miserable campaign in the World Athletics Championship with women discus throwers Seema Antil and Krishna Poonia failing to qualify for the final round here.
National record holder Antil and Poonia were way off their personal best in the qualifying round of the competition, next to Olympic Games in importance, finishing 15th and 28th respectively in a field of 37.