Steven Gardiner (center).
Mother’s Day weekend is usually a time when the country’s two biggest athletic stars gear up for one of the biggest Diamond League Meets on the calendar, and over the years, both have dominated. Reference is to the Shanghai Diamond League Meet in the Far East – usually the second stop on World Athletics’ (WA) popular one-day meet circuits for one of its signature events.
The annual Diamond League meets attract the absolute best athletes in the world, and among them ever since they cracked the professional ranks are World Champion Steven Gardiner and Olympic Champion Shaunae Miller-Uibo. Both have had their way in Shanghai, stating that they love running on the track at Shanghai Stadium and they love the reception they get from the fans.
Miller-Uibo competed in Shanghai for three straight years, from 2016 to 2018, before missing the event last year. She won the women’s 400 meters (m) in 2016 and again in 2017, and carted off the 200m title in 2018 in a new meet record. She won comfortably each year.
In 2017, Miller-Uibo’s time of 49.77 seconds was a season’s best and world-leading mark at the time, and ended the year as the fourth-fastest in the world for 2017. She won by nearly a full second ahead of second-place finisher Natasha Hastings of the United States (50.74). Miller-Uibo ended 2017 with four of the top six fastest times in the world for that year.
The following year, Miller-Uibo posted a new meet record in winning the 200m race. The time of 22.06 seconds ended the year as the fourth-fastest in the world for 2018. Today, she is one of the world’s best over 200 and 400m. Miller-Uibo, 26, is the sixth-fastest in history in the women’s 400m and is in a four-way tie for 11th fastest of all-time in the women’s 200m.
Gardiner, regarded as the tallest of the world’s elite quarter-milers, really took off during the 2015 season and has never looked back. He is a late bloomer in the sport, transforming into an elite competitor virtually overnight.
In 2018, Gardiner set a new meet record in the men’s 400m in Shanghai, circling the track in 43.99 seconds and winning comfortably over second-place finisher Isaac Makwala, of Botswana. Makwala finished in 44.23 seconds. Gardiner’s stunning sub-44-seconds time ended the year as the fourth fastest in the world that year. He had two of the top four times in 2018, highlighted by his 43.87 seconds run at the Suheim bin Hamad Stadium in Doha, Qatar.
If not for the postponement of sporting events worldwide due to the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic, the world would have likely been in for more treats from Miller-Uibo and Gardiner this week. They have combined for four gold medals and two meet records in Shanghai.
In the case of Gardiner, he was featured in Track & Field News – regarded as the Bible of the sport of athletics since 1948 – over the weekend. The American magazine highlighted Gardiner’s rise up the charts from a 6’5” former volleyball player to arguably the best quarter-miler in the world.
Gardiner, 24, has been highly ranked in the men’s 400m in each of the past four years and rose all the way to the top when he shocked the world and won the world title in Doha last year. The two fastest times of his career have both been ran in Doha. At the Doha World Championships last year, Gardiner circled the track in a new national record of 43.48 seconds – listing him as the sixth fastest of all-time over that distance.
Prior to the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, the Shanghai Diamond League Meet was scheduled for this week. Past champions Miller-Uibo and Gardiner would have certainly been among the biggest draws should they have decided to compete.