By Mitch Phillips
BUDAPEST (Reuters) -Marileidy Paulino of the Dominican Republic won World Championship gold in the women’s 400m on Wednesday, finally claiming top spot on the podium after silvers at last year’s worlds and Tokyo Olympics and doing it in record style.
The race was wide open in the absence of injured American Sydney McLaughlin-Levrone, the 400m hurdles world record holder and fastest in the world this year over the flat, and with Olympic and defending world champion Shaunae Miller-Uibo going out in the heats four months after having a baby.
Paulino, second-fastest in the world this year, knew she would never get a better chance to become the first Dominican female world champion and did not waste it.
Dutchwoman Lieke Klaver set the early pace but faded on the final bend and was swallowed up.
Paulino was out in lane seven and ran a controlled race to surge ahead at the top of the home straight and drive home for an emphatic victory in a national record 48.76 seconds.
Poland’s Natalia Kaczmarek finished strongly to take silver in 49.57 followed by Sada Williams of Barbados, who matched her bronze from last year, with 49.60.
“A lot of emotions are rushing through me,” Paulino, 26, said.
“This national record means a lot to me. It is really incredible, but I have been preparing for this for a long time, working hard to achieve a goal like this. The gold medal was my dream, and I had the talent to turn this dream into reality.”
Kaczmarek said the key to her second-place finish was to concentrate on her own performance.
“This race was crazy, they were so fast out of the blocks,” she said.
“My coach had said to me: ‘Be careful, keep your pace, run your race’. I did it but it was very painful. This pain after the race is huge, but the joy is better. That is first world championships medal for Poland over 400m. It is still difficult to believe that this silver medal is mine.”
(Reporting by Mitch Phillips, editing by Ed Osmond)