August 4, 2021

Tokyo 2020: Shaunae Miller-Uibo on her leap for gold and chasing more Olympic success

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Photo finish
Shaunae Miller-Uibo fell across the line at Rio 2016, snatching the gold medal and confirming her status as a track and field superstar in the process

The iconic photo-finish image from the 400m final at Rio 2016 made Shaunae Miller-Uibo one of the biggest names in athletics.

The Bahamian’s “superwoman” leap for the line ensured she took gold by the slimmest of margins, beating one of the world’s greatest athletes, six-time Olympic champion Allyson Felix, in the process.

But 27-year-old Miller-Uibo, known then by her maiden name, Miller, said diving was never part of her “whatever it takes” plan.

Running flat out was the actual plan, she told the BBC’s On The Podium podcast.

The tactic was risky in the 400m – notoriously one of the most painful races because of fatigue and lactic acid build-up caused by the racer’s need to run near flat out for a lap.

But in order to beat Felix – a living legend – Miller-Uibo knew she had to take the risk in order to achieve her lifelong goal of becoming Olympic champion.

And the risk paid off – just.

She recalled that her legs started to give way around 40 metres from the line and barely carried her across it. She managed to snatch the gold as her torso crossed the line ahead of Felix’s.

‘I want to make people proud as well’

The proud Bahamian says she was inspired by the “Golden Girls” – her country’s 4x100m relay team, who took gold at the Sydney Olympics in 2000.

“Basically the entire country was up really early in the morning watching them,” Miller-Uibo recalled.

“When they won, everybody was out in the streets celebrating. That moment got me really excited, like, ‘I want to do this. I want to make people proud like this as well’.”

The Bahamas Golden Girls - Sydney 2000 Olympic champions 4 x 100m relay team
The Bahamas Golden Girls – the Sydney 2000 Olympic champions 4x100m relay team

Never lacking in confidence, a young Miller-Uibo admitted she used to hand out autographs, remarking, “You’re going to need that one day!”

Some of those people may regret not pinning them to their fridge door, with the 6ft 1in athlete now having won Olympic, World and Commonwealth medals.

Miller-Uibo, who said she was moved to tears when meeting her own idol, two-time Olympic champion Veronica Campbell-Brown, says being a role model to younger generations “doesn’t feel real”.

“I still feel as though I’m that little kid trying to accomplish my goals,” she said.

Speaking of which, what does Miller-Uibo have in mind for Tokyo? She has been lobbying the International Olympic Committee to alter the schedule at this year’s Games so she is able to compete in both the 400 and 200m events.

But it appears her efforts have been fruitless. The three-time world championship medallist says she is now only focussing on the 200m in which she will be competing against Great Britain’s Dina Asher-Smith.

Not done yet…

Shaunae Miller-Uibo hairstyles
Miller-Uibo says her hair shows people “you can express yourself however you please and whatever makes you happy”.

As with many of her contemporaries, Miller-Uibo loves making bold fashion statements on the track. It’s common for the sprint star to dazzle crowds with her colourful hairstyles.

She says she already has a “look” planned for the Tokyo Games, which she hints may feature a nod to Japanese culture.

She may then need another for 2024.

“I’ve got another Olympics in me,” said Miller-Uibo, who is married to Estonian decathlete Maicel Uibo. It appears the multi-eventer husband has inspired her to take a further step in athletics.

“I’m jumping the gun saying this, because I haven’t finished discussions with my coach.

“But at the next indoors, I am going to be looking at doing the pentathlon and then maybe testing out a heptathlon. I’m not very good at javelin so I would have to put in a whole lot of work.”

And after that? “Maybe a 400m hurdles at some point,” she says.

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