Auckland sprinter Portia Bing has become the first New Zealander to advance to the women’s 400m hurdles semi-finals at a World Champs.
She’s also the first New Zealand athlete in any hurdles event to make it beyond the heats at a global championship for 54 years.
Appearing at her third World Championships, in Eugene, Oregon, the 29-year-old finished fifth in heat two, recording 55.72 – outside the four automatic qualification positions, but her mark was quick enough to advance as the joint fastest of the four athletes to qualify on time.
Bing was drawn in lane seven made an aggressive start and looked fluid over the hurdles throughout and she looked poised for a top four spot as she entered the home straight.
However, off the final hurdle the Ukrainian Viktoriya Tkachuk finished strongly relegating Portia, the national record-holder, Bing to fifth and facing a nervous wait with three heats still remaining to see if her mark was quick enough to qualify on time.
“I didn’t run the perfect race, but it is only my second run this international season,” said Portia whose national record stands at 55.44.
“It is exciting, and I’m grateful to be given the opportunity to clear up those mistakes in the semi-final.”
On the mistakes she added: “At the warm up in practice yesterday, I hadn’t really nailed my first hurdle, so there was genuine panic coming in. Once I hit that first hurdle today, I got into a good rhythm and hit 14s (strides).
“I then started to roll into 14s beyond the normal point of the race, and I kind of panicked and chopped down earlier than I normally would and stuttered around the top bend. It was a messy second half of the race.
“To qualify for the semi-finals shows a lot of progress. I had a rough year after Doha (the 2019 World Championships when Portia was DQd for a technical infringement) changing my technique. So to make those changes and for it to work out (with a semi-final place) is one of the best feelings.”
The last New Zealander to advance beyond the heats in any hurdles event at a global championships (World Championships or Olympic Games) was Roger Johnson, who qualified for the semi-finals of the 400m hurdles at the 1968 Mexico City Olympics.