When Kendra Harrison’s Olympic dreams came crashing to earth at the brutal US Olympic Trials a few weeks ago, the second-fastest sprint hurdler of all time was forced rapidly to re-focus her season, setting her sights on winning the Diamond Race and smashing Yordanka Donkova’s 28-year-old world record.
“Only the record will make up for missing out on Rio,” she said yesterday at the press conference for the IAAF Diamond League meeting in London.
The first of those goals may have to wait a few weeks, but the second fell to the 23-year-old former cheerleader on a balmy evening at the Müller Anniversary Games in London on Friday (22) as she clocked a world record of 12.20* (0.3m/s) to clip 0.01 from one of the oldest marks on the books.
Harrison added a fourth IAAF Diamond League victory to her 2016 tally to open a 12-point lead on her US compatriot Brianna Rollins. But that paled in comparison as Harrison lived up to the promise she showed in Eugene seven weeks ago when she missed Donkova’s mark by just 0.03.
But the immediate favourite for Olympic gold could only finish sixth at the trials where the pressures of championship action proved too much. Tonight, though, she made no mistake, winning by a huge margin over 2013 world champion and US Trials winner Rollins, who was second in 12.57, and two-time world indoor champion Nia Ali who was fourth behind Kristi Catlin.
The fast-starting Harrison was miles ahead, running a perfect race as she skimmed over the hurdles and streaked across the line, stopping the clock at … well at 12.58, actually.
Harrison dipped so low at the line she ran beneath the beam, so the trackside clock recorded Rollins’ uncorrected time. For a few moments, there was an odd sense of disappointment, for Harrison had run 12.40 to win her heat just 90 minutes earlier.
Then, suddenly, the figures re-set to 12.20, the magic initials ‘WR’ flashing beside them. Harrison fell to track in tears, putting her hands to her face in utter disbelief.
“To hear people call me a world record-holder, it sounds remarkable,” she said. “I wanted to come out here and show the world that I still have it, even though I won’t be going to the Olympics. I had to give it all I had.
“Initially I saw 12.5 and I was just happy to come out here and win. I was so happy when it came up and I was feeling really blessed.
“It shows that even if you don’t go out there and make the team, you have to keep going and be strong. I just ran my best and look what happened.
“I wanted to come out here with a vengeance to show these girls what I have,” she added. “That 12.40 got my confidence back. I knew I had it in me. I ran as hard as I could today.”
Source: Matthew Brown for the IAAF