The Dutch star recovers from the disappointment of a costly fall in Saturday’s 4x400m mixed relay final to win World Championship gold in the absence of world record holder and defending champion Sydney McLaughlin-Levrone.
The Netherlands’ Femke Bol stormed to victory in the women’s 400m hurdles at the 2023 World Athletics Championships as she bounced back from the disappointment of her costly fall in last Saturday’s 4x400m mixed relay final.
As she passed the finish line in 51.70 seconds – her second-fastest time ever – the Dutch fans screamed loudly around the stadium, while Bol covered her eyes in disbelief before draping herself in her national flag.
Let’s be clear about it, this one meant everything.
“Everyone thought, of course on paper she’s by far the winner, she’s gonna win it,” the new world champion said of her pre-championships favourite tag. “But I think the mixed [relay] showed that it’s not always like this because I think a lot of people thought that when I got the stick [baton] we would have gold easily and we didn’t get it. So I knew I needed to be strong, I needed to execute my race.”
Bol had entered the championships as a clear favourite in the event in the absence of Olympic gold medallist and world record holder Sydney McLaughlin-Levrone. But as her relay misfortune showed, where she missed out on the gold medal after tripping to the ground in the final 10 metres, nothing can be taken for granted.
On a hot and balmy night in Budapest, the Tokyo 2020 bronze medallist found redemption under the bright lights of the National Athletics Centre as she claimed the first world title of her career.
As Bol rounded the track for the traditional lap of honour, the crowd continued to cheer as if they didn’t wish the moment to end. This was a performance of grit, speed and no little courage, with the 23-year-old showing she is as resilient as she is prodigiously talented.
Second place and the silver medal went to the USA’s Shamier Little who finished in a season’s best of 52.80 while Jamaica’s Rushell Clayton was just behind to win bronze in 52.81.
“I feel as if the hard work has paid off, I’m thankful and happy,” Little told the media “I’ve been working on controlling my nerves a lot. So to come here in this noise and not let it faze me, and not let the heat get to me – that was an achievement.”
Bronze medallist Clayton was equally happy with her performance, saying: “It was the best run of my life. When I won the bronze medal at Doha (2019 World Championships) that was an easier run, I can tell you. Now all the ladies were on fire. I was able to better my PB (personal best) two times in Budapest so I cannot be happier.”
And at the end of a memorable evening in Hungary few will begrudge the victory of Bol after her earlier travails at the championships left her despondent and in tears on the track. She now adds another gold to the three she won at last year’s European Championships in Munich.