Hurdlers aim for podium dominance in Birmingham
CLAYTON... we have more people at home who are running just as fast or even faster than we are doing right now (Photo: Observer file)

BIRMINGHAM, England — With three of the four fastest times heading into today's women's 400m final belonging to Jamaicans, the trio of Rushell Clayton, Shiann Salmon and Janieve Russell are determined to create history by securing the first-ever medal sweep in the event at the Commonwealth Games.

The island enjoys a rich history in the event at these championships with a Jamaican winning gold at each of the last two instalments which were held in Glasgow in 2014, when Kaliese Spencer topped the podium, and in Gold Coast in 2018, where Russell powered her way to first place.

Russell also won bronze in 2014.

In fact, Jamaica has medalled in this event at five of the last seven stagings of the Commonwealth Games and, if Thursday's heats are anything to go by, that positive run is set to continue in Birmingham.

Clayton, the fastest qualifier into the final after her comfortable 54.93-seconds victory, is well aware of the island's love affair with the event with Commonwealth joy being matched by World Championships and Olympics success over the years.

The 2019 World Championships bronze medal winner said a sweep of the podium would further confirm Jamaica's strength in the event while she looks to, on a personal level, continue her impressive season.

"We have a really good programme, and it's not just three of us here. We have more people at home who are running just as fast or even faster than we are doing right now, so a one, two, three in the 400m hurdles is possible and would be really awesome," Clayton told the Jamaica Observer.

The Eugene 2022 finalist was quite pleased with her run in the heat and believes the Commonwealth Games provides another opportunity for her to consolidate a positive return from two seasons of challenges.

"Coming back from everything I've dealt with, with each race, I'm just grateful to be healthy. This is my first appearance at the Commonwealth Games and I'm just looking forward to executing a good race in the final and being on the podium," Clayton said.

Salmon, who will be competing in her first senior international final, was also a winner in the heat, getting the better of her countrywoman Russell, and she too is looking forward to leaving her mark in the medal round.

"It would mean everything to get on the podium; that's just the first kick in my senior career and that would be good to end my season on a positive note for me and my country. I'm hoping to be on the podium; that's my goal for this championship," Salmon added.

Meanwhile, Russell, the national champion, is looking to make up for the disappointment of missing out on the final in Eugene and believes medal success here will help her to make a leap in her approach to major races.

"I'm just looking forward to securing a medal for Jamaica, it doesn't matter the colour. I'm just really happy to be here and to try and to brush off what happened at the World Championships," said Russell. "A medal here would definitely help me, mentally. I need to be mentally strong. Life is uncertain, you can't say that tomorrow will be perfect or tomorrow is not going to be perfect, so what happened at World Champs, I have to just brush it off and come again."

The women's 400m hurdles final will take place at Alexander Stadium today starting at 7:30 pm (12:30 pm Jamaica time).

Salmon and Clayton will run from lanes 4 and 5, with Russell starting from lane 7.

— Andre Lowe

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Jamaica's 400m hurdler Janieve Russell. (Observer file)
BY ANDRE LOWE Sports content manager lowea@jamaicaobserver.com

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