MOSCOW, August 15 (R-Sport) – Success was a long time coming for Zuzana Hejnova, but the years of waiting paid off as she blew away her rivals Thursday to take the world 400-meter hurdles gold medal, the miniature Czech flags daubed on her body gleaming.
Once a promising junior, the 26-year-old went through season after season as an also-ran and the potential that took her to world youth gold in Quebec a decade ago seemed lost. Then she charged to bronze at last year's Olympics, sparking a run of success that left her rivals in the dust.
That medal from London seemed to unlock new self-belief: Hejnova won five Diamond League meets this year and has not lost a single race.
"It is a fantastic season for me. I'm still unbeaten," she said. "I didn't expect to win gold, I just wanted to get a medal."
Hejnova won the gold in style, producing a huge burst of pace in the last 200m to take victory in a time of 52.83 seconds, the fastest this year and a massive 0.24 seconds off her previous personal best, which doubled as the Czech record. Her margin of victory Thursday night in Moscow was 1.26 seconds, the biggest this century in a women's world 400-meter hurdles final.
"To run under 53 seconds, it is fantastic," she said, putting her improvement down to training with men, who she said "are faster so they are my motivation."
In what seemed like another race entirely, the silver went to Delilah Muhammad of the United States, who finished fast to beat defending champion and fellow American Lashinda Demus into third place.
“I'm really excited about it. I don't think that people really expected me to get on the podium,” Muhammad said. “That's something. I really was able to run my own race being at lane six, without having anyone in front to push me along. I'm happy it worked out well.”
Demus has struggled with injury this year and said bronze was "a blessing" even though it wasn't "the color I wanted."
Britain's European indoor champion Perri Shakes-Drayton had been tipped for gold, but the Londoner never got going, starting poorly and finishing at a glacial pace as she trailed home seventh in 56.25, almost three seconds off her personal best.
"It was going alright until the first hurdle, and after the first hurdle my knee just felt funny," she said. "I was hitting hurdles."
Shakes-Drayton said the knee problem may rule her out of Britain's 4-by-400-meter relay team.
The championships are being held at Moscow’s Luzhniki arena, which hosted athletics at the 1980 Olympics, and run through Sunday.