Kori Carter and Dalilah Muhammad compete in the women's 400-meter hurdles at the 16th IAAF World Athletics Championships at the London Stadium on Aug. 10, 2017 in London.
LONDON – Kori Carter tossed and turned on the eve of the 400-meter hurdles final at the IAAF World Championships.
“I could barely sleep last night because that was all I was dreaming of,” Carter said. “I kept waking up and thinking about it. And I just envisioned coming out on top.”
The race didn’t go exactly the way it did in Carter’s dreams, but the result was the same: she cleared the 10th hurdle practically even with Olympic champion and teammate Dalilah Muhammad and sprinted for the gold medal Thursday night before about 55,000 spectators at London Stadium.
Carter won with a time of 53.07 seconds, followed by Muhammad at 53.50.
Imagine what Carter could do with a good night’s sleep.
“Believing that you can do it before it happens is really important,” Carter said. “It was just a fun race.”
Two years after she fell over a hurdle in the semifinals at her first worlds and was unable to cross the finish line, Carter proved that she’s a fabulous finisher.
“I knew it was going to be a battle to the finish line,” said Carter, who was third at the 2017 USATF Outdoor Championships. “I feel like I’m known to be a closer. I’m a gutsy runner and I’ll put it all out on the line. I was just trying to do whatever I had to do to get the W.”
Ristananna Tracey of Jamaica was third with a personal best of 53.74 and two-time defending champion Zuzana Hejnova of Czech Republic was fourth with a season's best of 54.20.
Cassandra Tate of Team USA placed seventh with a time of 55.43 seconds. Tate won the bronze in 2015 while teammate Shamier Little, who did not qualify for the final here, took the silver.
Carter became only the third U.S. woman to win the world title in this event, joining Kim Batten (1995) and Lashinda Demus (2011).
“I am on top of the world right now,” said Carter, 25, who won the 2014 national title. “What a blessing to be world champion. This is just an incredible feeling like I have never experienced."
It was certainly different from the way she felt in 2015 and 2016.
After her tumble at worlds, she said, “That was a really tough time for me, with a little depression and then I didn’t make the Olympic team (placing fourth at the 2016 U.S. Olympic Team Trials for Track and Field). I just used those failures to fuel my drive this year. And to make sure that didn’t happen again.”
This was the fifth time Team USA won two medals in the women’s 400-meter hurdles, but only the second 1-2 finish. Batten and Tonja Buford first accomplished the feat in 1995.
Starting in Lane 9, Carter couldn’t see any of her competitors early in the race. But they could see her.
Carter’s coach, Edrick Floreal, has been helping her work on her start.
“I knew I had to bring it as soon as the gun went off because I was running blind and I had some amazing athletes chasing me,” said Carter, who is more comfortable as the chaser.
“Coming off of hurdle 8, I sort of felt like I was alone, so that was good,” she added, “because I knew if I didn’t feel anyone, I was in the lead. And then I started seeing people over 9. And I saw Dalilah out of the corner of my eye going over 10.”
Muhammad said when she pulled up next to Carter, she thought, “You gotta go, you gotta go.”
Coming off the 10th hurdle, Muhammad said, “I didn’t have as much as I would have liked coming home, but I felt like I did as much as I could.”
Muhammad, who won the world silver medal in 2013, has had to deal with hamstring injuries this year. At the U.S. Championships, she ran a personal best of 52.64 seconds, which put her No. 6 on the all-time list.
The race was a sizzler, Muhammad, Tate and Carter all ran under 53 seconds.
“I feel like we have respect for each other,” Carter said of Muhammad. “Dalilah is such a sweet and amazing person, but on the track we’re battling it out. I think we push each other to great heights. All the U.S. athletes, you saw our trials, you have to bring it every time because we’re so deep and so talented.”
Muhammad said that race in Sacramento, California, was one in which “everything just clicks,” she said. “When you want to make it to worlds, you have to give it your all, have to be almost perfect that day.”
Carter ran a personal best of 52.95. Even though she was third and joining three world medalists on Team USA, she and Floreal talked all season about her becoming world champion.
To make her dream a reality, Carter moved from California to Kentucky to train with Floreal, who had been her college coach.
“I made a lot of sacrifices and changes this year after not making the Olympic team,” Carter said. “I was sort of in a dark place. Coach Flo is like my second dad. I trust him completely, and I knew I would do what I needed to do to reach my full potential and become great.”
She trains with Keni Harrison, the world record holder in the 100-meter hurdles and Omar McLeod of Jamaica, wo won the world title earlier this week in the 110-meter hurdles.
“Training with such high caliber athletes every day, it just pushes you,” Carter said. “You can never slack, Keni’s one of my best friends and keeps me on my Ps and Qs. It’s been a tough year, gutting it out every single day. For it to pay of after all the sacrifices and changes has been amazing.”
Carter and Harrison shared a bond over not making the Olympic team.
“We sort of spend every day together,” Carter said. “Keni’s extremely competitive. She always has to do an extra set of abs, so I have to do an extra set. You can’t cut corners. We are always battling each other."
She said they are two sides of a coin. “I’m a little bit more outgoing, she’s a little more reserved, but we have the same work ethic. Add Omar into the mix, it’s sort of an atmosphere of greatness. You know you have to bring it every day. It’s great to have friends who are positive and pushing you to the next level.”
Harrison will begin her quest for a world title in the 100-meter hurdles on Friday morning. Had Carter told Harrison, "You’re next"?
“I’m about to,” she said. “That’s my roommate.”