Alison Piu is world champion in the 400m hurdles in an unprecedented title

Alison ‘Piu’ dos Santos became, this Tuesday (19), the first Brazilian runner to become champion of the World Athletics Championship. Bronze at the Tokyo Olympics last year, he repeated the fierce competition against the other two of the three best all-time 400m hurdles, but this time he came ahead of Karstem Warholm of Norway and Rai Benjamin, from the United States, who ran at home at the Oregon World Cup in Eugene.

Warholm was leading until the end of the last corner, but he hit a barrier and fell behind, leaving the contest between Piu and Benjamin. The Brazilian has a pattern of accelerating on the straight, and the American was unable to catch up. Victory for Piu, with 46s29, new championship record. Silver for Benjamin, 46s89, his best mark of the season. And bronze for fellow American Travor Bassitt, with 47s39, the best mark of his life.

The result is also a South American record and, naturally, the best time of Piu’s career. With 46s29, he just doesn’t have better marks than Warholm (45s94) and Benjamin (46s17) did in the incredible Olympic final in Tokyo, proof considered the strongest of all time in athletics.

Piu had already arrived at the World Cup as a favorite: leader of the world ranking, owner of four of the five best marks of the year, undefeated, and with four victories in stages of the Diamond League. Benjamin, however, ran a lot less times and came to lead the ranking with the mark he did in the American tryouts, at this same track. Warholm, in turn, is the world record holder and hasn’t lost since September 2018. This year, he had only raced once, when he was injured, missing the rest of the season, until the Worlds.

In Eugene, the three were spared in the first two phases of the competition: eliminatory and semifinals. With no one able to run close to them, they won their series with their foot on the brakes, hiding what they were capable of in the final. Until today, Brazil only had one more gold medal in the World Athletics Championships, held outdoors, by Fabiana Murer, in the pole vault, in 2011.

In track events, the title is not entirely unprecedented because at the Indoor World Championship, which is another event and has less relevance on the international scene, Zequinha Barbosa was champion of the 800m in 1987. At the time, the best of Brazilian athletics was in Eugene.

It was there that Joaquim Cruz moved with coach Luiz Alberto de Oliveira when he left Brazil, followed by Zequinha and Agberto Guimarães. Luiz Alberto passed away last year, but Zequinha and Joaquim, his pupils, are in Eugene as heads of the Brazilian delegation and acting as guides for Brazil at the World Cup.

Piu’s result, however, is an exception so far in a disappointing campaign by Brazilian athletics at the World Cup. Athletes listed to fight for the podium finished just below (Darlan was fifth in the weight, Caio sixth in the march and Danielzinho eighth in the marathon), who had good chances of making the final did not get there (Rafael Pereira and Eduardo de Deus stopped in the 110m semi with barriers, and the three Brazilian women from the release of the record were in the first phase), and, from the group that had few expectations, most of them finished their competitions among the last places.

Among the exceptions is Vitória Rosa, who improved by 15 hundredths of a second, the best of her career and broke the South American record in the 200m semifinal, with 22.47, improving one hundredth the old record, held by Ana Cláudia Lemos, which had been in place since 2011. Vitória, however, did not get a spot in the final, and finished 12th. That’s because today’s semifinals were at an extraordinary level. With 22.47 seconds, Vitória would have been, for example, leader of the 2017 World Cup semifinal and third in the 2019 semifinal, winning bronze with this time in the final. But, in this 2022 edition, it was an expressive 42 hundredths of a vacancy.

The World Cup, which started last Friday, runs until Sunday, and Brazil still has several athletes to compete. The biggest chance for a podium is with Thiago Braz, who is on the rise this season and has a history of growing in major competitions. He skips qualifiers in the sixth and finals, if advanced, on Sunday. The men’s 4x100m, which has a tradition of medals, competes in the heats on Friday and, if it passes, the final on Saturday. Almir Junior, who was already a medalist at the Indoor World Championship in the triple jump, debuts on Thursday.

Piu celebrates world title in the 400m hurdles - Carol Coelho/CBAt - Carol Coelho/CBAt
Image: Carol Coelho/CBAt

Brazilian history

Although it has been present in the modern Olympic Games since its first edition, athletics only held its first World Championship in 1983. This explains why João do Pulo, who died in 1999, and Adhemar Ferreira da Silva, retired in the 1960s, never even competed. a World.

Another Brazilian athletics star, Olympic champion of the 800 m in Los Angeles-1984, Joaquim Cruz was bronze in the inaugural edition of 1983, but ended up hampered by the fact that, until 1991, the World Cups took place every two years – in 1987 he was disqualified and, in 1991, he was at the end of his career. In these two editions, Zequinha Barbosa was on the podium, with bronze and silver.

After that, it took Brazil almost 20 years to train, again, athletes who would reach gold in global events. The taboo was broken with Maurren Maggi, Olympic long jump champion in Beijing-2008, who was never dominant in the competition internationally. At Worlds, she made four finals, but never got past sixth place.

At the same time, Jadel Gregório dominated international competitions in the triple jump. But he ended his career without the much-desired gold. In 2007, he led the world rankings, failed to repeat his performance at the Worlds and ended up with silver. Two years earlier, he had also arrived at the Worlds as a favorite, but only finished sixth.

The first gold came with Fabiana Murer, in Daegu (South Korea), in 2011. At the time, Russian Yelena Isinbayeva was coming from six years of enormous dominance in the pole vault, lining up world records, but she had a bad season in 2010, when she lost the indoor world title to the Brazilian, and decided to change coaches at the beginning of 2011. In the absence of the star, Fabiana dominated that season and was consecrated at the World Cup, breaking a South American record and winning gold while Isinbayeva was only the sixth placed.

From then on, Brazil never had a real chance of winning a gold medal. Darlan Romani went to the last two World Cups as a podium candidate, but far behind, in the ranking, the Americans Crouser and Kovacs, who still dominate the shot put. Olympic champion in 2016, Thiago Braz claimed an injury to avoid the 2017 World Cup, when he was in bad shape, and was fifth in 2019, a better result than his season indicated.

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