TRINIDAD AND Tobago’s Jereem “The Dream” Richards captured men’s 400 metre gold at the World Athletics Indoor Championships in Belgrade, Serbia on Saturday.
Running out of lane six at the Stark Arena in Beograd, Richards produced his best 400m indoor performance ever when he clocked a championship record and personal best time of 45 seconds flat.
He is the first TT athlete to win this title although Richards’ former teammate and friend, the late Deon Lendore, twice came close, by recording bronze medal finishes in the 400m in Birmingham in 2018 and Portland, Oregon in 2016.
The quarter-miler beat to the line American silver medallist Trevor Bassitt, who also clocked a personal best of 45.05s, followed by bronze receiver, Sweden’s Carl Bengtstrom in 45.33s.
Richards' celebrations mirrored that Lendore, who died in a vehicular accident in Texas, US in January.
In a social media post, Richards wrote, "I just wanna take the time to thank everyone that lift me up in prayer, thank you to my family and friends for your support!!! All praise and glory goes to God. RIP Deon/Granzy/Uncle Featon. This one was for y'all!!!!"
After Saturday's race, Richards told World Athletics radio that he also gave much of the credit for his achievement on his training partner, South Africa’s world record-holder Wayde van Niekerk.
“This was my actual race plan and I stuck to it to a T,” he said. “I did everything I needed to do to win. I knew going into the race these guys are all quarter-milers. What I had against them was my speed, and I used it to pull them out of their comfort zone.
“I trained a lot with quarter-milers this year, longer than I usually would. My training partner Wayde van Niekerk helped me every single day, he was excellent. If I had a bad day he told me to keep my head up, saying I could do it.
“I want to thank him. That was very beneficial for me this year.”
Asked to speculate in which event he might run at the World Athletics Championships Oregon22, he replied, “Whatever shape I’m in, whichever has the better chance of a medal.”
President Paula-Mae Weekes and Shamfa Cudjoe, Minister of Sport and Community Development, both extended congratulations to Richards.
In a post on the Office of the Preisdent's social media page, Weekes said, "You have done your country proud Jereem and all of TT salutes you."
And Cudjoe, in a media release, said, "Jereem’s outstanding performance in the 400 metres was phenomenal. It was a championship record, new national indoor record and his personal best record of 45 seconds. This is a great moment for sport. Our entire Ministry, the Government as well as the local sporting fraternity, is extremely proud of Mr. Richards' latest accolade."
The media release added, "Minister Cudjoe also indicated that he will receive an incentive in recognition of his achievement."
This was Richards’ second meet for the season, having also copped gold at the New Balance Indoor Grand Prix in New York last month.
In Friday’s opening qualifying round, Richards topped heat two in 46.69 and advanced to the semi-final. There, he again topped the field in an improved time of 46.15 and secured a place in Saturday’s final.
Additionally, TT’s Jared Elcock finished sixth (6.63) in the men’s 60m event. This race however, featured the likes of reigning Olympic men’s 100m champion Marcell Jacobs of Italy and world-60m record (6.34) holder Christian Coleman of USA.
As expected, Jacobs consolidated his claim as the world’s fastest man while Coleman matched his performance to capture the one-two finish, both in world leading times of 6.41. Jacobs’ time to the thousandth, was 6.407 to Coleman’s 6.410.
Third placed American Marvin Bracy placed third in a personal best time of 6.44.
In the opening qualifying round of the 60m, Elcock, running out of heat five, finished in second position with a 6.63 clocking. He was beaten to the line by Jacobs.
Into the semi-final, Elcock mirrored his opening round performance by placing second in 6.63. This time, Bracy (6.51) won the heat.
Meanwhile on Friday, sprinter Michelle-Lee Ahye placed seventh in the women’s 60m final by setting a season’s best time of 7.11.
After the race, Ahye posted to Facebook, “Made my 2022 debut…Ended my indoor season with being the seventh fastest in the world over 60m with a sb (season’s best) of 7.11s. I’m healthy and happy. Now it’s time for the outdoor season.”
Also on Sunday, TT complete their World Indoors campaign with Ruebin Walters in the men’s 60m hurdles.