Women’s 400m Hurdles
I’ve finally completed an All-Time Greats list for the women’s 400 meter hurdles. I based my ranking on the same 1-10 point system that I used for the men’s 110 and 400 hurdles. As with the men’s lists, this list is still subjective, so you’re always welcome to disagree with my assessments and analysis.
The criteria I chose for creating the list include the following, with all having equal weight:
- Olympic medals won
- World Championship medals won. (The women didn’t race the 400m hurdles prior to 1980).
- How far the athlete advanced the event in terms of world records and technical innovations
- The athlete’s longevity (performing at a very high level for a very long time)
For Olympic medals, the A-standard (10 pts) consists of one gold medal, and at least one other medal.
For World Championship medals, the A-standard (10 pts) consists of two World Championship gold medals.
For advancement of the event, setting a world record is the A-standard (10 pts).
For longevity, being a top-ten hurdler in the world for ten years or more is the A-standard.
Based on those criteria, here are my picks for the top ten female 400 meter hurdlers of all time:
At tenth I have Daimi Pernia of Cuba. I gave her a 5 for Olympic medals since she never medaled but did finish 4th in Sydney in 2000. I gave her a 9 for World Championship medals based on her personal best victory of 52.89 at WC’s in Seville in 1999. She also earned a bronze in 2001. I gave her a 6 for advancement because although she never set the world record, she did run sub-53, which meant she maintained the standards of excellence established by those who came before her. I gave her a 6 for longevity. Her glory years were short – 1999-2001, but she remained a solid world-class hurdler through 2006. Pernia’s total score is a 27.
At ninth I have Tonja Buford-Bailey of the US. I gave her a 6 for Olympic medals based on her bronze in the 1996 Games in Atlanta. I gave her an 8 for World Championship medals based on her silver medal in 1995. That was the race where she finished 2nd to Kim Batten by .01 in one of the most thrilling races in Track & Field history. I gave her an 8 for advancement because, even though she never owned the record, she, along with Batten, broke the previous world record in that 1995 WC race. I gave her a six for longevity; she shined as one of the event’s elite from 1995-97, and remained competitive through 2001. Buford-Bailey’s total score is a 28.
At eighth I have Lashinda Demus of the US. I gave her a 4 for Olympic medals because she hasn’t earned any and has yet to make an Olympic final. So this category kind of killed her chances of ranking much higher overall. I gave her an 8 for World Championship medals based on her silver at the 2009 WC’s. I gave her an 8 for advancement for having run sub-53 three times. I gave her a 9 for longevity because she has been at or near the top for almost every year from 2002 to the present. Demus’ total score is a 29.
At seventh I have Nezha Bidouane of Morocco. I gave her a 6 for Olympic medals based on her bronze in 2000. I gave her a 10 for World Championship medals based on her golds in 19997 and 2001, and her silver in 1999. That’s a very impressive run. I gave her a 5 for advancement because her personal best of 52.90 is a little slow in comparison to some of the other hurdlers on this list, and plenty of them competed during her era. I gave her an 8 for longevity based on her near dominance from 1997-2001, and she was a competitive hurdler on the world stage starting in 1991. Bidouane’s total score is a 29, but I gave her the edge over Demus because of her World Championship gold medals.
At sixth I have Sandra Farmer of the US. I gave her an 8 for Olympic medals based on silver in Barcelona in 1992. She made the US team again in 1996 but did not place. I gave her an 8 for World Championship medals based on her silver in 1993 in a personal best of 52.79. In that same race, Sally Gunnell ran a world record 52.74 to win. Another of the memorable great 400m hurdle races in history. If not for Gunnell, there’s no doubt Farmer would’ve ranked higher. Farmer also finished fourth at the World Champs twice – in 1987 and 1991. I gave Farmer a 7 for advancement. Although she did play a significant role in moving the event forward, it was Gunnell who ended up with the gold medals and world record. I gave Farmer an 8 for longevity. After breaking out in 1987, she suffered through a lot of injury problems, but had an outstanding stretch from 1991-96. Farmer’s total score is a 31.
At fifth I have Yuliya Pechonkina of Russia. I gave her a 4 for Olympic medals because she didn’t earn any, and didn’t really come close to. I gave her a 9 for World Championship medals based on her gold in 2005, her two silvers in 2001 and 2007, and her bronze in 2003. I gave her a 10 for advancement for her world record of 52.34 in 2003. That record, which still stands today, was set in a small meet in a small town in Russia, so there’s a lot of suspicion surrounding it. But it is what it is till it ain’t what it is, as they say, so we’ll honor it here. I gave her a 9 for longevity, as she stayed among the world’s best from 1999-2007. Pechonkina’s total score is a 32.
At fourth I have Melaine Walker of Jamaica. I gave her a 9 for Olympic medals based on her gold in Beijing in 2008. I gave her a 9 for World Championship medals based on her gold in Berlin in 2009, where she defeated Lashinda Demus in another fantastic 400 hurdle race. Walker’s personal best of 52.42 in that race made her the second-fastest 400m hurdler ever, behind only Pechonkina’s 52.34 in 2003. I gave her a 9 for advancement based on that Berlin race. I gave her a 6 for longevity because, outside of 2008 and ’09, she hasn’t done much on a world-class level. But she has plenty of career left, so that could change. Walker’s total score is a 33.
At third I have Deon Hemmings of Jamaica. I gave her a 10 for Olympic medals based on her gold in Atlanta in 1996, where she defeated Batten and Buford-Bailey, where she set her personal best of 52.82. And she also earned a silver in 2000. I gave her an 8 for World Championship medals for her silver in 1997, and her bronzes in 1995 and 1999. I gave her an 8 advancement because even though she didn’t ever hold the world record, she, along with Batten and Buford-Bailey played a huge role in moving the event forward in the mid-90’s. I gave her an 8 for longevity. She had six outstanding years – from 1995-2000, and some good years before and after. Hemmings’ total score is a 34.
At second I have Sally Gunnell of the UK. I gave her a 9 for Olympic medals based on her 1992 victory in Barcelona. I gave her a 9 for World Championship medals based on her gold in 1993 and silver in 1991. In the 1993 race in Stuttgart, she set a new world record with her time of 52.74, and for that reason she gets a 10 for advancement. I gave her an 8 for longevity, as she had an outstanding career from 1991-1997. Gunnell’s total score is a 36.
At first I have Kim Batten of the US. I gave her an 8 for Olympic medals based on her silver in 1996 in Atlanta, where she finished second to Hemmings. I gave her a 9 for World Championship medals based on her gold in 1995 and bronze in 1997. That 1995 race was the unforgettable race to destiny in which she and Buford-Bailey both broke the previous world record set by Gunnell. And for breaking the world record, Batten gets a 10 for advancement. I gave her a 9 for longevity; she was ranked among the top five in the world seven times from 1991-1998, and she had a couple strong years after that before retiring due to injuries. Batten’s total score, like Gunnell’s, is a 36. I gave the nod to Batten over Gunnell despite the fact that Gunnell won an Olympic gold medal while Batten didn’t. I gave the nod to Batten for the simple fact that they ran in pretty much the same era, and Batten ran a faster personal best.
Other notables who didn’t make the list include Jana Pittman (Rawlinson) of Australia, Sheena Johnson (Tosta) of the US, Fani Halkia of Greece, Nawal El Moutawakel of Morocc,. Debbie Flintoff-King of Australia, Tatyana Ledovskaya of Russia, Janeene Vickers of the US, and Tasha Danvers of the UK.
© 2010 Steve McGill