Steven Gardiner dedicated his 400 metres world title to the people of the Bahamas after the devastation wrought by Hurricane Dorian last month.
The 24-year-old, a silver medallist in 2017, timed a national record of 43.48 seconds and said thoughts of the damage and loss of life Dorian incurred were in his mind before the race.
For Gardiner, whose compatriot Shaunae Miller-Uibo donated $25,000 before the championships and set up an account for donations to the disaster fund, it was personal too as he has a house on Abaco, one of the islands most badly affected.
The island communities of Grand Bahama and Abaco bore the brunt of Dorian’s fury in early September leaving 52 people dead with over 1,000 still listed as missing a few weeks ago.
“It will mean a whole lot to the people of the Bahamas that I won and Shaunae got silver last night (400m) in what has been a rough time for the islands,” said Gardiner.
“It was going through my head before the race but not during it as I was focussed only on winning the title and bringing some joy to the people.”
Gardiner, who emulated compatriot Avard Moncur’s victory in the 400m in 2001, said he had one goal.
“I wanted to give them a bit more than my best. I wanted to be a world champion and here I am now.”
Gardiner said it had been moving how the people had reacted after Dorian had hit.
“In Nassau, the capital, they’ve had a watch party for all events and I knew a lot of people were there. I’m from Abaco (island) the big island that got hit by the storm.
“Everybody got evacuated. My house was damaged but not destroyed.”
– ‘I was crawling then!’ –
Gardiner, who was silver medallist in 2017, said the last month had felt like the Olympics but now he was on cloud nine.
“Crossing the line in first place with a new personal best and a national record -? the best feeling ever right now,” he added.
“There was no pressure, I got a lot of messages from family and friends and fans back home.”
“They told me to go do my best. They’ll be proud of me.”
Gardiner said Moncur was a role model.
“I speak regularly with him. However, when he won I was not running I was probably crawling!” he laughed.
Colombia’s PanAm Games champion Anthony Zambrano took silver in 44.15sec while Fred Kerley of the United States was third in a time of 44.17sec.
Gardiner timed his run to perfection as Grenada’s 2011 champion Kirani James hared away from the blocks and down the back straight.
However, James — hugely talented but plagued by illness in recent years — tied up going into the curve.
Kerley went to make his move but Gardiner had him covered and passed his rival to emerge into the straight the clear leader.
Zambrano, 21, finished like a train and took second off Kerley with James fading to finish fifth.
Kerley’s failure to win saw the Americans miss out on a first ever sweep of the men’s 100/200/400 and 800m world titles.
They have only won the 400m once in the last five editions — LaShawn Merritt in 2013.