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Richards set for 400m landmark

Marita Koch and Sanya Richards
Koch's record is set to be equalled by American Richards

Mark Butler
By Mark Butler
BBC Sport's athletics statistician takes a look at the numbers behind the big races

Sanya Richards has still to synchronise her peak performances with championship 400m finals, but she has not put a foot wrong on the European circuit and particularly in the Golden League.

The American has not lost a Golden League race since she became a senior.

Following her latest run in Oslo, and with the next Golden League meeting in Rome on Friday, she is just one short of the women's record number of 36 races under the 50-second mark.

That was set in 1977-1986 by Marita Koch, who has become a symbol of the era of dominance of women's athletics by the former East Germany.

Most sub-50 second 400m races

Richards looks set to match that total within the space of five years and may well go on to be the first with 50 sub-50s.

Koch's 1985 world record time of 47.60 sec now seems like a figure from science fiction. Richards's 48.70 from 2006 is the closest approach by current athletes.

Then again, not getting near to the world record hardly harmed the careers of Marie-José Perec or Cathy Freeman, two of the most celebrated women athletes of the past 15 years.

But they won multiple global gold medals, and for all her dominance, Richards has none.

Our own Christine Ohuruogu has deepened the contrast. She holds the world and Olympic titles but has just two sub-50s, one each when claiming those golds.

The faster of these (49.61 in Osaka in 2007) is only 166th on the world all-time list of performances.

She doesn't even hold the British record, but as she told us firmly in Oslo: "I don't chase times, I chase medals; they are my priority."

Ohuruogu
Ohuruogu has run under 50 seconds only twice

We can't argue with that, but note that Ohuruogu was almost two seconds behind Richards in Oslo.

Only a major turnaround in form will see her successfully defend her world title in Berlin from the challenge of Richards and Jamaica's Shericka Williams (49.98 in Oslo).

For the moment, Richards could not be doing more to re-establish herself as the favourite for world gold.

Her winning time from Oslo of 49.23 equalled a track record which has stood since 1983 and was clearly the best performance of the evening.

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On Friday she is due to run again in Rome. Coincidentally, this was also the venue of Koch's final sub-50 and indeed her last-ever race at the IAAF Grand Prix Final in 1986.

How appropriate if Richards can finally catch up with Koch in the Eternal City.


Sub-50 sec 400m by British women:

49.43 Kathy Cook, Los Angeles, 6 Aug 1984
49.72 Katharine Merry, Sydney, 25 Sep 2000
49.79 Donna Fraser, Sydney, 25 Sep 2000
49.59 Katharine Merry, Athens, 11 Jun 2001
49.77 Nicola Sanders, Osaka, 27 Aug 2007
49.61 Christine Ohuruogu, Osaka, 29 Aug 2007
49.65 Nicola Sanders, Osaka, 29 Aug 2007
49.62 Christine Ohuruogu, Beijing, 19 Aug 2008

Marita Koch's 36 sub-50 sec 400m:

49.68 Dresden 7 Aug 1977, 49.53 Helsinki 13 Aug 1977, 49.76 Düsseldorf 3 Sep 1977, 49.19 Leipzig 2 Jul 1978, 49.03 Potsdam 19 Aug 1978, 48.94 Prague 31 Aug 1978, 48.89 Potsdam 29 Jul 1979, 48.60 Turin 4 Aug 1979, 48.97 Montreal 26 Aug 1979, 49.95 Jena 17 May 1980, 49.15 Erfurt 18 May 1980, 49.74 Potsdam 13 Jul 1980, 49.55 Cottbus 17 Jul 1980, 48.88 Moscow 28 Jul 1980, 49.65 Tbilisi 26 Jun 1981, 49.64 Jena 8 Aug 1981, 49.43 Zagreb 15 Aug 1981, 49.27 Rome 6 Sep 1981, 49.87 Erfurt 30 May 1982, 49.49 Cottbus 25 Jun 1982, 48.77 Karl-Marx-Stadt 9 Jul 1982, 48.87 Brussels 27 Aug 1982, 48.16 Athens 8 Sep 1982, 49.58 Tokyo 24 Sep 1982, 49.44 Potsdam 25 May 1984, 49.96 Erfurt 1 Jun 1984, 48.86 Erfurt 2 Jun 1984, 48.89 Berlin 15 Jul 1984, 48.26 Dresden 27 Jul 1984, 48.16 Prague 17 Aug 1984, 48.97 Berlin 22 Sep 1985, 47.60 Canberra 6 Oct 1985, 49.24 Dresden 16 Aug 1986, 48.22 Stuttgart 28 Aug 1986, 49.28 Brussels 5 Sep 1986, 49.17 Rome 10 Sep 1986

Sanya Richards's 35 sub-50 sec 400m:

49.89 Sacramento 17 Jul 2004, 49.96 Kingston 7 May 2005, 49.98 Eugene 4 Jun 2005, 49.28 Carson 25 Jun 2005, 49.95 Lausanne 5 Jul 2005, 49.82 Rome 8 Jul 2005, 49.74 Helsinki 10 Aug 2005, 48.92 Zurich 19 Aug 2005, 49.77 Sheffield 21 Aug 2005, 49.52 Monaco 10 Sep 2005, 49.89 Kingston 6 May 2006, 49.82 Oslo 2 Jun 2006, 49.27 Indianapolis 24 Jun 2006, 49.73 Paris 8 Jul 2006, 49.31 Rome 14 Jul 2006, 49.05 London 28 Jul 2006, 49.81 Berlin 3 Sep 2006, 49.25 Stuttgart 10 Sep 2006, 48.70 Athens 16 Sep 2006, 49.52 Paris 6 Jul 2007, 49.77 Rome 13 Jul 2007, 49.79 London 3 Aug 2007, 49.72 Stockholm 7 Aug 2007, 49.36 Zurich 7 Sep 2007, 49.29 Brussels 14 Sep 2007, 49.27 Berlin 16 Sep 2007, 49.27 Stuttgart 23 Sep 2007, 49.89 Eugene 3 Jul 2008, 49.86 Athens 13 Jul 2008, 49.90 Beijing 17 Aug 2008, 49.93 Beijing 19 Aug 2008, 49.74 Zurich 29 Aug 2008, 49.86 Eugene 7 Jun 2009, 49.57 Berlin 14 Jun 2009, 49.23 Oslo 3 Jul 2009



see also
Chambers impresses in early heats
10 Jul 09 |  Athletics
Ohuruogu finishes sixth in Oslo
04 Jul 09 |  Athletics
Richards lays down 400m challenge
14 Jun 09 |  Athletics
Loneliness of the mile runner
09 Jul 09 |  Magazine
Medals, money or both?
12 Jun 09 |  Athletics
GB women show Berlin credentials
03 Jun 09 |  Athletics
Will Kenyans run wild in London?
22 Apr 09 |  Athletics
Reasons for cheer after Euros
12 Mar 09 |  Athletics
When is a record not a record?
19 Feb 09 |  Athletics
How Olympic finals were won and lost
28 Jan 09 |  Athletics


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