LONDON, England - In her first Olympic experience, Shaunae Miller will undergo a sort of baptism by fire.
The talented Bahamian teenager will line up next to the world champion when the heats of the women's 400 meters (m) are held today at the Olympic Stadium.
The athletics portion of these 30th Olympic Games finally gets underway today, and Miller will be the first Bahamian to see action on the track. She will run in heat two, lane three, right next to World Champion Amantle Montsho, of Botswana, who will run out of lane four. Also in that heat of note are American-born Shana Cox, who competes for Great Britain, and Christine Day, of Jamaica.
There's no doubt that the class of the field is Montsho though, who really made a name for herself after the Beijing Olympics four years ago. She also held off three-time 200m American World Champion Allyson Felix in the women's 400m final last year to become her nation's first Olympic or World Champion.
Shaunae Miller herself was unavailable for comment, but according to her coach and father Shaun Miller who is here in London, she appears to be ready for the challenge.
"She's going into the race excited," said the elder Miller. "She had the opportunity to meet Montsho and she's excited to be going up against her. Montsho actually gave her some words of encouragement. Shaunae is going to be in the inside lane and Montsho is going to be right on the outside of her, but Shaunae is focused on her race and what she needs to do. This is the Olympics. I just told her to pace herself and if she needs to push it in order to make it to the semis, then go for it. Health wise, she's not 100 percent but she is ready to go. The physiotherapist who is attached with the team has been working with her every day. We're not worried about any injuries," he added.
Shaunae Miller has been bothered by a hamstring injury since June. She suffered the injury about two weeks before the BTC/Scotiabank Olympic Trials, which caused her to miss the trials.
Although just 18 years old, like Montsho, she has excelled on the world stage. She is the former World Junior Champion, having lost that title last month, and the current World Youth Champion. She is the only Bahamian to ever hold individual titles in both world level events simultaneously, and the only athlete worldwide to ever do it in that order.
Miller will compete at 12 noon tomorrow. She is the youngest member of Team Bahamas here in London, and like Strachan, she's aiming to become the first Bahamian junior to ever qualify for an Olympic final in an individual event.
"Knowing Shaunae, she came to run," said Shaun Miller. "It will be good if she can save a little for the next round, but I told her if she needs to run a PR (personal best) in the heats, then go for it. We expect Montsho to set a fast pace but Shaunae just has to stick to her race and she'll be fine."
Shaunae Miller has a personal best time of 51.25 seconds this year, which would have been good enough for a semi-final appearance at both the Beijing Olympics four years ago and last year's World Championships in Daegu, South Korea. No other Bahamian junior female has ever run under 52 seconds in the 400m.
Also in action tomorrow will be Arianna Vanderpool-Wallace in the heats, and hopefully the semis, of the women's 50m Free in swimming, Debbie Ferguson-McKenzie and Sheniqua Ferguson in the heats of the women's 100m, and Raymond Higgs in the qualifying round of the men's long jump.
Ferguson-McKenzie and Ferguson will compete in the 100m heats at 7:05 p.m. local time, and Higgs will be the 14th jumper out of Group B in the men's long jump. That event is set to get underway at 7:50 p.m.
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