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Abby Steiner Has Gone All Out This Season; Now She’s Going For A World Title

by David Woods

Abby Steiner competes during the women's 200-meter heats at the 2022 World Athletics Championships on July 18, 2022 in Eugene, Ore.

 

EUGENE, Ore. — If not for all those years and miles on a soccer pitch, Abby Steiner might have felt depleted a few races ago. She is a sprinter who has the endurance to run all day.
The question is, after 56 races in a track and field season that began more than seven months ago — that’s more than 10,000 meters, going all-out for each of them — what will she have left in the 57th?
Next up: Thursday’s 200-meter final at the World Athletics Championships in Eugene.
Steiner, age 22 and new to the pro ranks, said she tries not to dwell on her long season.
“Just listening to my body and what it needs during the recovery,” she said. “Just coming in here with a fresh mindset and knowing that I have a lane in the final, and I belong here, and I want to compete.”
It could be asserted Steiner is up against the fastest field ever assembled in a women’s 200 meters. Before Tuesday, the fastest semifinal ever at a world championships was 22.12 seconds. Steiner’s U.S. teammate, Jenna Prandini, clocked 22.08 … and was eliminated.
Jamaica has three formidable finalists: Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce, Shericka Jackson and Elaine Thompson-Herah. They swept the medals in the 100-meter on Sunday and could do so again in the 200. Jackson has the year’s fastest time at 21.55 seconds, and Thompson-Herah won last year’s Olympic golds in the 100 and 200.
Jackson won the first semifinal Tuesday in 21.67, and Team USA’s Tamara Clark the second in 21.95 (beating Thompson-Herah). Fraser-Pryce won the third semi in 21.81 to Steiner’s 22.15.
“I knew Shelly was going to get out,” Steiner said. “Her 100 speed is unlike anyone else on this earth. I just wanted to go with her when she went.”
Until eighth grade, Steiner was strictly a soccer player. By the time she arrived at Kentucky in 2018, she was a standout two-sport athlete.
At her Ohio high school, Dublin Coffman, she won multiple state titles, with bests of 11.38 for 100 meters and 22.72 for 200. She helped her soccer team to a state runner-up finish in 2014, then tore her right ACL as a junior in 2016.
As a college freshman, she was the only player to start all 19 soccer games for the Wildcats, totaling two goals and five assists. After that, she quit soccer to focus on track.

Abby Steiner competes during the women's 200-meter finals at the 2022 USATF Outdoor Championships on June 26, 2022 in Eugene, Ore.

 

That high school ACL injury was among several setbacks.
In 2020, she was SEC indoor champion in the 200 meters, but the pandemic shut down the season thereafter. In 2021, she was NCAA indoor champion in the 200 but injured her Achilles, knocking her out of the outdoor season and contention for the Olympic Games Tokyo 2020. As former Kentucky collegians Sydney McLaughlin, Keni Harrison and Jasmine Camacho-Quinn won medals in Tokyo, she could only watch.
There has been no stopping Steiner in 2022. Not even losses to LSU’s Favour Ofili (Nigeria) in the SEC 100 and 200 have interrupted progress.
Steiner set collegiate records in the 200 indoors (22.09) and outdoors (21.80), swept the NCAA titles, and ran a stunning 48.78 leg for a Kentucky team setting a collegiate record in the 4x400 relay. To qualify for worlds, she lowered her 200 time to 21.77 at the U.S. championships.
She said her goal here was to make the final, and anything else would be a bonus.
“I was just looking forward to the chance to compete against international people,” she said. “This is my first world-level championship. I haven’t got a chance to do that because of the pandemic or I’ve been hurt. So really soaking in these moments and cherishing them.”
Steiner had another season of college eligibility and acknowledged she had stressful life decisions to make ahead of the world championships. Details of her pro contract with Puma, the shoe brand that also sponsored Usain Bolt, were leaked ahead of a formal announcement. She disputed reports about its value.
“It didn’t feel right to take credit for something that wasn’t true,” she said. “Which is why I thought I needed to say something, knowing those contracts aren’t public. No one knows how much I’m making besides Puma and I.
“It’s especially harmful when it’s not true. It just subjected me to a lot of narratives.”
She said she hasn’t had a chance to discuss with McLaughlin, also 22, how to navigate life as pro. To enhance her concentration, Steiner said she deleted Twitter from her cell phone so she wouldn’t be tempted to scroll through it.
Irrespective of outcome in the 200, Steiner’s world championships might not be over. She is a rarity in that she could contribute in either 4x100 or 4x400 relays. She said Team USA coaches have not discussed lineups but that she has been practicing exchanges in the short relay.
“It’s not like my body has been subjected to anything too crazy or different,” she said. “I think the biggest thing is just keeping my mental space good, getting ready to go into this. Keeping the pressure down, the nerves down, and let everything take care of itself.”


David Woods, a native of Urbana, Illinois, has been covering Olympic sports since 1972 and is the only four-time winner of the Jesse Abramson Award, presented by Track and Field Writers of America for journalism. He is a freelance contributor to TeamUSA.org on behalf of Red Line Editorial, Inc.
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