Abby Steiner chases prime opportunity in 200m at World Track and Field Championships

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Update: Abby Steiner qualified for the women’s 200m final, which will be held tonight at the 2022 World Track and Field Championships in Eugene, Oregon. Coverage begins at 8pm ET on USA Network and Peacock (full schedule here).

Originally published July 14, 2022

Abby Steiner has already enjoyed a whirlwind year ahead of her debut in the World Track & Field Championships next week in Eugene, Oregon.

The 22-year-old Steiner, who hails from Dublin, Ohio, recently finished off her college career at Kentucky in June, winning the 200m NCAA title in Eugene with a time of 21.80 and setting a new collegiate record. She followed up two weeks later in a test with the pros at the USATF Championships and posted a new personal best at the same track with a 21.77, earning her spot on the U.S. team at worlds.

“The main focus was just to come away with a win, make the team,” said Steiner, whose performance took the world lead until Shericka Jackson ran 21.55 the same day at the Jamaican Championships. “It was nice having had NCAAs at this track; it was kind of a familiar environment, so I knew if I replicated my race that I had at NCAAs with nicer weather, we were going to walk away with a PB.”

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Steiner marked a new milestone on Thursday, turning pro and signing a deal with Puma.

“It’s a weight off my shoulders,” said Steiner via the Columbus Dispatch. “It’s like everything you have worked for is coming to life. I don’t think it’s really sunk in just because it’s such a real blessing. I couldn’t be more excited about my choice, and I can’t wait for this next chapter with them.”

She’s considered the USA’s best hope to get back on the top of the podium in the 200m since Allyson Felix won gold at the 2009 worlds. But she faces deep international competition from Jackson, defending world champion Dina Asher-Smith of Great Britain, and reigning two-time Olympic champion Elaine Thompson-Herah. Namibia’s Christine Mboma, who won silver in Tokyo, will not at compete due to a thigh injury.

“The goal has always remained to be intentional every day at practice and fulfill all the goals I have for myself and see where that can take me and how that can inspire people,” Steiner added. “There’s been a lot of ups and downs along the way, but it’s been a great journey and I wouldn’t change a thing about it.”

But Steiner’s journey was marred this summer by speculation over her professional contract. Over the July 4 holiday, 10 days before Puma announced the sponsorship, a post on Twitter by Sacramento State track coach Kenny McDaniel claimed that Steiner had signed a $2 million deal with Puma. She addressed the conjecture in a personal statement on social media, noting the invasion of privacy has been “some of the most invasive and bothersome narratives I have seen.”

Steiner implored people to do better.

“Please keep in mind that athletes are human,” she continued. “We are worth more than being used in attempts to gain social media likes. A simple DM to me could have prevented false narratives in our track community. As reporters, former athletes, and coach who should understand the pressures athletes face, I urge you to be mindful of this for the next athlete.”

Competition in the women’s 200m begins with heats on Monday, July 18, followed by the semifinals on Tuesday, July 19, and the final on Thursday, July 21.

Current 200m records:

  • World record: Florence Griffith-Joyner, United States, 21.34 seconds, 1988
  • World Athletics Championships record: Dafne Schippers, Netherlands, 21.63 seconds, 2015
  • Hayward Field record: Gabby Thomas, United States, 21.61 seconds, 2021