DAEGU, KOREA -—Twenty-one hundredths of a second.
About one very long stride.
They're all that separated Francena McCorory from a spot on the medals stand on Day Three of the 13th World Championships of Track and Field.
The former Bethel High and Hampton University flash settled for fourth place in the women's 400 of the Worlds at Daegu Stadium with a 50.45 performance, just that mini-margin back of Russian bronze medalist Anastasiya Kapachinskaya's 50.24.
All this in a drama-packed race that saw Amantle Montsho bring joy - and a first-ever gold medal - to her African homeland of Botswana by fighting off the desperation homestretch charge of America's Allyson Felix, 49.56 to 49.59.
McCorory's timing was about 24 hours askew. She'd run her best-ever of 50.24 in the semifinals Sunday night, looking every bit a potential medalist. But it was Kapachinskaya who took the 50.24 route to the podium.
McCorory took it all philosophically.
"Sure I wished I'd have finished higher, but I also have to remind myself this was my first time on the world scale," she said.
"So I don't think I did bad. I learned how important it is to make it through the rounds (prelims and semfinals.) I could have worked on my start a little better. But, all in all, I'm just happy to be here"
The individual 400 may be history, but McCorory still hopes to return to Virginia with a gold medal - as a member of the favored USA 4x400 relay team.
No one is faulting's LaShawn Merritt's timing, however.
The 2008 Olympic champion and 2009 World champion, out of Portsmouth and Wilson High, has looked unbeatable in his first two races at Daegu Stadium, which happen to be his first two races in 21 months - after returning to competition following suspension in an inadvertent drug use situation.
Merritt had run 44.35 winning his opening-round race of the men's 400 meters Sunday night, powering home impressively. He was just as power-packed Monday night, only a tad slower.
It took him 44.76 to win his semifinal over Belgium's Kevin Borlee, a former star at Florida State. When Jonathan Borlee, Kevin's twin, ran 45.14 for second place behind Jamaica's Jermaine Gonzalez, it gave Belgium - and one family - twice as many finalists as USA.. The other American semifinalists, Greg Nixon (45.51) and Jamaal Torrance (45.73), failed to advance.
"LaShawn Merritt is obviously the man to beat in the final," conceded Jonathan Borlee. "He is one level above all the others right now."
"A medal is every athlete's goal here and it sure is mine," said Merritt. "I've trained hard for this, I've bee looking forward to this a long time. Those 21 months off were no fun."
In track and field history, just nine men have bettered the 44-second mark for the one-lap distance. The celebrated Michael Johnson still tops the list with his 43.18 at the 1999 World Championships in Seville, Spain.
Merritt's 43.75 at the 2008 Beijing Olympic Games ranks him fifth on the all-time sub-44 list. Well, he may not have the race sharpness to challenge the Johnson mark in the Tuesday 400 final, but he may be ready to go under that personal-best 43.75.
The other semifinal winners, Jermaine Gonzalez of Jamaica (44.99) and Kirani James of Grenada (45.20),the NCAA champion for Alabama, along with the Borlee twins, figure to pose Merritt's most serious threats.
Virginia Tech grad Queen Harrison, another NCAA champion, advanced to the semifinals of the women's 400-meter hurdles with a relaxed 55.11 third-place performanced in her first-round heat.
It wasn't the smooth sailing she expected, but good enough to reach the 24-runner semis.
"Today was about shaking the cobwebs off and really see where I'm at because I hadn't run a 400 hurdles in a while," Harrison said.
"I really wanted to see if I could cruise it in the first round but the girl on the outside (Anastasiya Rabchenyuk of Ukraine) caught me at the end.
"But that's okay. I'll still get a good lane tomorrow.
"I feel like I can save it all for the end. I feel like all the training is under my belt now. Now it's just about execution."