Men’s 400 meters unpredictable
By Yi Whan-woo
The high number of contenders for the gold medal in the men’s 400-meter final is making it hard to predict who will win Tuesday at Daegu Stadium.
Defending world champion LaShawn Merritt, 25, of the U.S., is the favorite but he faces strong challenges from this season’s fastest man, Kirani James of Grenada. Merritt, the 2008 Olympic gold medalist, made his comeback in July after a 21-month ban after failing a drug test. He has shown his strength in the 400, running 44.74 seconds for a runner-up finish in a Diamond League meet in Stockholm, his first race in almost two years.
James is looking to celebrate his 19th birthday on Sept. 1, two days after the 400-meter final, with a world title. The prodigy, unbeaten over the one-lap distance this season, took the NCAA title in June and won at the Diamond League meet in London earlier this month in the year’s best time of 44.61 seconds.
Merritt also faces a stiff challenge from his American teammates, including Tony McQuay, the fastest U.S. athlete this year.
McQuay, 21, clocked in at 44.68 seconds to win the national title this year. He is a “precocious” talent according to the International Association of Athletics Federation (IAAF), making his world championship debut in Daegu.
Greg Nixon, also of the U.S., has named himself as a title favorite, posting his season’s best of 44.98 for third in the U.S. Championships. He is another threat having claimed two World Indoor 4x400-meter relay titles.
The fourth man in the 400 final from the U.S. team is Jamaal Torrance, the bronze medalist in the 2010 World Indoor Championship, who set his season’s best of 45.11 at the U.S. Championships for fourth place. He was lucky to replace Jeremy Wariner, the 2005 and 2007 World champion, who withdrew because of a foot injury earlier this month.
Oscar Pistorius, known for his exceptional efforts to compete in the able-bodied championships in Daegu as the first physically challenged runner, is also likely to challenge at the finish line.