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Men's 400m PREVIEW

The void left by Michael Johnson’s retirement four years ago is still being felt, as the two intervening World Championship titles went to two different runners, Avrad Moncour of Bahamas and Jerome Young of the US.  Because Young will not be competing in Athens and with Moncour’s condition less than in past years, yet a third name will surface in Athens in the continuing search for Johnson’s successor. 

Alleyne Francique of Grenada (44.47), who won the World Indoor Championships in March and for more than two months was the world outdoor season leader, presents a strong record with six races under 45 seconds.  That, plus his past international experience, makes him one of the top favourites. 

Also boasting six sub-45s, 20-year-old Jeremy Wariner of the US figures to be a top challenger, as he holds the current world lead with his 44.37 victory in the US Olympic Trials.
Wariner and his teammates, Otis Harris (44.67) and Derrick Brew (44.69), should present a formidable three-man front in the final if they can avoid problems in the preliminary rounds. 

Several African products of the US university system also stand out in the entry list.  Congo native Gary Kikaya, the World Indoor bronze medallist, ran a season best 44.80 recently in Madrid, while Lewis Banda of Zimbabwe has a 44.58 leading his list of season achievements.

Although Brandon Simpson won the Jamaican Championships in 44.88, the man he beat - current Commonwealth Games champion Michael Blackwood - puts forth a stronger overall resumé from this year with a 44.74 in London at the top. Davian Clarke (45.11), second to Francique in last winter’s World Indoor Championships, adds further to the strong Jamaican roster. 

Europe advances a select group of top one-lap runners, led by 2003 World Championships finalist Leslie Djhone of France (44.68 national record) who chased down Francique in a splendid competition in Paris late last month, the second sub-45 for the Ivory Coast-born runner during July. Djhone’s countryman, Marc Raquil, the bronze medallist last summer in Paris, is still coming back into shape after injury and will be concentrating only on relay duty for Athens. 

Tim Benjamin (45.04) and European bronze winner Daniel Caines (45.29) will head the British effort in Atlanta. 

Germany’s Ingo Schultz (45.07), the Edmonton silver medallist and reigning European champion, is another European who will be vying for a place in the final, as will Spain’s David Canal (45.06).   

Éric Milazar of Mauritius has reached the final of the last two World Championships, and if he can again reach the fitness level of his 45.02 earlier this year, he could find himself in the top eight.   And 20-year-old Nigerian, Saul Weigopwa, who posted a pair of 45.00 races during a short mid-summer period, may merit a look.