LaShawn Merritt and Kirani James in the 400m at the 2012 Pre Classic in Eugene (© Kirby Lee)
Kirani James will be looking to follow up his sizzling world-leading time of 44.02 achieved at the IAAF Diamond League meeting in Shanghai two weeks ago when goes to his marks at the next stop in the 2013 series, the Prefontaine Classic in Eugene this coming Saturday (1).
Grenada’s first ever Olympic medallist in any sport when he won the 400m gold at the London 2012 Games, James has been beating the world’s best every year since he was 16, beginning a four-year run that saw him become a winner successively at the IAAF World Youth Championships, IAAF World Junior Championships, IAAF World Championships, and then the Olympic Games last summer.
Still only 20, James headlines a loaded men’s 400m race at the Prefontaine Classic. But with a best of 43.94, set when winning in London, he is not even the fastest in the incredibly stacked field, a distinction which belongs to the USA’s LaShawn Merritt at 43.75, which earned him the 2008 Olympic Games gold medal.
Merritt was the 2009 World Championships winner and second to a then 18-year-old James at the next World Championships two years later.
He also finished second to James in Shanghai recently in 44.60.
The Prefontaine Classic reunites a unique set of 400m medallists. For the first time in the men’s 400m at an Olympic Games, none were from the USA or any country in Europe, and while all three were from islands in the Caribbean, none were from Jamaica.
Luguelin Santos earned the silver medal in London as an 18-year-old, a month after winning at the 2012 World Junior Championships. He is already the Dominican Republic record-holder at 44.45.
Lalonde Gordon, 24, was the London bronze medallist and is Trinidad and Tobago’s second-fastest 400m runner at 44.52.
A decade longer in the tooth than the oldest of the three London medallists, Bahamas’ Chris Brown is 34 but he can still run fast.
Last summer, Brown was about a foot away from an Olympic medal, finishing fourth in London, having already won the 4x400m bronze in 2000 and the silver in 2008. In London, he completed his collection by leading off a 4x400m Relay team that won the gold medals, the first Olympic victory by the Bahamas in men's athletics.
Completing the men’s 400m field is Belgium’s Kevin Borlee, the 2011 World bronze medallist, USA’s 2011 national champion Tony McQuay and Czech Republic’s 2012 European champion Pavel Maslak.
Organisers for the IAAF
2013 IAAF Diamond League calendar
Doha, QAT – 10 May
Shanghai, CHN – 18 May
New York, USA – 25 May
Eugene, USA – 1 Jun
Rome, ITA – 6 Jun
Oslo, NOR – 13 Jun
Birmingham, GBR – 30 Jun
Lausanne, SUI – 4 Jul
Paris, FRA – 6 Jul
Monaco, MON – 19 Jul
London, GBR – 26-27 Jul
Stockholm, SWE – 22 Aug
Zürich, SUI – 29 Aug
Brussels, BEL – 6 Sep