Abderrahman Samba in action at the IAAF Diamond League meeting in Doha
Organisers of the Prefontaine Classic have declared their 400m hurdles field their ‘best ever’ with Abderrahman Samba, Rai Benjamin, Kerron Clement and Kyron McMaster all taking to the start line at the IAAF Diamond League meeting in Stanford on 30 June.
Fans of the event are focused on a matchup of two young stars who have taken the event to a level not seen since either Samba or Benjamin were born. Not since the world records of legends Kevin Young and Edwin Moses has any single hurdler run as fast – let alone two in the same year.
The magic began last year in June, when Rai Benjamin ran 47.02 on a wet Eugene track to win the NCAA Championships and lower his best by almost a full second. Benjamin’s mark matched the fastest Moses ever ran – the last of the four world records for the two-time Olympic gold medallist – and is the fastest by anyone on US soil.
Three weeks after Benjamin’s stunner, Samba scorched the Paris track in 46.98, the second-fastest time in history after Young’s 46.78 world record from the 1992 Barcelona Olympics. It was the pinnacle in Samba’s undefeated season in which he ran sub-48 in every final, including the four fastest times in IAAF Diamond League history.
The IAAF World Athletics Championships Doha 2019 are set for later this year in Samba’s home country, where the 23-year-old Qatari will be a major point of local interest. He scored his first Diamond League win there last year and last month opened up his 400m hurdle season with a dominant 47.51 performance at the Asian Championships. The Pre Classic will be his first race on US soil.
McMaster has won the past two IAAF Diamond League titles in the event. The 22-year-old from the British Virgin Islands has a PB of 47.54, set when finishing second to Samba in Paris last year.
Clement won the 2016 Olympic and Diamond League titles. His collection of international medals is by far the best in the field with golds medals from the 2007 and 2009 World Championships separated by Olympic silver in 2008, plus a bronze at the 2017 World Championships.
Others in the field include world silver medallist Yasmani Copello of Turkey, 2014 European silver medallist Rasmus Magi of Estonia and world finalist TJ Holmes of the USA. The final lane will be filled by the athlete running the best in the coming weeks.
Organisers for the IAAF