The fifth day (1 October) of action of the 17th IAAF World Championships in Doha, Qatar got underway with the men’s 400m. Based on the evidence of their strong showing in the heats, the Caribbean athletes seem ready to challenge the Americans who are seeking to reclaim dominance in the event in the absence of two-time champion Wayde Van Niekerk of South Africa.
These are the views of the main characters:
Kirani James, competing in his second 400m for the year, looked joyously fluid en route to a 44.94 win. It was the fastest heat and his second sub-45 clocking following his 44.47 season opener in Spain on 6 September.
James, after taking command around the top bend, held his form down the home straight despite a late flourish from Jamaican-born Japanese sprinter Julian Walsh who came home in 45.14 seconds.
“It was a good run,” said James who missed the London World Championships through illness. “This is the world championships, and everybody is trying to get to the next round, and Walsh from Japan made it into a race, I appreciate his efforts,” said the London Olympic champion.
“The next round is going to be even tougher, so I’m going to get some rest, look at the start list and work out a strategy.”
Trinidad & Tobago’s Machel Cedenio ran a controlled race to take the first heat in 45.26 ahead of Jamaica’s top quarter-miler Akeem Bloomfield who registered 45.34 seconds.
“It’s an amazing track and the conditions out there are really ideal for running fast,” said Cedenio. “My coach told me to work on getting out and take control of the race, and that’s what I did. I am happy and looking forward to the next round.”
Meanwhile, Bloomfield admitted that he is still working on getting everything right. “The first 200m was too sluggish for my taste,” he said. “However, it’s just the heats, so I can say once I qualified it’s a job well done for today. In terms of my aerobics, it felt a little harder than I expected, but my body feels very good, and we will see what happens in the next round,” Bloomfield reasoned.
Bahamian Steven Gardiner was not required to open up the burners in heat five as he strolled to a comfortable victory in 45.68 seconds. “I felt pretty good,” said Gardiner who won silver at the London Championships.
“My coach and I had a pretty good race plan, we didn’t want to go out there and run crazy, but if someone else wanted to do something crazy, I would let them do it and come second. I’m going to run the semi-final like a final.”
Jamaica’s national record Rusheen McDonald was way off the pace clocking 46.21 seconds to finish fifth. McDonald’s elimination makes him well rested for the 4x400m relays where he is, in all likelihood, expected to play a crucial role in the team’s qualification and medal challenge.
Michael Norman, one of the preseason favourites, got his first world championships appearance off on a winning start clocking 45.00 seconds. He was involved in a home straight duel with Jamaica’s domestic champion Demish Gaye who finished 0.02 seconds behind.
“I ran a very controlled race, and overall I am happy with my performance,” said Norman.
“I thought I ran a very strong 250m and then kind of shut it down, but this allowed the rest of the field snuck up on me forcing me to put a little bit more effort in the last 100m.”
The Jamaican was satisfied with his effort. “I am feeling good, the first round was tough on my chest, but I’m feeling good,” said Gaye.
“The strategy was to put myself in a good position, so I don’t have to fight coming home.”
American champion Fred Kerley is seeking to bury the ghost of the London World Championships. He was second in his heat, registering 45.19 seconds.
“I just listened to my coach and went through smooth; the next round is going to matter the most.”