By Clayton Clarke, Trakalerts.com writer
The men’s 100m has always been the blue ribbon event of any major Championship. This year it was clash of sprint titans Usain Bolt and Justin Gatlin. We know the result; Bolt reigns once again. However, the men’s 400m event may outshine all others this century.The one lap sprint will bring together one of the classiest fields ever with five men running under 44 seconds, the most ever in one season. The quarter-mile has already been arguably the hottest contested item on the World Championships menu in the aura of the Bird’s Nest Stadium.
In the first round, records tumbled aplenty:
1. In heat one, Yousef Ahmed Masrahi (KSA) clocked the fastest ever preliminary time of 43.93 beating the 44.35 posted by La Shawn Merritt (USA) in Daegu four years ago. Second place Rusheen Mc Donald (JAM), also clocking 43.93 and third place Isaac Makwala ( BOT), 44.19, also eclipsed Merritt’s mark.
2.Eighteen (18) athletes dipped below 45 seconds (and two before 44) easily beating the previous best of six from 2007.
3. Eight men shared the dubious honor of having the fastest non-qualifying times. The previous fastest non-qualifying time was 45.44 by Bastin Swillims (GER) in 2007. Reigning World Indoor champion Pavel Maslak (CZE) leads the way with a record he would like to forget with 45.16 for sixth place finish in heat two. Winston George (GUY) and Luka Janezic (SLO) failed to advance despite running national records of 45.25 and 45.28 respectively.
In the semifinals, new standards were set:
4. Seventeen (17) athletes recorded sub 45 marks beating the 10 ran in 2009, and the 11 at the 2008 Olympics Games. Ten also ran under 45 seconds at the the 1988 Olympics.
5. Nine of the 17, of course, did not advance to the finals, another record. In 2009, only two of sub-45 finalists missed out on the finals. At the 2008 Olympics three athletes went sub-45 and failed to move on the medal round.
With the super-fast times set in the heats one expected that the record for the fastest non-qualifying semifinalist (44.51 by Jerome Davis-1999) to be broken but somehow the mark survived.
Going in the finals more records were established:
6. Five athletes with personal best times below 44 seconds will battle for the gold.
7. Four (three past and one current) World Junior champions are in the line up.
With all eight finalists boasting season’s bests times below 44.60 seconds, the record for eighth place of 45.03 set by Anderson Henriques (BRA) in 2013 is in serious jeopardy. Interestingly, the best eighth place time at the Olympics is also 45.03 from 1988.
With the quality of the line-ups, who will reigning Dan or the Huangdi of the 400m? Will the race may be decided on mental strength and experience? Will Merritt at 29 years take the gold after his previous wins in 2009 and 2013 and well as his Olympic gold in 2008? Though not yet 23, James has considerable experience beyond his year with his sweep of the World Youth, Junior, Senior and Olympic titles all before his 20th birthday. Will he saunter away with the title? Or will the precocious 19 year old reigning World Junior champion Machel Cedenio and the man whose title he inherited, Liguelin Santos, still only 21, outfox their mentors.
The Africans have not won a medal since 1997. Between Makwala and Wayde Van Niekerk (RSA) they will surely want the gold going to Africa for the first time. Masrahi will do doubt have his sights on taking the crown back to his kingdom in Asia but has his 43.93 in the heats come too soon? Rabah Yousif (GBR) may be totally over-shadowed in this illustrious line-up as his lone sub 45 clocking of his career of 44.54 coming in the semifinal. What has he to lose from being away from the spot light?