While the 100m and 200m finals will be all about the Jamaicans, the 400m has a much more international feel to it and promises to be a more open and just as exciting race. The 400m final takes place on the 6th of August at 21.30 (GMT).
Michael Johnson’s world record of 43.18 seconds, which he set in 1999, still stands and looks, at this stage, unassailable. However there are a slew of impressive athletes competing in the one lap event and Johnson knows that records are meant to be broken.
Compatriot LaShawn Merrit is the Olympic champion. He claimed the gold in Beijing but in 2010 it was revealed that he had failed three doping tests. Allegedly he accidentally ingested the banned steroid Dehydroepiandrosterone by consuming a penis enlargement drug. He claims not to have read the small print on the back of the box... He has been cleared to compete at the games with a controversial decision that has left the door open to athletes who have tested positive for banned substances and served their bans. Whatever his reasons, Merrit served 21 months of a two year ban and put the time to good use, when he returned to the track he picked up where he left off posting an excellent time of 44.74. He ran well in the World Championships but won silver behind an 18-year-old from Grenada know as ‘The Jaguar’.
Kirani James became the youngest world champion ever in Daegu last year. With impressive grit and power James hunted down Merrit and took gold. However, his inexperience told this year in Istanbul when he failed to overcome the handicap of starting in lane one and finished in last place.
From the tiny Island of Grenada in the Caribbean James has overcome poverty to really put his country on the map. He is a superstar in Grenada, but attends university in Alabama, juggling his training with his business studies course. Perhaps the strain of the hectic workload is starting to exact a toll as he yawned three times while settling into the starting blocks in Istanbul. As a sprinter James is a very light build at 1.91 metres he weighs only 80 kg, but his speed is built on his sinewy strength. His speed has been described as ‘silent’ or with ‘stealth’ earning him the nickname ‘The Jaguar’. His style is at odds with the explosive power of Merrit and fellow American Jeremy Wariner, both of whom will be medal contenders.
The Borlée brothers
European hopes for a medal in the 400m will rest on the shoulders of Belgian twins Kevin and Jonathan Borlée who have been preparing for the London Olympics with team building exercises that included camping out in sub-zero temperatures on an Icelandic glacier.
By Hugo Mc Cafferty