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PREVIEW - Men's 400m

Jeremy Wariner wins the 400m at the 2005 USATF champs (Getty Images)Jeremy Wariner wins the 400m at the 2005 USATF champs (Getty Images) © Copyright

In early summer, Jeremy Wariner predicted that the winner of the 400m in Helsinki at the World Championships will have to run the lap in under 44 seconds. In the light of this year’s statistics, Wariner may well be right and this as for everyone else would mean running his own personal best. The Texan is the favourite to win the race in Helsinki, but he faces tough competition from several runners.

A year ago, Wariner finished a perfect season with the Olympic gold medal in Athens. In the final he clocked his PB and the new Olympic record of 44.00s. His preparation for the Olympics was long and Wariner competed often last summer. This year is different. His season will be shorter, and he has mainly raced at Grand Prix meets and at the US Championships.

At the US titles meet, Wariner had a win with 44.20, the best time in the world this season. In his GP races he has repeatedly clocked times around 44.90.

But the race Wariner will surely remember coming into the Championships is the London Grand Prix in late July. There, he suffered a surprise defeat to Briton Tim Benjamin. Benjamin ran a spectacular race on the outside of Wariner, and clocked his PB 44.75. Wariner’s time was 44.86.

Wariner’s coach is Clyde Hart, who used to coach Michael Johnson. With someone as experienced as Hart, it would be a surprise if Wariner was not in peak form during the World Championships.

Wariner’s premier challenger could be his own training partner Darold Williamson. At the US university championships, Williamson had an impressive race and he clocked 44.27. He came second after Wariner at the US national championships with the same time 44.27.

Wariner and Williamson are the only two men to run under 44.50s this year.

One of the strong candidates to provide a surprise is Alleyne Francique of Grenada. He finished fourth at the Olympics last year, and Francique’s best time this season is 44.60.

Jamaica has always produced top-class 400m runners, and Lansford Spence and Brandon Simpson are keeping up this tradition. Spence’s best time this year is 44.77 and Simpson’s 44.83.

Tyler Christopher ran the new Canadian record of 44.69 at Paris in early July. Another dark horse might be Gary Kikaya of the Congo, who won the Golden League meet at Oslo with 44.81.

Helsinki 2005 media team