Nery Brenes started the men’s 400 metres final ‘ahead’ of his rivals on the outside of the field. He led on the stagger and at the break of lanes.
In fact, Brenes led every step of the journey on his way to Costa Rica’s first medal at a World Indoor Championships, first gold medal at a World Indoor Championships, and a championship record 45.11 seconds.
That took 0.15 off the previous record set by Harry ‘Butch’ Reynolds, also the outdoor record holder at the time, in Toronto in 1993.
So a memorable day all round for the 26-year-old Brenes, who now has his country’s three best performances at a World Indoor Championships. The previous two were fourth-place finishes in the men’s 400 by – guess who? – Brenes in 2008 and 2010.
The 400 at a world indoors is a race of attrition. Two rounds on the first day of competition tests everyone’s strength, especially as the semi-final results determine the lane draw and, with it, the favourable outside lanes on the banked track.
Kirani James, Grenada’s first outdoor World champion and the youngest-ever in Olympic and World Championships history, fared worst in this. For losing a gruelling semi-final battle with Brenes, James wound up in lane one, ‘down the hill’ from his toughest rivals.
James was never in the hunt for the gold medal, unable to get into a good position with a lap to go and having to work hard in the second lap to no avail. He finished a tired last in 46.21. At least Brenes had the good grace to relieve him of the world lead as well (previously, James’s 45.19), thus leaving James with the consolation that his best might not have been good enough in any case.
Demetrius Pinder (BAH), whose 45.94 was fastest time in the semi-finals, led the chasers to take the silver medal in 45.34.
Chris Brown, Pinder’s teammate and the Doha 2010 champion, took the bronze medal in 45.90.
Tabarie Henry of the Virgin Islands took fourth place in 45.96 with the Czech Republic runner Pavel Maslak fifth just ahead of James.
Three races in two days was perhaps too much even for Maslak who impressed through the rounds with his willingness to take the race on.
Brenes can now turn his attention to outdoor championships where his best results are to have reached the semi-finals at the 2007 and 2011 World Championships and the 2008 Olympic Games. He also won the Continental Cup 400 in 2010, so perhaps he can garner further honours for Costa Rica in the Olympic arena.
Len Johnson for the IAAF