He won at the outdoor World Championships in Daegu last year, he leads the indoor rankings this year and Kirani James (GRN) qualified comfortably for the semi-finals when the heats of the men’s 400 metres were contested on the opening morning at the Istanbul 2102 World Indoor Championships.
James, who does not turn 20 until 1 September, ran 46.64 seconds to win the second of six heats from Nerey Brenes (CRC), 46.77. His only moment of discomfort came when Brenes clipped his heel on the turn at the start of the second lap. Stung into action, he won easing up.
James did not get the fastest time of the round, however, that accolade going to another of the medal favourites, Demetrius Pinder (BAH), who won the first heat in 46.49 from Tabarie Henry (ISV), 46.71.
The other category James did not lead was that of loudest cheer. That was reserved for the announcement that Turkey’s Ali Ekber Kayas, third in the sixth and final heat behind defending champion Chris Brown (BAH) and Calvin Smith (USA), had qualified for the semi-finals later in the day as one of the six fastest non-automatic qualifiers.
James won Grenada’s first gold medal at an outdoor World Championships in Daegu, but he is bidding for the Caribbean nation’s third World Indoor Championships gold medal. Alleyne Francique won the 400 in both 2004 and 2006.
Nigel Levine, the Linford Christie-trained athlete who won at the Birmingham meeting this season, won heat three in 47.56. Lalonde Gordon TRI), second across the line in 47.75, was disqualified subsequently, Italy’s Lorenzo Valentini elevated to second and a place in the semis.
Gil Roberts (USA), second to James on the 2012 performance list, Pavel Maslak and Brown were the other heat winners. Brown won in Doha two years ago, with Brenes fourth in that final.
Len Johnson for the IAAF