Javier Culson of Puerto Rico competes in the Men's 400m Hurdles Heats on Day 7 of the London 2012 Olympic Games at Olympic Stadium on August 3, 2012 (Getty Images ) © Copyright
Undefeated in 2012, Culson prevailed in what was arguably the deepest heat on this opening day for athletics at the London 2012 Games with the 2009 World champion for the event Kerron Clement of the USA taking second in 48.48, also the second fastest time of the day.
Clement who only just scraped through to make the team for London in third at the US Olympic Trials in Eugene where he headed Bershawn Jackson by a mere 5 hundredths of a second, looked as though he is on the right path back to his best running his fastest race of the year to advance safely.
Cuba’s Omar Cisnero also went through by right in third position and the third overall fastest this morning at 48.63!
Such was the depth of this heat that not only did it record the three fastest times of the day but the top six athletes through the line also advanced to tomorrow evening’s semi-finals with Australia’s Tristan Thomas (49.13), home crowd favourite Rhys Williams (49.17) and Michael Bultheel of Belgium (49.18) also advancing with the three fastest losing times.
The next best time of the day was recorded by the reigning World champion and Team GB captain David Greene, the other co-favourite for winning gold in Monday’s final. The fourth and only other man to dip under 49 seconds in the opening round at 48.98, Greene was the dominant figure despite running from lane one in heat three with Serbia’s Emir Bekric clocking a new national record 49.21 for second.
Greene said: "At 300 metres there was a massive cheer. It was a fantastic atmosphere. I just need to focus and tomorrow will be different."
Other heat winners included US champion Michael Tinsley who completed his first round in 49.13 ahead of Leford Green of Jamaica and Mozambique’s Kurt Couto who also advanced by right. There will be two Puerto Ricans in tomorrow’s semi-finals courtesy of Eric Alejandro’s 49.39 performance for fourth and one of six fastest qualifying times.
The opening heat was taken by Amaurys Valle of Cuba whose 49.19 was a new personal best time and the ninth fastest this morning with Australia’s Brendan Cole also setting a new PB for second in 49.24.
The final two heats featured the two veterans and former winners of the event in the likes of 2004 Olympic champion Felix Sanchez and defending champion Angelo Taylor.
The Dominican whose shoulder "Superman" tattoo has led to his nick-name Super Sanchez had no opposition in the final heat where he slowed down to a comfortable 49.24 heat winning performance ahead of Great Britain’s second string Jack Green who closed strongly in 49.49. Senegal’s Mamadou Kasse Hanne took the final automatic qualifier in 49.63.
Taylor may have been the slowest heat winner at 49.29, but the Beijing winner looked at his best in heat six which also saw the automatic qualification of former World Junior champion Jehue Gordon at 49.37. Slanislav Melnykov of Ukraine was lucky to automatic advance in third as the slowest athlete this morning; had his 50.13 come in any other heat it wouldn’t have been enough for a place in tomorrow’s semi-finals.
The major casualty of this first round was the South African pair of Cornel Fredericks and LJ van Zyl respectively eighth and sixth in their opening heats today.
Laura Arcoleo for the IAAF
1999 Galfione on track