There have been a number of possible winners talked up in the men’s 400m Hurdles.
Now, you can add one more after 23-year-old Cuban Omar Cisneros ran the fastest time in the world this year to lead the way into the final on Thursday night.
Cisneros, whose previous best was 47.99, ran 47.93 to win the third semi-final from two-time Olympic champion Felix Sanchez and dual World champion Kerron Clement. Cisneros also broke his own national record.
With another Caribbean athlete, 21-year-old Jehue Gordon, defeating Javier Culson in the first semi-final and 22-year-old Serb Emir Bekric pushing former world leader Michael Tinsley to 0.05 in the second semi, there is a strong possibility of generational change emerging in the final.
Gordon, running outside all his major rivals in lane six, always led the first semi-final. Coming into the ninth hurdle, the Trinidadian led Culson by a metre and he more than doubled that margin by the line.
Gordon won in 48.10, with Culson a safe second in 48.42. Those two grabbed the automatic qualifying spots, with third and fourth-place finishers Mamadou Kasse Hanne of Senegal and Cornel Fredericks of South Africa remaining in contention for the two non-automatic qualifying places.
Bershawn Jackson, the Helsinki 2005 World champion and the tenth-fastest of all-time in the event, failed to finish.
The second semi-final almost produced a boil-over with Bekric holding the lead over US champion Tinsley almost all the way to the line.
Tinsley beat Bekric in the first-round heats on Monday and had the two fastest performances of 2013 to his name coming into the semi-final round, but the powerful 22-year-old Serb all but had him. Tinsley had to work quite hard to catch him in the final 50 metres, eking out a narrow win, 48.31 to 48.36.
Jamaica’s Leford Green took third in 48.88, meaning that neither of the fastest non-automatic qualifiers would come from this semi-final.
Japan’s Takayuki Kishimoto was disqualified from the semi, and no amount of passionate local support could lift Russia’s 19-year-old European junior champion Timofey Chalyy above sixth place with 50.06. Still, he has clearly shown here that he is one for the future.
Then came the third semi in which Cisneros was drawn in lane five, with Sanchez to his inside and Clement to his outside.
It was the sort of draw which might have intimidated a young man up against two such well-credentialed older men, but Cisneros was not fazed at all. He held an edge pretty much all the way before taking the win in 47.93 ahead of Sanchez’s season’s best 48.13 and Clement’s 48.21.
Cisneros is Cuba’s first-ever finalist in the 400m Hurdles. If he can reproduce such form in the final, he could well end up as his country’s first medallist and first World champion in the men’s event as well.
There will be a new champion, that much is certain in this most open of events. Daegu 2011 winner Dai Greene of Britain finished fifth in the third semi-final in 49.25. Greene was struck by a knee injury just before last year’s Olympics, had surgery to repair a double hernia earlier this year and did not jump a hurdle in training for three weeks before coming to Moscow as he battled to overcome a calf injury.
Len Johnson for the IAAF