Yousef Ahmed Masrahi wins his 400m heat at the IAAF World Championships, Beijing 2015 (Getty Images) © Copyright
Report Beijing, China

Report: men’s 400m heats – IAAF World Championships, Beijing2015

Morning session spectators at major championships often are rewarded with a treat, but those in the Bird’s Nest stadium on Sunday morning got a rare treat indeed as they witnessed a fabulous round of 400m heats.

Simply, it has never been any better. Saudi Arabia’s Yousef Masrahi and Jamaica’s Rusheen McDonald topped the list of qualifiers, both running 43.93 in the second of the six heats. These were the fastest times ever run in any preliminary round of a World Championships and the fastest ever run in a first round at a World Championships or Olympic Games.

At the other end of the scale, world indoor champion Pavel Maslak of the Czech Republic found 45.16 not good enough to advance from the first round; the fastest ever time to fail to progress. This unwanted distinction previously stood at a time of 45.44.

Chris Brown of The Bahamas advanced as a non-automatic qualifier after finishing fourth in the sixth and final heat in 44.68. Brown has been around seemingly forever and must have thought he had seen it all. But even he can’t have seen anything like the first round of the 2015 World Championships.

Re-capping, Masrahi and McDonald wrested from none other than Michael Johnson the honour of running the fastest-ever preliminary round at a World Championships. Johnson ran 43.95 in the semi-finals in Seville in 1999, en route to a world record of 43.18 in the final. That might be beyond expectation for these two, but who knows.

The first-round heats continued the revision of the sub-44 list which has been going on all year. Masrahi and McDonald were the fourth and fifth men to break the barrier this season and the third and fourth to do it for the first time. Fourteen men have now run sub-44, nine USA and five others, but this year’s four first-timers – Wayde Van Niekerk and Isaac Makwala the other two – are all non-US.

US champion David Verburg won the first heat in 44.43 from a fast-finishing Machel Cedenio of Trinidad and Tobago. Cedenio, the world junior champion, came from fourth to second in the last 20 metres, passing Belgium’s Kevin Borlee and Jamaica’s Peter Matthews, both of who advanced.

In the sub-44 second heat, Makwala finished third in 44.19 ahead of Britain’s Martyn Rooney, who set a PB of 44.45, and Liemarvin Bonevacia, a Dutch national record 44.72. These two both advanced though the luckless Maslak did not.

Heats three and four were won by the 2013 world gold and silver medallists La Shawn Merritt and Kirani James respectively. Merritt’s 44.52 put him comfortably ahead of Jamaica’s Javon Francis and Kevin Borlee of Belgium, while James ran 44.56 to defeat Luguelin Santos of the Dominican Republic and Lalonde Gordon of Trinidad and Tobago.

Britain’s Rabah Yousif won heat five in 45.24 – the slowest winning time of the round – from Steven Gardiner of The Bahamas and Vernon Norwood of the USA.

The final heat was won by Wayde Van Niekerk of South Africa, one of this year’s newly-minted sub-44 members. This time he ran a more modest 44.42 from Renny Quow of Trinidad and Tobago and Bryshon Nellum of the US.

Brown crossed the line in fourth place in 44.68 – a time that would have advanced automatically in any other World Championships but the conclusion of this fabulous round of heats saw him scrape through among the six non-automatic qualifiers.

Len Johnson for the IAAF