Hamdan Al-Bishi (Getty Images) © Copyright
General News Santiago de Chile, Chile

Al-Bishi bashes the opposition in Santiago

Michael Johnson may soon have a rival for his crown as the best runner in the world over one lap.

Hamdan Al-Bishi gave notice that next year he may progress from being the best junior 400 metres runner that the world has seen in a decade to being the best senior on the planet if Johnson fails to take appropriate action.

The Saudi teenager sped around a circuit of the Estadio Nacional in 44.66 seconds, for a world Junior Championship record and the second fastest time ever, behind the Steve Lewis' 43.87 set when the American won the 1988 Olympic gold medal.

Watching Al-Bishi create a stir in Santiago, was his mentor since he moved to Los Angeles in May, Darrell Smith.

Smith is the nephew of Maurice Greene's coach John Smith and works as an assistant coach in his uncle's well-known HSI operation.

"He started the year with a best of 45.89," explained Smith. "But as soon as I saw how he ran 45.22 in Sydney (in his heat, although Al-Bishi was to reach the semifinals) I knew he was capable of a time well under 45 seconds," Smith added.

Smith conceded that Santiago being situated at 400 metres altitude was helpful in Al-Bishi clocking his super quick time. "But I also saw he made some technical mistakes out there," Smith added.

Al-Bishi - a devout Muslim, who offered prayers to Allah almost immediately after he had won -will soon return to Los Angeles to complete his transformation into Michael Johnson's nemesis.

A growing group of Saudi athletes are based in California with the Smiths including the Olympic 400 metres hurdles silver medallist Hadi Al-Somaily, who is Al-Bishi's regular training partner.

However the 400 metres prodigy's immediate plans are to return to Saudi Arabia and celebrate his success with his friends and family.

Phil Minshull for the IAAF