If you want consistency, don’t look for it in the 400m Hurdles: not this year, at least.
The contenders for Moscow include the reigning Olympic champion, the reigning World champion, the fastest man in the world this year, and a former World champion. Any of them may win; equally, none of them may cross the line first.
Dominican Republic’s London 2012 Olympic Games winner Felix Sanchez is a year older and not in the same form as last summer. Great Britain’s 2011 World champion Dai Greene is battling to be fit. The fastest in the world this year, USA’s Michael Tinsley, tailed off through most of July, though just to confuse matters, bounced back to win at the IAAF Diamond League meeting in London in a time almost identical to his world-leading mark of 47.96 set at the US Championships.
The 2007 and 2009 World champion Kerron Clement is ranked third on time of those competing in Moscow but finished only seventh in the Monaco Diamond League meeting, three weeks out from the World Championships.
Finally, the last two major races before the World Championships turned form somewhat on its head. Trinidad and Tobago’s former World junior champion Jehue Gordon won in Monaco in 48.00, jumping to second on the world list, and then Tinsley recovered his best form in London.
Until then, the favourite’s mantle, albeit in a very open field, had been worn by Puerto Rico’s Javier Culson, a medallist in Berlin 2009, Daegu 2011 and London 2012 but still searching for his first major title.
Culson won at the Diamond League meetings in Birmingham and Lausanne, beating most of those who have beaten him for the major honours in recent years, but he finished third in Monaco behind Gordon, and fifth behind Tinsley in London.
Besides Sanchez and Clement, Bershawn Jackson was the World champion in Helsinki in 2005 and the US athlete has been a medal contender ever since. He finished third in 48.09 at the US Championships behind Tinsley and Clement.
In winning the US title, Tinsley was within 0.05 of the personal best he ran to take the silver medal behind Sanchez at the Olympic Games last summer. Like Culson, he will be seeking his first major international championship win in Moscow.
Tinsley’s form seemed to be tailing off in the run-up to Moscow. He was the star early in the season with wins at the Diamond League meetings in Doha and New York before peaking to take the US title in late June. His 47.98 in London two weeks ago suggests he may be back in form.
David Greene is back to defend the title he won in Daegu two years ago.
The Welshman had his start to the 2013 season compromised by a dual hernia operation. He seemed to be regaining his best form before injury struck again and time is not on his side, despite his determination to not give up his crown without a fight.
Senegal’s Mamadou Kasse Hanne improved to 48.56 in Rome this year and looms as a potential finalist, while others in the mix in an open event include Serbian record-holder Emir Bekric, South Africa’s Cornel Fredericks, Cuba’s Omar Cisneros and Great Britain’s Rhys Williams.
Russia’s trio is led by 19-year-old Timofey Chalyy, the recent winner of the European junior title in Rieti, where he ran a championship best of 49.23.
In an event that demands good timing, the question is: who has got the timing right coming into Moscow – Culson, Gordon, Tinsley, or someone else?
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Len Johnson for the IAAF