David Gillick of Ireland and Bershawn Jackson of the USA compete in the mens 400m semi-final at the 13th IAAF World Indoor Championships in Athletics (Getty Images) © Copyright

EVENT REPORT - MEN's 400 m Semi-Final

It was a challenging day for the quarter milers who not only had to compete as early as 9.15am this morning which meant for some of them a 5am wakeup call but they also had to conclude today’s action in the field of play as the men’s 400m semi-finals wrapped an action-packed competition day one.

Eventually the four favourites battled it out in pairs as the lane draw for tomorrow’s final is crucial in the indoor 400 metres.

In heat one, US champion Bershawn Jackson and European Indoor champion David Gillick, respectively starting from lane 6 and 5, battled it out at the break for the highly coveted inside at the bell.

Gillick made a clear move from the inside but Jackson knew that giving up to the Irishman at that point meant giving up the eventual heat win and pushed forward to respond to the attack.

As a consequence Gillick lost precious ground going into the bend but the indoor specialist as he is he managed to find strength for another swift move metres from the finish. Again ‘Batman’ Jackson, the former World 400m Hurdles champion responded and managed to hold for the win by a mere 2 hundredths of a second by virtue of which he will be drawn in one of the two outside lanes for the final.

Jackson said: “I think David Gillick is one of the major challenges for the final. He has got a very strong finish and is very determined. It is good. But this is my game. I feel very strong, I train very hard every day and I am prepared to distribute great entertainment to the people here. The 1st round was pretty hard, the second was better but even like a final to me.”

Gillick’s analysis of the race was very objective as he declared: “I'm a little frustrated because I wanted the best position to get the best possible lane, but I was chopped at 200m and almost came to a halt before I could start running again. In the final, I'll try to be maybe a little more patient but if there's a gap, I'll still likely go for it because this is often where races are won or lost.”

It took a 46.34 personal best for William Collazo to take the last automatic qualifier in the opening heat, which makes him the first Cuban since 1987 to advance to the men’s 400m final at these championships.

The second semi-final saw a similar closely fought race between US number two Jamaal Torrance and Indoor guru Chris Brown. The extent of the Bahamian’s indoor experience clearly showed when the two-time world indoor bronze medallist cleverly cut in Torrance from the inside lane five at the bell. Slightly taller, the American tried to use his physique to maintain the vital inside leading position but the quick gear change by Brown was evidently superior.

Similarly to semi-final 1, Torrance tried to come back in the final strides but yet again Brown held him off by 5 hundredths of a second.

“I took the lead and I wanted to make sure I would be in the top three,” explained Brown. “I am mentally prepared for any kind of race. I just want to rest and visualize the final. I have been there before and I am here again.”

The last qualifier of the day was Nery Brenes of Costa Rica, fourth placer in Valencia, whose aim to step on the podium tomorrow is far from easily achievable.

As the oh-so-crucial lane draw for the final was revealed, the most unlucky of the four favourites turned out to be Gillick whose lane 3 draw will prove a big handicap, not insurmountable but very challenging.

Jackson was the luckiest of the remaining trio having been drawn in lane 6 for the third consecutive time here in Doha with Brown having lane 5 and Torrance lane 4.

But as Brown said one has to be prepared for any kind of race in the final.

Laura Arcoleo for the IAAF