Last year in Daegu, Kirani James of Grenada became the youngest man to win a World Championships 400 metres.
But James will have his work cut out for him if he is to follow that up with a World Indoor Championships title.
That much, and little else, was clear after three cut-throat semi-finals on Friday night. The Bahamas will have a strong hand in things – Demetrius Pinder was fastest of the round in winning the first semi-final in 45.94; defending champion Chris Brown won the second in 46.37.
James will be conceding a more favourable lane in the final to both those two, and to Nery Brenes of Costa Rica, who came through to win the third semi from James, 46.01 to 46.04.
James looked to have his semi-final won, but he has used up a lot of energy – and covered extra ground – in getting round Britain’s Nigel Levine on the final bend giving Brenes the opportunity to slip past him in the final metres. It was close, it could be critical too.
It was a tiring day for the 400 metres runners, who ran heats in the morning and then the semi finals in the afternoon session. That certainly seemed to have an impact on the semi-final times, which were slower (Pinder ran 45.49 in the morning, for example). Whether it also has an impact on the final remains to be seen.
Tabarie Henry of the Virgin Islands finished second behind Pinder in the first semi, his 46.01 being equal second fastest time of the round with Brenes. The sixth finalist is Pavel Maslak of the Czech Republic, who finished second to Brown in the second semi-final. If the field is bunched in the final, Maslak’s chances will improve. In both rounds he has looked like a good driver in heavy traffic.
Notably, there will be no US representative in the final for just the second time (the other being Valencia 2008). Gil Roberts, whose 45.39 was second only to James on the 2012 list, finished fourth in the first semi-final and Calvin Smith was fourth in the second semi.
Len Johnson for the IAAF