Olympic Men’s 400 — The Favorite Stands Tall

Steven Gardiner of the Bahamas is now the reigning Olympic and world champion. (ANDREW McCLANAHAN/PHOTO RUN)

REIGNING WORLD CHAMP Steven Gardiner cemented his already solid reputation with a clear win in the 400 final, equaling the fastest time of the year with his 43.85.

The event had begun 4 days earlier with a superb cast that also included defending champ/WR holder Wayde van Niekerk, a fine U.S. trio of Michael Cherry, Michael Norman & Randolph Ross and veterans Isaac Makwala and Kirani James.

The first shock came in heat II, when Ross — the year’s fastest man — apparently took the race too casually, easing off at the end to let Ricky Pettruciani of Switzerland ahead 45.64–45.67. Ross wasn’t the fastest to be eliminated; that unfortunate tag fell to Alex Beck of Australia who ran 45.54 in the first heat.

In the first of the three semis ’12 gold medalist Kirani James and Trinidad’s Deon Lendore led the field through halfway in 21.0, with James edging ahead at 300m in 31.9. The smooth-striding Grenadan took a lead of 2m over Colombia’s Doha silver medalist Anthony Zambrano and Liemarvin Bonevacia of Netherlands as Lendore faded. James held on to win in 43.88, his best since ’16, as Zambrano set a South American Record with his 43.93, with Bonevacia taking a time qualifier spot at 44.62.

The second race was slower, with Michael Cherry an impressive winner in 44.44 ahead of Jamaica’s former child prodigy Chris Taylor (45.27 at age 15), the only other runner under 45 in this prelim with 44.92.

The third semi saw Norman, Gardiner and van Niekerk pitted against each other, along with 35-year-old Commonwealth champion Isaac Makwala. No more than a meter covered the top 4 at 300m, led by Makwala (31.9), but van Niekerk faded away as Gardiner flowed to a 3-meter victory over Norman (44.52) and Makwala (44.59).

The draw for the final 3 days later saw James in 4, with Zambrano, Cherry, Gardiner, Norman and Taylor outside him, Bonevacia and Makwala inside.

James and Norman were out fastest, with James (20.8) holding a slim 0.1 lead at halfway, with Gardiner (21.1) 3m behind. The 6-foot-5 (1.96) Bahamian pushed hard in the third 100 but was still down 0.1 to James (31.8) at 300m, with Norman a hair back, just ahead of Makwala, Zambrano, Cherry and Bonevacia, with only Taylor out of touch.

Gardiner flowed away with his elegant upright style, and won by 2m in 43.85. Zambrano’s 44.08 took silver, just edging past James (44.19) in the last 10m. Cherry finished quickly and just missed catching James, but was rewarded with a PR 44.21, a 10th ahead of Norman, whose run was a disappointment, but by no means a poor effort.

The race confirmed Gardiner as the best in the world, while James made history by being the first man to not only reach 3 finals, but also to medal on 3 consecutive occasions, his bronze giving him a complete set.

James’s story was particularly dramatic, as he discovered in ’17 that he was suffering from Graves’ disease, the thyroid problem which so seriously affected Gail Devers at the end of the ’80’s. After no running for over a year he made a successful comeback.

For Gardiner, it was the first-ever individual Olympic gold won by the Bahamas, and he relished the win “I’m cherishing this moment… Olympic champion.” He summed up the race, saying, “When the gun went off, I stumbled a bit coming out. I kept it moving, and with 200m to go, I started to push a little bit. With 100m to go, I gave it all I’ve got.”

Zambrano repeated his silver from Doha, and said, “I want to show the world that Colombia belongs on the athletics stage.”


MEN’S 400 RESULTS

(August 05)

1. Steven Gardiner (Bah) 43.85 (=WL)

(21.1, 10.8 [31.9], 12.0) (21.1/22.8);

2. Anthony Zambrano (Col) 44.08

(21.3, 10.8 [32.1], 12.0) (21.3/22.8);

3. Kirani James (Grn) 44.19

(20.8, 11.0 [31.8], 12.4) (20.8/23.4);

4. Michael Cherry (US) 44.21 PR

(21.3, 10.9 [32.2], 12.0) (21.3/22.9);

5. Michael Norman (US) 44.31

(20.9, 11.1 [31.9], 12.4) (20.9/23.4);

6. Christopher Taylor (Jam) 44.79 PR

(21.4, 11.2 [32.6], 12.2) (21.4/23.4);

7. Isaac Makwala (Bot) 44.94

(21.1, 11.0 [32.1], 12.8) (21.1/23.8);

8. Liemarvin Bonevacia (Neth) 45.07

(21.2, 11.1 [32.3], 12.8) (21.2/23.9).

(lanes: 2. Makwala; 3. Bonevacia; 4. James; 5. Zambrano; 6. Cherry; 7. Gardiner; 8. Norman; 9. Taylor)

(reaction times: Norman 0.148, James 0.157, Taylor 0.158, Zambrano 0.166, Makwala 0.167, Bonevacia 0.168, Gardiner & Cherry 0.179)

HEATS (August 01)

I–1. Makwala 44.86; 2. James 45.09; 3. Jonathan Sacoor (Bel) 45.41; 4. Demish Gaye (Jam) 45.49; 5. Alonzo Russell (Bah) 45.51; 6. Alex Beck (Aus) 45.54 PR; 7. Ricardo Dos Santos (Por) 46.83; 8. Mahamat Bachir Ahmat (Cha) 47.93.

II–1. Mazen Al-Yassin (Sau) 45.16 PR; 2. Kevin Borlée (Bel) 45.36; 3. Ricky Petrucciani (Swi) 45.64; 4. Randolph Ross (US) 45.67; 5. Zakithi Nene (SA) 45.74; 6. Alejandro Perlaza (Col) 46.55; 7. Pavel Maslák (CzR) 47.01; 8. Ahmed Al-Yaari (Yem) 48.53.

III–1. Cherry 44.82; 2. Jonathan Jones (Bar) 45.04; 3. Taylor 45.20; 4. Dwight St. Hillaire (Tri) 45.41; 5. Luka Janežič (Slo) 45.44; 6. Gilles Anthony Afoumba (Con) 46.03; 7. Lucas Carvalho (Bra) 46.12; 8. Mohammad Jahir Rayhan (Ban) 48.29.

IV–1. Zambrano 44.87; 2. Steven Solomon (Aus) 44.94 PR; 3. Wayde van Niekerk (SA) 45.25; 4. Leungo Scotch (Bot) 45.32; 5. Davide Re (Ita) 45.46; 6. Julian Walsh (Jpn) 46.57; 7. Jovan Stojoski (Mac) 46.81 PR;… fs—Emmanuel Korir (Ken).

V–1. Gardiner 45.05; 2. Deon Lendore (Tri) 45.14; 3. Jochem Dobber (Neth) 45.54; 4. Nathon Allen (Jam) 46.12; 5. Sadam Koumi (Sud) 46.26; 6. Marvin Schlegel (Ger) 46.39; 7. Mikhail Litvin (Kaz) 47.15.

VI–1. Bonevacia 44.95; 2. Norman 45.35; 3. Machel Cedenio (Tri) 45.56; 4. Edoardo Scotti (Ita) 45.71; 5. Thapelo Phora (SA) 45.83; 6. Taha Hussein Yaseen (Irq) 46.00; 7. Óscar Husillos (Spa) 48.05; 8. Todiasoa Franck Rabearison (Mol) 48.40.

SEMIS (August 02)

I–1. James 43.88; 2. Zambrano 43.93 NR; 3. Bonevacia 44.62 NR; 4. Lendore 44.93; 5. Re 44.94; 6. Petrucciani 45.26; 7. Janežič 45.36; 8. Sacoor 45.88.

II–1. Cherry 44.44; 2. Taylor 44.92; 3. Solomon 45.15; 4. Al-Yassin 45.37; 5. Scotch 45.56; 6. Cedenio 45.86; 7. Russell 46.04.

III–1. Gardiner 44.14; 2. Norman 44.52; 3. Makwala 44.59; 4. Gaye 45.09; 5. van Niekerk 45.14; 6. Dobber 45.48; 7. St. Hillaire 45.58; 8. Jones 45.61. ◻︎

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