Tag Archives: 400m dash

Thoughts on Van Niekerk’s World Record

Back when I was new to the sport in the early oughts, I started out with the quarter-mile. Even if I eventually shifted focus to the sprint hurdles in the subsequent years, I maintained a keen sense of interest in the 400m dash – and Michael Johnson’s legendary 43.18s world record in Sevilla set in 1999.

Although this a stretched comparison, Michael Johnson was my Usain Bolt. Johnson’s then world records in the 200m and the 400m were the stuff of athletics lore, clockings that elite athletes back in my day could only dream about.

Then a guy named Wayde van Niekerk stole the show in Rio and decimated a loaded field, running roughshod over one of the most revered sprinting records in recent history.

Having been away from the sport the past four years, my knowledge of track & field current events is at all-time low. So I did a quick Google check on the South African speedster and my jaw literally dropped when I stumbled upon an article about Van Niekerk’s unrivaled sub-10, sub-20, and sub-44 clockings in the 100m, 200m, and 400m dashes.

From the outermost lane, Van Niekerk ran like a rocket when the starting gun fired. While Kirani James, the defending Olympic champion, and LaShawn Merritt were battling it out in the middle lanes, the South African blazed around the other seven athletes in a much faster orbit. There was no catching the speedster from down under. That scintillating final saw the top three dip below 44-seconds for the first time in Olympic history.

Michael Johnson’s reaction to Van Niekerk’s record-breaking feat says it all: “Oh my God! From lane eight, a world record. He took it out so quick. I have never seen anything from 200 to 400 like that. That was a massacre from Wayde van Niekerk. He just put those guys away.”

Enough said.

2007 Southeast Asian Games – Men’s 400m Dash Final

The 400m dash was my first track event. I took up the quarter-mile during the heyday of Ernie Candelario in the early oughts. Even if I eventually shifted focus to the sprint hurdles, the 400m dash has always been my favorite sprinting event.

Here’s a clip culled from old VHS tapes. The Philippines’ Julius Nierras nips Thailand’s Jukkaip Pojaroen for the 2007 Southeast Asian Games 400m dash title. Nierras stopped the clock at 46.56s, almost a tenth of second ahead of the Thai, thanks to the former’s Herculean effort in the last fifteen meters.

This was the Philippines’ fourth consecutive SEA Games 400m gold, starting from Ernie’s back-to-back titles in 2001 and 2003 and Jimar Aing’s triumphant race in Manila back in 2005.

Results (from Jad Adrian):

  1. Julius Nierras PHI 46.56
  2. Jukkathip Pocharoen THA 46.64
  3. Zaiful Zainal Abidin MAS 46.75
  4. Amran Raj Krishnan MAS 47.24
  5. Ahmed Sakeh Sumarsono INA 47.45
  6. Ernie Candelario PHI 48.09
  7. Suppachai Chimdee THA 48.42
  8. Yan Karubaba INA 48.72

Video Credit:

National Broadcasting Network

London Olympics Preview: The 400m Dash

The one-lap sprint is one of the most nail-biting athletics events. It tests the threshold of human speed endurance. The race is a thrilling display of tactics, proper-timing, speed and heart.

Photo from Nigel Chadwick

Women’s 400m Dash

The fight for the quarter-mile gold medal would we between 2009 World Champion Sanya Richards-Ross (48.70s PB) and the 2011 World Champion Amantle Montsho (49.56s PB). The versatile Allyson Felix (49.59s PB) could make the battle three-pronged, but then again, the 100m/200m combo seems the more practical route for Felix, instead of the more grueling – and rarer – 200m/400m double.

 

Richards-Ross (L), Montsho (R). (Photos from Erik van Leeuwen and Yann Caradec)

I don’t expect the defending Olympic Champion Christine Ohuruogu (49.61s PB) to contend for gold, in light of the recent drop in her form. However, the hometown crowd could push Ohuruogu all the way to a podium spot, or a good showing in the finals at the very least.

Richards-Ross had run the fastest time this season, with her 49.39s world lead at the Prefontaine Classic in Eugene. Montsho came second to the American in that same race, submitting a time three-tenths slower (49.69). Jamaican Novlene Williams-Mills (49.63s PB, 49.78s SB) is the only other sprinter to dip below 50-seconds.

Francena McCorory, a 4x400m relay gold medalist from Daegu, is in tip-top shape, having set a new personal best of 50.06s at the Adidas Grand Prix in New York. The Russians, as always, will be well-represented. This season, the top Russian quarter-milers are Yulia Gushchina Ю́лия Гу́щина (50.01s PB, 50.26s SB) and Kseniya Ustalova Ксения Усталова (49.92s PB, 50.48s SB). The experienced Anastasiya Kapachinskaya Анастасия Капачинская (49.35s PB, 51.17s SB), the bronze medallist from Daegu and the 2003 200m World Champion, is several rungs lower than her compatriots.

Richards-Ross has finally recovered from her an injury sustained a couple of years ago. After a disappointing campaign at the Daegu World Championships, the American sent a strong message to her rivals when she dominated Montsho in Eugene. The Botswanan (and Felix, if she decides to compete in the quarter-mile) will be hard-pressed to edge out Richards-Ross for first place.

Top Three Predictions

Gold: Sanya Richards-Ross

Silver: Amantle Montsho/Allyson Felix (if she runs the 400m)

Bronze: Francena McCorory

Men’s 400m Dash

The Americans have been the dominant force in men’s quarter-mile sprinting for the longest time. In the last three editions of the Olympics, the Americans have swept the event twice (2004 and 2008). They took the top two spots at the Sydney Olympics. The Americans are just as dominant in the World Championships, taking the World title in 2003, 2005, 2007, and 2009.

Jeremy Wariner (43.45s PB, 44.96s SB)has won the 2004 Olympic Gold, an Olympic silver, 2 World titles, and a World Championship silver. LaShawn Merritt (43.75s PB, 44.19s SB), meanwhile, has the 2008 Olympic Gold, one World title, and two World Championships silver medals to his name.

 

James (L) and Merritt (R).(Photos from Erik van Leeuwen, MachoCarioca, and Yann Caradec)

Wariner’s form has dipped in the last two years, as Merritt served a suspension for failing a dope test. Several new challengers – and a new quarter-mile king – have emerged. The young Kirani James (44.36s PB, 44.72s SB) convincingly won the 2011 World Championships over Merritt, a year after claiming the World Junior title in Moncton. Another veteran from the Moncton World Juniors is the 18-year old Luguelín Santos from the Dominican Republic. The fleet-footed Santos had set a new personal best of 44.45s last May, the second-fastest time this season and the eight-quickest ever by a junior athlete.

The Borlées have run competitive times, with Kevin (44.56 PB/SB) having a quicker season’s best than Jonathan (44.71s PB, 44.88s). As a testament to the depth of American 400m talent, six Americans are in the top 10 this season: Merritt, Tony McQuay (44.58s SB/PB), Michael Berry (44.75s SB/PB), Joshua Mance (44.83s SB/PB), Gil Roberts (44.84s SB/PB), and Wariner. McQuay, Berry, Mance and Roberts are all younger than twenty-three!  Martyn Rooney (44.60s PB, 44.92s SB) and two-time Olympic 400m champion Angelo Taylor (44.05s PB, 44.97s SB) have also gone below 45-seconds this season.

Should Wariner be able to find the spring in his legs, the London Olympic final could feature a duel between generations – with Wariner and Merritt on one side, and James and Santos on the other. The other youngster, Santos, might just be too green to crack the top three. As much as I want to see Wariner add another Olympic title to his already impressive curriculum vitae, the signs are not pointing towards the right direction (sadly, Wariner failed to barge into the top 3 at the U.S. Olympic Trials).

But then again, the Olympics bring out the best in people.

I have a strong feeling that James has what it takes to do a Steve Lewis. Merritt is a grizzled veteran. The American (43.75s) also has a superior personal best than the Grenadan (44.35s). My sixth sense tells me that James’ youthful exuberance could spell the difference between silver and gold.

Top Three Predictions

Gold: Kirani James

Silver: LaShawn Merritt

Bronze: Jeremy Wariner/Either one of the Borlee brothers/Tony McQuay

Sources:

2008 Beijing Olympics Results

2011 World Championships Results

2009 World Championships Results

2007 World Championships Results

2012 World Indoor Championships Results

2010 World Indoor Championships Results

2012 Men’s 400m Dash Top List

2012 Women’s 400m Dash Top List

Vamos, Luguelin Santos!

The quarter miler from the Dominican Republic is just 18-years old. Despite his youth, Luguelin Santos has made waves in the 400m dash in 2012 – against much older competitors. At the Doha Diamond League last May 11, Santos finished behind LaShawn Merritt, the 2008 Olympic Champion. The 18-year old ran an impressive 44.88s against Merritt’s 44.19s, a world-leading time. Santos came close to his 2011 lifetime best of 44.71s, which he set at altitude in Guadalajara, Mexico.

But the best was yet to come for the Dominican. Two years after finishing in sixth place at the Moncton World Junior Championships, Santos streaked to 44.45s at the Fanny Blankers-Koen Games in Hengelo.

Santos had overtaken Kirani James (44.72s), the World Junior Champion from Moncton and the reigning World Champion, in the 2012 top list. Santos’ dominant Hengelo showing is the eighth fastest time ever run by a junior. The Dominican junior is in illustrious company in the juniors all-time list, as he trails only Kirani James and the 1988 Olympic Champion, Steve Lewis!

The Dominican Republic definitely has a new track star, the heir apparent to Felix Sanchez.

In a span of two years, the 18-year old dramatically bettered his lifetime bests –  from 46.19s in 2010 to 44.45s in 2012.In the run-up prior to the London Olympics, the 400m dash will feature talented youngsters, like Santos and James, pitted against experienced quarter-milers like Merritt. The 400m dash will be one for the books.

Track Beauty of the Week: Moa Hjelmer

Moa Hjelmer is this week’s track beauty!

Sweden, despite its relatively small population of nine million, has produced notable athletics stars – especially in the past decade. Hjelmer is an emerging sprinting talent, at the vanguard of a new generation of Swedish stars. She set the the Swedish outdoor 400m dash record last year, running 51.58s a month before the Daegu World Championships.

Hjelmer in action at the Istanbul World Indoor Championships (Photo from SVD Sport)

The 22-year old made her major championship debut the same year, qualifying for the Daegu 400m dash semis. She placed fifth and exited the competition in 52.25s. Hjelmer almost reached the World Indoor Championships final in Istanbul. She had the sixth fastest semifinal time, but she crashed out of a finals slot because she finished fourth in her heat. Nevertheless, she set a new Swedish indoor record of 52.29s.

The versatile Hjelmer actually competes in both the 200m and 400m. She made it as far as the 200m semis at the 2007 World Youth Championships. The Swede’s 200m European U23 bronze medal was elevated to silver, as the original winner of the race was stripped of her title after failing a drugs test. Hjelmer was a mere one-hundredth of a second from Anna Kiełbasińska’s winning time of 23.23s.

Read: “Swede victory for Hjelmer in the 400m”

Hjelmer struck gold at the European Championships in Helsinki. Moa pipped the favored Russian Kseniya Zadorina (51.26s) in the final, thanks to the Swede’s gutsy start and strong finish. Hjelmer clocked a new Swedish record of 51.13s – her second national record in span of 24 hours.

Sweden has a new athletics star!

Additional Link:

Moa Hjelmer on OSBloggen.se

Track Beauty of the Week: Geisa Coutinho

Geisa Coutinho is this week’s track beauty!

The Brazilian sprinter has been around for a long time – in athletics years, at least. Ever since winning her first 400m dash national title in 2002, Coutinho has amassed a respectable array of continental titles. In 2003, the Brazilian won two gold medals (400m dash and the 4x400m relay) at the South American Championships, after competing at the 2003 World Championships in Paris – her debut at the sport’s top stage.

Photo from esportediario.com

However, Coutinho failed to progress beyond the qualifying heats, as she finished in seventh place in Paris. The Brazilian notched a sub-par clocking of 53.31s, way below her then personal best of 51.44s. A year later at the Athens Olympics, Coutinho fared a little better as she stopped the clock at 52.18s in her 400m dash heat, good enough for fifth place.

As part of the Brazilian 4x400m quartet, Coutinho again won another South American Championship gold in 2005. The Brazilians competed with distinction at the Helsinki World Championships that same year, setting a continental record of 3:26.82 in qualifying.

Her career somewhat floundered in the coming years, until 2009, when she was selected for the Brazilian 4x400m relay team at the Berlin World Championships. A resurgent Coutinho has won several national titles since then, as well as another relay gold in the South American Championships. She had a remarkable run in 2011, as she amassed three gold medals at the World Military Games and went as far as the semi-finals at the Daegu World Championships – her best ever finish at a major international.

The 31-year old set a new personal best of 51.08s in the 400m dash in 2011, highlighting the fact that her career is far from over.

Track Beauty of the Week: Vicki Barr

Vicki Barr is this week’s Track Beauty!

The Briton is an experienced competitor. In 2007, she lowered her 400m dash personal best from 52.85s to 52.44s, earning a slot to the Osaka World Championships. Since being selected for the U.K. Olympic Team at the 2008 Beijing Olympics, Barr has barged into the podium of several major international competitions.

Photo from Stuart Grout

At the 2009 European Indoor Championships, the British 4x400m relay quartet, of which Barr was part, won silver behind the powerhouse Russian team.

The British women finished fourth at the World Championships in Berlin the same year, a respectable performance considering the high caliber competition. Competing for England at the 2010 Delhi Commonwealth Games, Barr reached the semi-finals of the 400m dash and won silver in the 4x400m relay.

The British sprinter has personal bests of 23.87s (2007) and 52.40s (2010) in the 200m and 400m dashes, respectively.

Marc Raquil’s World Championship 400m Dash Bronze

Marc Raquil’s surprise 400m dash bronze at the 2003 Paris World Championships is a certified classic. The 1.91m-tall Frenchman started slowly. Running on lane five, the athlete on Raquil’s left zoomed abreast of the hometown athlete by the 150m mark, making up for the stagger. Coming into the final bend, Raquil was the obvious last placer.

The distance between Raquil and the rest of the quarter-milers were so distinct that the runner on 1st lane even caught up with the Frenchman, midway into the last bend. At the home straight, Raquil was in clear eighth place, with the three Americans leading the way into the tape.

But lo and behold, Raquil stormed through the final 60m, gradually overtaking everyone in his path. It was a dramatic finish, as the tall Frenchman nipped Calvin Harrison, compatriot Leslie Djhone and Michael Blackwood at the last eight meters of the race.

Jerome Young of the United States , caught doping four years earlier, went on to win the World Title with a 44.50s clocking. Another American, Tyree Washington won silver (44.77s). And then there’s France’s Marc Raquil (44.79s), snatching the gold from Blackwood by one-hundredths of a second.

Raquil’s last ditch burst to the tape sent the French fans into a frenzy. The animated TV announcer broke into a wild scream as a Frenchman went against all odds to win a golden bronze.

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