Framed between the always dangerous Belgian Borlee twins starting in lanes and 2 and 9, Grenada’s 2011 World Champion, 19-yr-old Kirani James in lane 5, demolished a strong field to take the men’s 400m title at the Olympic Games in London yesterday in 43.94, a Grenada record.
It was a Caribbean affair as the Dominican Republic’s new young sensation Luguelín Santos, only 18, took the silver in 44.46 and Lalonde Gordon of Trinidad and Tobago copped bronze in 44.52. Veteran Chris Brown of the Bahamas had to settle outside the medal standings for fourth place in 44.79.
James, the first Grenadian to win an Olympic medal, acknowledged the caliber of his rivals and said he was inspired to get to the level of Jamaica’s Usain Bolt and Shelly-Ann Fraser who yesterday successfully defended their 100m titles. However, for now, it’s on to other meets for the season and then back to books next semester. The Gouyave native is a sophomore at Alabama where he has been a two-time NCAA champion.
Santos went into the Games in top form after beating Jeremy Wariner at the New York Grand Prix in June. The 18-yr-old warrior came off the final corner locked among other competitors several meters behind James but showed sheer grit to power down the straight into second place.
Gordon, a Tobagonian, signaled his prowess in the semi-final with a 44.58 personal best (PB) win, the quickest of the qualifying times.
No American in Finals
Unlike the Olympics through the decades, there was no American finalist as their best hope LaShawn Merritt, who pulled up with a hamstring injury in his opening heat.
Rounding out the field were Kevin Borlee (44.81) and Jonathan Borlee (44.83), fifth and sixth place respectively, Demetrius Pinder of the Bahamas seventh in 44.98 and Australia’s Steven Solomon in 45.14.
Prior to James’ victory, the 2004 Olympic gold medalist Felix Sanchez crossed the finish line in 47.63 to hold off American Michael Tinsley (47.91) and pre-race favorite Javier Culson of Puerto Rico at 48.10. Felix, who qualified for the final with the fastest time in the semis at 47.76, ran with a photo of his deceased grandmother inside his jersey close to his chest and “abuela” (grandmother) written on the straps of his spikes.
Britain’s David Greene (48.22), USA’s Angelo Taylor (48.25), Trinidad’s Jehue Gordon (48.86), Jamaica’s Leford Green (49.12) and USA’s Kerron Clement (49.15) completed the lineup.
After the race, Sanchez briefly celebrated then kneeled on the track, removed the photo and kissed it. The 34-yr-old could not control his emotions on the podium during the medal presentation as his country's national anthem was being played and the Dominic
Republic’s flag crept slowly up the pole.