The men’s 400m headlines Kirani James of Grenada, who won the World title in Daegu last year as an 18-year-old. James has already made a path of gold: 2009 World Youth gold, 2010 World Junior gold, 2011 World Championships gold. An Olympic gold in London would make him the first teenager to accomplish such a feat since Steve Lewis of the U.S. in 1988. In Daegu yesterday (16), he affirmed his fitness with a nearly one-second win in 44.72 over an international field.
At Pre, James will contend with four other Olympic or World championships gold medallists, led by the reigning Olympic champion, LaShawn Merritt of the U.S. Merritt and James waged a memorable duel last year at the World Championships, with James better by just 0.03. Merritt, also the 2009 World champion, seeks to reclaim the top spot.
American Jeremy Wariner, 2004 Olympic gold medallist, had an "off" year in 2011 but has more gold than anyone in the field.
The Pre 400 field isn’t nearly finished. Completing the sweep of medallists from last year’s World Championships is Kevin Borlée of Belgium, who took bronze. He is also the reigning European champion.
American Angelo Taylor has beaucoup gold, two in the 400m Hurdles at the 2000 and 2008 Olympics. As outstanding as he has been in the Hurdles, he has quite a resume in the 400m and is the defending Prefontaine Classic 400 champion.
Christopher Brown of The Bahamas is another gold medallist confirmed. He is a three-time Olympic veteran and the 2010 World Indoor champion. Bahamian countrymate Demetrius Pinder, silver medallist at this year’s World Indoor Championships, will join him. Brown and Pinder aim to mount a charge to challenge the U.S. in the 4x400m Relay in London.
- Men’s 400 Meters
Kirani James (Grenada)
LaShawn Merritt (USA)
Kevin Borlée (Belgium)
Christopher Brown (Bahamas)
Jeremy Wariner (USA)
Angelo Taylor (USA)
Demetrius Pinder (Bahamas)
Oscar Pistorius (South Africa)
Montsho and Richards-Ross to square off
Returning to Eugene will be the top-rated women’s 400m runner in the world, Amantle Montsho of Botswana. Montsho won the gold medal at last year’s World Championships in Daegu after a series of years knocking on the door and not giving up. The gold in Daegu was her first, and still only, global medal at any level and her best is 49.56 from last year.
But Montsho has many of the world’s very best looking to move ahead. Prime among them is American Sanya Richards-Ross, the 2009 World champion. Richards-Ross, among those vanquished in Daegu by Montsho last year, is looking to return to No. 1 form. She proved she is once again healthy by winning World Indoor Championships gold in Istanbul in March. Her PB is 48.60 from 2006.
Another of the world’s best, Anastastiya Kapachinskaya of Russia, will challenge the field. She’s the bronze medalist at last year’s World Championships and posted a 49.35 PB in 2011.
Jamaica’s Novlene Williams-Mills set off a sound-alarm in early May when she defeated Richards-Ross at the Jamaica Invitational in 49.99, not far off her best of 49.63 from 2006. She has eight Olympic or World Championships medals, but none gold – she aims to change that statistic.
Fueling the U.S.-Jamaica rivalry is Shericka Williams, the 2008 Olympic and 2009 World Championships silver medallist, with a 49.32 career best from 2009.
American Debbie Dunn (49.64) and compatriot Natasha Hastings (49.84) round out the field, meaning every entry so far has broken 50 seconds in her career!
- Women’s 400 Meters
Amantle Montsho (Botswana)
Sanya Richards-Ross (USA)
Anastasiya Kapachinskaya (Russia)
Novlene Williams-Mills (Jamaica)
Shericka Williams (Jamaica)
Debbie Dunn (USA)
Natasha Hastings (USA)
Organisers for the IAAF