The man to beat: James records fastest time of 2016

Olympic champion clocks 44.08sec in 400m race at Drake Relays

Reuters May 01, 2016
Kirani James of Grenada holds his national flag after placing third in the men's 400 metres final at the IAAF World Championships at the National Stadium in Beijing, China August 26, 2015. PHOTO: REUTERS

CARY: Olympic champion Kirani James produced a hot performance in cold weather when he clocked the fastest time of the year to win the 400m at the Drake Relays in Iowa.

The 23-year-old Grenadian showed he was on track to defend his title in Rio in August by clocking 44.08sec in swirling winds at the meeting in Des Moines.

In a battle between the last two Olympic champions, James beat American LaShawn Merritt by 0.14sec.

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James’ time was not far off the 43.94 he ran to win in London four years ago, when he made history as the first ever Olympic champion from the tiny Caribbean island nation of barely 100,000 people. That time remains his personal best. “It just shows that I’m on a great track to do some great things this year,” James said after Friday’s race.

The time James posted was even more remarkable given the conditions, with temperatures hovering just below 50 degrees. The conditions got to Merritt, the 2008 Beijing Olympics champion. He finished 2015 ranked second in the world and is hoping to be ready to push James by the Rio Games. “I wanted to win the race. But I didn’t want to kill myself,” said Merritt, who matched the old meet record. “My toes felt frozen. So when I tried to like really push at certain parts, I felt like I was just tip-toeing. But I finished up healthy.”

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Published in The Express Tribune, May 1st, 2016.

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