The CHill Zone of T&F: Conway's View From the Finish Line

Kirani James’ 44.02 Highlights Shanghai DL

May 18th, 2013
9:33 am PDT

Kirani JamesPerhaps Doha raised the bar a bit high, but I didn’t come away from Shanghai with the same WOW factor that I had following the Diamond League opener. A nice set of marks were turned in, but that special something was missing in most of the events on the track.

One running event that hit on all cylinders however, was the men’s 400 as both LaShawn Merritt and Kirani James showed up to compete. Both men took it out down the backstretch and add they headed around the second bend, James began to seriously work, emerging with a slight lead that he increased with each stride up the straight, and crossed the line powerfully in 44.02! Merritt finished second in 44.60 – a mark that on any other occasion this time of year would guarantee victory. Yet all Merritt got was a good look at James running up the track!

A bit early for WR predictions as I’ve seen some saying on Twitter this morning. But certainly we will see multiple 43s from James this year! I was struck by two things watching Kirani today. One is that he is no longer a " kid". He’s now a mature young man who’s grown into his body a la Usain Bolt a few years ago. The second was the length and majesty of his stride, as his race is very similar to one Alberto Juantorena – El Caballo.

James eaked out the win in Daegu with Merritt having only a couple races under his belt. He won in London with Merritt sidelined to injury. He won here in dominating fashion, with Merritt coming in sharp and running well. One can say what they want about the previous two seasons, but James is now emerging as "The Man" and Merritt is now where Wariner was when he emerged – in the position of having to not fend off, but get back ahead of! This matchup could be one of the best on the track this year.

A couple other key matchups were marred by injuries – and maybe that’s what put a damper on Shanghai for me. In the women’s 100 Shelly Ann Fraser Pryce nailed the start as usual. Forcing the field, lead by Carmelita Jeter, to play catch up. It didn’t happen today as SAFP took the win and WL from Jeter with her 10.93. The strain of playing catch up being a bit much, as Jeter (11.08) pulled up late race with Okagbare (11.00) also edging past. Jeter was taken off on a stretcher. Hopefully it’s not too serious.

The other matchup that never materialized was in the men’s 110 hurdles as Aries Merritt never cleared the first hurdle – running up to it and pushing it with his hands. Not sure what his issue was – hope to hear soon. Meanwhile, back in the race, Jason Richardson nailed the start, got out front, and held off a fast closing field to win in 13.23. Ryan Wilson closed best at 13.25. I’m still waiting to see if David Oliver (13.36) can get back to 2010 form – so far this year it’s not looking like it.

We also got an injury in the men’s deuce as Wallace Spearmon seemed to pull up coming off the turn. Another week have to wait on and see what the problem is. Jason Young lead of the turn but couldn’t hold of the closing rush of Warren Weir (20.18) and Justin Gatlin (20.21).

The women’s 400 hurdles looked to have a strong matchup on paper, but Zuzana Hejnova dominated the race while running a WL 53.79. And Asbel Kiprop " dominated" one of the weirdest 1500s I’ve ever seen. Kiprop don’t seem to be very interested in running this race from the start – and " went to sleep" on the third lap. He reengaged on the final lap however, and out kicked the field down the final stretch for the 3:32.39 victory.

Some of the day’s best action took place on the field. Unfortunately telecasts spend very little time on the field events, do much gets missed. Yelena Isinbayeva waited until late to join the pole vault competition, then casually won at 4.70m/15’5". Isi looks to be "back" from her sabbatical and ready to defend, Could be a long season for some pole vaulters.

Perhaps the most surprising result of the day was in the men’s long jump. An event that was already up in the air before the competition began was thrown another loop as Li Jinzhe took the WL at 8.34m/27’4.5". In the process he defeated the likes of Olympic champ Rutherford; former champions Saladino & Phillips; and major contenders Watt and Makusha. Right now this is anyone’s event.

All in all a solid meet. We get another shot at spectacular this week with the New York stop up next!

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8 Responses to “Kirani James’ 44.02 Highlights Shanghai DL”

  1. Waynebo says:

    You already know where I stand on Kirani James, but for everybody else let me make my 2 public predictions about his progress. #1)Based on what I saw in this race, I expect to see his PR come down to 43.6 this year. Lower if Merritt gets back in top form and presses him. #2) If Merritt stays fit enough to keep the pressure on him, I expect him to break MJ’s WR in 2015.

    I know it’s a long way from his PR of 43.94 to 43.18 and it took MJ 4 years to get from 43.39 to 43.18. However, the difference I see is competition. MJ had no peers at all. He was almost the only sub-44 guy from 1993 on. Butch Reynolds never got back to WR form and I don’t know what happened to Quincy Watts. In fact, Peter Black admitted that in the ’96 Olympics, he consciously chose to run for the silver because he knew MJ was unbeatable. That’s how big the gap was. Kirani James, however, must contend with Merritt – who has run 43.75 and is young enough for us to expect him to improve on that. I think MJ would have gotten there in ’96 if he had needed to for the win, but no one pushed him.

    James will be pushed by Merritt and a crop of young up & comers that I believe is gonna be stronger than the group MJ faced in the 90’s. I think by 2015 we will have a few in the 44.1-44.3 range and we may see one additional member join the sub-44 club. Not sure who though. I think Santos will get there, but probably not by 2015. Wouldn’t it be nice if Wariner could get the fire back in his belly and go sub-44 again? (I know, not likely. I’m dreaming)

    • CHill says:

      Kirani does have stiffer competition to contend with and that could help in his pursuit of the record.. 43.18 is no joke as it took MJ some time to get there.. I wonder if Kirani has the speed to get there?? We will see..

      The other less controllable factor is health /injury.. Injury slowed MJ a bit after ’96.. Kirani, or anyone else will need to maintain good health.. Look at what’s happened to Wariner.. One bad coaching move and some minor injuries and now sub 45 isn’t easy..

      When you reach that level it’s little things..

  2. Aurelio Feldman says:

    I really love the 400, I think that a 400 runner is a very special kind of athlete because he is a sprinter that struggle with a lot of pain.
    James is in my opinion the heir to MJ´s crown and if he stays fit will be the WR holder before the Rio Olympics.
    I really hope that Merritt and James have a long rivalry in the event.
    Now a question, why there are a lot of cases of 400 young olympic champions that cannot stay on top? I am talking of Steve Lewis, Jeremy Wariner that won olympic gold very young, as Kirani James, but could not deffend their tittle and after four or five years were done.
    I really hope that do not happen to Kirani.

    • CHill says:

      Well, Lewis suffered from injuries and improved athletes in the event .. By ’92 Quincy Watts had emerged and at that time no one was going to beat him, including MJ in my opinion …

      Then he too suffered injuries and a peaking MJ ..

      Wariner fell to Merritt who rose up .. It seems that between injuries and rising athletes it’s tough to repeat ..

      MJ was blessed that no one else really reached his level in either ’96 or ’00 .. And the whole Butch Reynolds fiasco didn’t hurt either ..

  3. Aurelio Feldman says:

    Wariner´s problem in 08 was problably leaving Clyde Hart because after that he never was the same.

    Injuries came years later, but if you look his 08 season he was beaten fair and square by Merritt in the trials and in the Olympic Games and there were no rumors of injuries.

    He could have a better chance to win his second tittle if he was not only thinking about money.

    • CHill says:

      No injuries in 08, but ironically he started suffering injuries after returning to Hart.. And it was injuries that derailed him in Daegu and London..

      Money certainly seems to have had something to do with the coaching change.. But his body has failed him since.. I’m not sure he can get back to where he was..

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