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

2011 in Review – Men’s 400 Meter Hurdles

Nov 11th, 2011
6:15 pm PST

David Greene David Greene of Great Britain wins the gold medal in the Mens 400m Hurdle Final during day five of the 20th European Athletics Championships at the Olympic Stadium on July 31, 2010 in Barcelona, Spain.This was a very interesting event. On the one hand it had the potential to be great with athletes like Angelo Taylor, Bershawn Jackson, Johnny Dutch, and Javier Culson returning from a hot 2010 season. And with L.J. Van Zyl blazing from the late winter, it looked like this might be THE hottest event of the year. But things just didn’t pan out in 2011, which ended up being a season that fizzled more than sizzled.

L.J. Van Zyl (SA) started out like a house a fire blazing 47.66 in Pretoria on Feb 25 – faster than anyone in history had ever run so early in the season! He came back to win the South African title in a swift 47.73 on Apr 10, and the die was cast for a very fast World Championships with the season not even truly under way, and the bar set high for the rest of the world.

Van Zyl kept the heat on throughout the month of May winning Doha in 48.11 over Bershawn Jackson(USA); Rome in 47.91 over David Greene (GBR), Angelo Taylor (USA)and Javier Culson (PUR); and Ostrava in 47.66 over Greene again. At that point Van Zyl was looking like one of the most dominant athletes on the planet, with the question being: would anyone step up to challenge him?

Then came June, New York, and an ill wind that slowed everything down. Suddenly Van Zyl looked vulnerable – finishing in 4thplace behind winner Javier Culson (48.50), Bershawn Jackson and David Greene – and the season began to change. US Nationals would see three men run under 48.00 – Jeshua Anderson (47.93), Bershawn Jackson (47.93) and Angelo Taylor (47.94) – further threatening Van Zyl’s dominance.

But as the Euro Circuit got going in earnest it was David Greene winning in Lausanne (over Culson) and Birmingham (over Jackson and Culson) that began to look like the one to take over the event. That is until Angelo Taylor came back to a win in Monaco in a rare sub 48 (47.97) over Jackson and Greene, looking like a hurdler that was beginning to hit his stride. Then in London, the final race before Worlds, Taylor would DQ, Culson would get the win, and Daegu was looking like anyone’s race to win.

Daegu would end up being the only World Championships to not be won under 48 seconds with David Greene’s 48.26 becoming the slowest winning time in Worlds history. Culson would take silver (48.44) and Van Zyl the bronze (48.80) – with former World champion Bershawn Jackson (49.24) and former double Olympic champion Angelo Taylor (49.31) well back in 6th and 7th.

Post Worlds was anticlimactic with Culson winning Brussels and now it’s time to try and sort it all out.


#1 David Greene Great Britain

Greene get the nod via his gold medal at Worlds and the best overall record. It may seem odd to pick an event leader that didn’t have a winning record ( 4 – 5), but virtually no one did in this crazy season. In addition to Worlds he won in Stockholm (ETC), Lausanne and Birmingham. But was also 2nd in Rome, Ostrava & Brussels to go with 3rd in New York and Monaco – making him the most consistent hurdler on the season to go with his World title.


#2 Javier Culson Puerto Rico

Silver at Worlds, Culson had wins in New York, London and Brussels. He had only one other runner up slot (Lausanne) a single 3rd (Birmingham) and a 4th (Rome). Overall his 5 – 5 record was statistically better than Greene’s, but he lost to Greene at Worlds, Lausanne, Birmingham and Rome, so he sits in the same spot he occupied in Daegu.


#3 L.J. Van Zyl South Africa

If I were awarding slots based on half a season, Van Zyl’s first half would have given him the top spot hands down. But his melt down in the second half of the season cost him dearly, as after running away with Doha, Rome and Ostrava he could only manage 4th in New York and Monaco and an 8th place in Berlin. IN spite of the only winning record at 5 – 4 he gets this slot on the strength of his early season and his bronze in Daegu.


#4 Bershawn Jackson United States

Only 6th at Worlds, this was not one of Jackson’s best seasons – as a 1 – 7 records will attest. Still Jackson was the runner up in Daegu (Colorful), New York, Nationals, Birmingham and Monaco. So garners the 4th spot as the most consistent of the rest.


#5 Angelo Taylor United States

Taylor’s season was very similar to Jackson’s. His seasonal record was only 1 – 6 and he finished 7th at Worlds. But he did win in Monaco, and was 3rd in Daegu (Colorful), Rome and Nationals to slip into the 5th spot.


Next I’ll take a look at the women’s event, where they preformed much more admirably.

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