Eyes on Jamaica, says James
Olympic 400m champion Kirani James says he is extremely proud to carry the Caribbean's hopes in his event, but is keeping an eye on the improvements and progress of others in the region, including Jamaica's string of rising quarter-mile talents.
James, who boasts a personal best of 43.74 in the event, which means that only four athletes have ever gone faster than he has, believes that 2015 will prove a defining year for the event and feels that a greater understanding of the event, has led to faster times by younger athletes.
"I have been paying attention (to the improving Jamaican 400m runners) especially because people point out to me that I have to be aware of these guys and I think they are really very talented. As long as they have the support and are in the right hands; people who have their best interests at heart, the sky is the limit for them; they are capable of doing great things," said James, who will meet Jamaicans Rusheen McDonald and Edino Steele at today's IAAF Diamond League meet in Paris.
Among the Jamaican seniors, Javon Francis (44.50) and Rusheen McDonald (44.60) have dipped below the 45 seconds barrier on multiple occasions this season, showing real improvement in the event, while 17-year-old Akeem Bloomfield posted a national junior record 44.93 with 15-year-old Christopher Taylor posting a world age group record 45.55 in the event this season.
boom in ja
James, who ran 45.24 as a 16-year-old and 44.36 days after his 19th birthday, believes the boom in Jamaica and elsewhere should be credited to a greater understanding of the event and younger athletes developing an early love for the 400m.
"I think a lot of youngsters understand the race a lot better now and more people are developing confidence in doing the event at a young age. Usually you see guys get a grasp of the event when they are in their mid 20s and so on, and seeing those youngsters suggests that they have great coaches and people around them helping them to understand the event," James told The Gleaner.
Of the top 10 quarter-milers so far this year, only two are over 23 years old, with The Bahamas' Steven Gardiner (44.27) and Trinidad and Tobago's Machel Cedenio (44.36) being the youngest among the rest at 19 years old. Francis will celebrate his 22nd birthday in December, while James, Wayde Van Niekirk (South Africa - 44.24) and Trinidad and Tobago's Deon Lendore (44.41) are already 22, with USA's national champion David Verburg (44.41) and another American Vernon Norwood, 44.44 at 23 years old.
The men's 400m at the Paris Diamond League meets gets going today at 1:16 p.m. (Jamaica time).