Thu | Feb 22, 2018

Diamond Debate | Merritt vs James in 400m showdown

Published:Thursday | May 26, 2016 | 12:00 AM
Kirani James (left) and LaShawn Merritt cross the finish line in the same time, 43.97 seconds, at the Prefontaine Classic Diamond League meeting in Eugene, Oregon in 2014.

K.C. Graham: The 400 metres field for the Prefontaine Classic is loaded with five men with sub-44 seconds in the race.

Lowe: The 400m is probably my favourite event these days, and how could it not be with the performances we've see over the past few seasons!

K.C. Graham: A cracker is expected, but it is the rivalry between LaShawn Merritt and Kirani James that will take centre stage, following their keen battle at the meet the last two times they met there.

Lowe: It's likely to be another good race between the two, but James must be feeling extremely confident given his start to the season and the fact that he has won here for two consecutive years.

K.C. Graham: Yes, he has, but based on his world-leading time in the 200 metres, Merritt could upstage him here. I think Michael Johnson's meet record of 43.92 seconds done in 2000 is in serious danger here.

Lowe: Eugene always gives us good times and I'm going to agree regarding the meet record. Yes, Merritt's speed has looked impressive, but he just doesn't seem to have the answer to James in recent times. James has dominated this rivalry, finishing ahead of the American in six of the last eight meetings.

K.C. Graham: Could we have a repeat of 2014 when both athletes touched the line at 43.97 seconds? James will be seeking to go under 44 seconds for the third year in a row. He should start favourite to win here, but Merritt could use his early speed to kill him off, and I liked how he ran at the Rabat Meet, not extending himself, possibly saving for the clash with James at Eugene.

Lowe: He can save all he wants. He will not beat Kirani in Eugene. I'm going for a Kirani win. What can we expect from Rusheen McDonald in this one?

K.C. Graham: I saw McDonald in a short workout on Tuesday evening at Stadium East and he looked good. An improved performance from him is expected. The race itself, despite James drawing first blood over Merritt at Drakes (Drake Relays), I am giving Merritt the edge here as his 19.78 seconds personal best in the 200 metres will see him using his telling speed to overcome James.

Lowe: I'm sticking with Kirani and anticipating a solid run from Rusheen.