Gardiner targets 400m WR for 2020
Newly crowned 400m world champion Steven Gardiner says the world record may fall next year. Gardiner, the 6’5” Bahamian, believes a race with Olympic champion and world record holder Wayde van Niekerk and the fastest man in the world over the distance in 2019, Michael Norman, would be amazing.
Van Niekerk and Norman succumbed to injury in 2019, but Gardiner is looking forward to competing with them in 2020. Asked what he thinks will happen next year at the Olympics in Tokyo, he responded, “We’re all amazing athletes, and there are others as well, so it would be an amazing run, I’m sure of that.”
Van Niekerk cut the world record to 43.03 seconds at the Rio Olympics in 2016, prompting Gardiner to think that a clash with the South African and Norman, a 21-year-old American, may be really fast.
“We just might even see a world record, maybe,” he said.
Gardiner won his world title in 43.48 seconds, 0.03 off Norman’s 2019 world-leading time. That run was driven by thoughts of the devastation by Hurricane Dorian of his hometown of Abaco.
“My home island, along with friends and family members, were affected, but I wanted to remain focused and to bring my country a bit of joy and a piece of relief from the effects of the hurricane,” he said.
A knowledgeable observer gave Gardiner top marks for managing the rounds in Doha, host of the 17th IAAF World Championships. Davian Clarke, Jamaica’s two-time Olympic 400 metres finalist, noted that at the 2017 Worlds, Gardiner ran 44.75 in the heat, 43.89 in the semi-final, before getting the silver medal in 44.41 seconds behind van Niekerk.
“He ran 43 at the last World Championships in the rounds, and he didn’t have anything left in the final,” Clarke said. “He was dead. He still had the medal, but he learnt a valuable lesson from there about the pacing, which helped him this year because he was able to pace himself through the rounds and then in the final. Everybody was shocked to see how fast he ran, but he prepared specifically for what needed to be done.”
In Doha, Gardiner paced his heat and semi in 45.68 and 44.13, respectively. He attributed the adjustment to perfect peaking and experience.
“Fast-forward to Doha. We didn’t race as much, and we wanted to peak at the right time due to the long season this year,” Gardiner said. “Also, I’m much more experienced in track and field, so I can handle the rounds much better now.”