Athletics: James leads Merritt, Van Niekerk into 400 final
By Nick Mulvenney
RIO DE JANEIRO (Reuters) - Reigning champion Kirani James clocked a season-best 44.02 seconds to lead LaShawn Merritt and Wayde van Niekerk into the final of the 400 meters at the Rio Olympic Stadium on Saturday.
The Grenadian got off to a great start and managed to hold off American Merritt, his predecessor as Olympic champion, coming into the home straight before both eased up knowing the first two home were guaranteed a spot in Sunday's final.
"In a race like that it is always tough," James said. "I had the inside lane so I could see what LaShawn was doing, and now I will just relax a bit and get some rest.
"Tomorrow is going to be a dog fight"
Merritt, who was unable to defend his title in London after suffering a hamstring injury in the heats, clocked 44.21 for the second best time of the semi-finals and suggested he had plenty in reserve.
"It was cool," he said. "First round handled it well. 45.2, not too much energy put out. Great track, nice atmosphere. I feel good."
Van Niekerk, who won a thrilling race between the trio to win the world title in 43.48 in Beijing last year, also got off to a flyer but, perhaps keeping something in reserve, eased up over the last 20 meters to finish in 44.45.
Trinidad and Tobago's Machel Cedenio served a reminder that the final will not be a three-man affair when he overtook the South African at the line to win the heat in 44.39 meters. Continued...