43.89 for Steven Gardiner
LONDON, England – At just 21-years-old, Bahamian Steven Gardiner has now entered the world’s elite in the men’s 400 meters (m).
The lanky and talented speedster lowered his own national record in the men’s 400m at the 16th International Association of Athletics Federations’ (IAAF) World Championships in London, England, on Sunday, running a blazing 43.89 seconds to easily win his semi-final heat. He will go into tonight’s final with the fastest time and will run out of the center of the track in lane four.
Event favorites Wayde Van Niekerk, the world record holder from South Africa, and Botswanans Isaac Makwala and Baboloki Thebe, will all be ahead of him, running out of lanes six, seven and nine respectively.
As for Gardiner, he has shot up the all-time list, now listed as the 13th fastest of all-time in the men’s 400m. He is also second to Kirani James, of Grenada, in the Caribbean region, who coincidentally skipped this year’s world championships due to injury. Gardiner is now one of only 16 athletes to ever run under 44 seconds in the men’s 400m in the history of athletics worldwide. More importantly, he is into his first global final on the senior level and will go after a medal tonight.
Gardiner said that he was shocked more than anything else when he saw the stunning time.
“I was just shocked because of the time, and I felt so good. It’s a new national record and a PR (personal best performance) for me, so it’s all good. It’s unbelievable. I’ve been working pretty hard this year and it’s paying off. I made a big sacrifice. I just had to go out there and do what I had to do,” said Gardiner.
In running the blazing time, Gardiner reduced his personal best and national record by almost four tenths of a second. Jamaican Nathon Allen was second in that semi-final heat in a new personal best time of 44.19 seconds and will go into tonight’s final as the second fastest qualifier, and American Fred Kerley had to settle for third in 44.51 seconds. Van Niekerk was the third fastest qualifier, winning his semi-final heat in 44.22 seconds. Makwala qualified in 44.30 seconds, and Thebe qualified in 44.33 seconds. Surprisingly, American LaShawn Merritt, one of the most decorated men ever in the men’s 400m, failed to make the final. The reigning Olympic bronze medalist and world championships silver medalist finished seventh in his semi-final heat and was 20th overall in 45.52 seconds.
Meanwhile, Gardiner said that he feels good mentally and physically, and is looking forward to going after Van Niekerk, and others, in the final at 9:50 p.m. tonight.
“It was a pretty strong run and I feel real good. I just had to go out there and take control of the race early. Once I was in the front, I just went through it cleanly,” said Gardiner. “Those other guys – they’re all good talent. I just have to go out there and focus on myself and my lane. I can’t worry about anyone else. I just have to hydrate, get some rest, and I’ll be ready to go again on Tuesday.”
Gardiner said that he had no idea that he was going so fast. His objective was just to attack the semi-final like a final and ensure that he was in the top two. Being the only Bahamian to ever go under 44 seconds in the event is an added treat for him. He hopes to complete the journey tonight, lowering the national record even further and winning a medal to bring back to The Bahamas.
In his opening round heat on Saturday he qualified easily in 44.75 seconds.
“It’s a pleasure. It’s something new,” said Gardiner about being the first Bahamian to run under 44 seconds in the men’s 400m. “No one has ever done it, so I’m just happy to say that I’m the first one to ever do it. I feel good about everything — me just making a final, I feel good about that. I’ve never made a final and I’m in the final now, so I’m happy about everything.”
In his first two global meets on the senior side, the 2015 world championships in Beijing, China, and last year’s Olympics in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, Gardiner bowed out in the semi-finals each time. One got the feeling when he ran a new national record in his first meet of the season, the Grenada Invitational in St. George’s, Grenada, that this was going to be a special year for him. So far, it certainly has.
Gardiner feels confident about his chances in the final tonight, which will take place at 9:50 p.m. in London, 4:50 p.m. in The Bahamas. Bahamians everywhere are optimistic.