LaShawn Merritt, Kirani James

James vs. Merritt; men’s 400 meters a head-to-head at World Championships


What is the best individual rivalry in track and field? It may lie in the men’s 400 meters.

American LaShawn Merritt, 27, won the 2008 Olympic and 2009 world titles.

Grenada’s Kirani James, 20, won the 2012 Olympic and 2011 world titles.

It may look like a case of young surpassing old based on major medals, but the quarter-mile is still a two-man race going into Tuesday’s final at Luzhniki Stadium in Moscow (1:50 p.m. ET, Universal Sports).

World Track and Field Championships broadcast schedule

Especially when you look at the top 11 times this season going into the World Championships.


“It’ll be a showdown, but in these championships you can’t count anybody out,” Merritt said in a phone interview from Moscow. “It’s going to be a fast race where the both of us are going to go at it.”

They’ve gone at it a few times before this year. James won in Shanghai in May. Then Merritt crossed first in Eugene, Ore., in June. James took their final meeting in Paris in July with a world-leading time of 43.96 to Merritt’s 44.09.

“We’ve been going back and forth all year,” Merritt said. “The margins of victory have been small margins.”

James and Merritt are aiming to become the third men to win multiple world titles in the 400, joining Michael Johnson and Jeremy Wariner. Thirteen men have run better than 44.10 all time: 12 Americans, including Merritt (43.75 personal best), and James (43.94).

“We talk,” Merritt said of James. “He’s cool. I guess he thinks I’m pretty cool. It’s the respect for the event, to be able to run certain times. It takes a lot of dedication and hard work. The both of us know that.

“He respects me. I respect him, but at the end of the day when the bell goes off, we’re all competitors.”

Now that he’s an NCAA champion, world junior champion, world champion and Olympic champion, James’ eye is on the world record of 43.18 held by Johnson. He was given a large victory parade in Grenada after winning the nation’s first Olympic medal, but he stays simple training at the University of Alabama.

“It has changed tremendously, title-wise, but I just try to keep it the same,” James told Universal Sports.

Merritt’s defense of his Olympic title in London didn’t go as planned. He suffered a hamstring injury between the Olympic trials and the Games and did not complete his opening heat in London.

This came a year after being passed by James in the final 25 meters at the World Championships in Daegu, South Korea. James beat Merritt by .03 of a second.

Merritt’s goal from the start of the season has been retaking the World Championship. He’s confident of beating the field, including James.

“I feel like I haven’t run a race this year where I couldn’t go back and correct more than five things,” Merritt said.

Medal Picks
Gold: James
Silver: Merritt
Bronze: Tony McQuay (USA)

Mikaela Shiffrin wins back-to-back slalom races at Aspen World Cup

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“I think there’s something special about Aspen,” Mikaela Shiffrin told NBC after winning two slalom races in as many days.

After Saturday’s history-making win, when Shiffrin won her first World Cup race in the U.S. and was the first American woman to win a slalom race at the Aspen World Cup stop, the twenty-year-old won again by a large margin. After winning by 3:07 seconds on Saturday, Shiffrin told reporters, “I don’t think [my competitors] are going to let me get away with three seconds ever again.”

But on Sunday her lead over the second place finisher, Frida Hansdotter of Sweden, wasn’t much shorter: 2:65 seconds. And this was with an early mistake that left her off balance for a moment in her final run.

In third place was Sarka Strachova of the Czech Republic.

This weekend also saw a podium finish for American Travis Ganong. Racing the downhill event at Lake Louise yesterday, Ganong finished third behind Aksel Lund Svindal of Norway, who is recovering from an Achilles injury that prevented him from competing the majority of the last season, and Peter Fill of Norway. Ganong cAksel Lund Svindal of Norwayouldn’t quite repeat his success in the Super G event on Sunday, finishing fourth.

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Hamburg withdraws 2024 Olympic bid after referendum

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Hamburg will not continue its bid to host the 2024 Olympics and Paralympics, withdrawing from the race after a public referendum was held.

If over 50% of the voters in Hamburg had voted in support of the Olympic bid they would have stayed in race. However, the New York Times reported that of the 650,000 votes that were cast, 51.7% were against the bid.

Olaf Scholz, the mayor of Hamburg, said, “This is a decision that we did not have liked but it is clear.”

A public referendum also ended Munich’s bid for the 2022 Winter Olympics. Germany has not hosted a Games since 1972.

The cities that remain in contention to host the 2024 Olympics are Los Angeles, Budapest, Paris and Rome. None of these plan to hold public referendums.

The 2024 host city will be selected on September 13th, 2017 at the International Olympic Committee meeting in Lima, Peru.