LaShawn Merritt, Kirani James

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

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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.

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“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)

Eliud Kipchoge wins Berlin Marathon; no world record

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Olympic champion Eliud Kipchoge won the Berlin Marathon but missed the world record by 35 seconds, slowed by rain and humidity.

The Kenyan clocked 2:03:32, just missing the three-year-old record of 2:02:57. Countryman Dennis Kimetto set that mark at the 2014 Berlin Marathon.

Kipchoge, who has won nine of his 10 career marathons, said Sunday marked the toughest conditions under which he has run 26.2 miles.

“My mind was to run at least a world record,” the 32-year-old said. “Next time. Tomorrow is a [new] day. … I still have a world record in my legs.”

The two other men chasing the record — Kenenisa Bekele and Wilson Kipsang — dropped out after 18 miles.

Instead, the runner-up was surprise Ethiopian Guye Adola, who ran the fastest debut marathon ever on a record-eligible course in an unofficial 2:03:46.

Adola stuck with Kipchoge until the last mile as both men trailed off Kimetto’s world-record pace.

Kenyan Gladys Cherono won the women’s race by 18 seconds in 2:00:23. It’s her second Berlin win in three years.

Many expected to see a men’s world record Sunday. Kipchoge, Bekele and Kipsang had all run within 16 seconds of the mark in the last two years but had never raced together in the German capital.

Berlin is the world’s fastest marathon. The men’s world record has been lowered six times since 2003, each time in the shadow of the Brandenburg Gate.

Kipchoge was the pre-race favorite.

On May 6, he ran 2:00:25 in Nike’s staged sub-two-hour marathon attempt on an Italian Formula One track. It was contested under special conditions that made it ineligible for record purposes with pacers entering mid-race.

Kipchoge won Berlin in 2015 in 2:04:00 despite insoles flopping out the back of his shoes the last half of the race.

Bekele and Kipsang teased the world record in a memorable Berlin duel last year, with Bekele winning six seconds shy of it.

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MORE: Top Americans set for major marathon next month

Yuzuru Hanyu falters as Javier Fernández wins opener

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Even Yuzuru Hanyu can struggle in September.

The Olympic and world champion singled his first jump, doubled a few more and fell in the free skate of his opening event of the Olympic season on Saturday. Video is here.

He squandered an 11.52-point lead over two-time world champion Javier Fernández from Friday’s short program at the Autumn Classic in Montreal.

Hanyu ended up 10.83 points behind Fernández overall, even though the Spaniard also fell in his free skate.

Full scores are here.

It’s a familiar feeling for Hanyu, who saw Fernández pass him in the free skate at the 2015 and 2016 Worlds.

The Japanese megastar also been known to have clunker programs at fall events in past seasons. In every one of his senior seasons, Hanyu has been beaten in one of his first two competitions.

Hanyu came to Montreal with a sore knee, which reportedly led him to take the quadruple loop out of his repertoire for one weekend.

Still, Hanyu was marvelous in the short program. His score was the second-highest under the 13-year-old judging system.

Showdowns like Hanyu-Fernández are usually reserved for, at the earliest, the Grand Prix series in late October and November. The Autumn Classic is a lower-level event.

Hanyu, 22, next skates at the Rostelecom Cup in four weeks. He will face 18-year-old U.S. champion Nathan Chen, who beat Hanyu at the Four Continents Championships at the PyeongChang Olympic venue in February.

The figure skating season continues next weekend with Nebelhorn Trophy in Germany, the final Olympic qualifying competition. North Korea could clinch its first spots in any sport for the Olympics in the pairs event.

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MORE: What to watch every day of PyeongChang Olympics