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)

Pyeongchang Olympic organizers optimistic with 500 days to go

Security personnel stands by a logo of the 2018 PyeongChang Olympic Winter Games before an event to mark the start of the 500-day countdown in Seoul, South Korea, Tuesday, Sept. 27, 2016. With 500 days until the Olympic cauldron is ignited in Pyeongchang, organizers of the 2018 Winter Games say 90 percent of construction on new venues is complete and the focus of preparations is on test events. (AP Photo/Lee Jin-man)
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SEOUL, South Korea (AP) — Marking the 500-day countdown to the Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang, organizers said Tuesday that 90 percent of construction of new venues is complete and the focus is now on preparing for test events.

Pyeongchang’s organizing committee said construction is on schedule for a series of sports competitions scheduled from November to April that will serve as rehearsals for the Olympics, which begin Feb. 9, 2018.

The six new competition venues for the games are now 88 percent complete and a new high-speed rail line – designed to link the country’s main gateway of Incheon airport with Pyeongchang in less than two hours – will be completed next June and start operations in January 2018, organizers said.

The preparations are undergoing a transition from the “planning phase to operational readiness,” the organizing committee said in a statement.

“Asia has immeasurable potential to become the frontier of winter sports. Pyeongchang has been dedicated to promote winter sports and attract investments throughout Asia,” the committee said.

Noting that the 2018 Games will be the first of three consecutive Olympics in Asia, the committee said Pyeongchang will be an “opportunity to establish even closer links among the next host countries and build bridges through sports.”

Tokyo will host the 2020 Summer Olympics, while Beijing will stage the 2022 Winter Games.

Pyeongchang organizers have overcome delays, local conflicts over venue constructions and difficulties attracting domestic sponsorships in past years. Optimism over preparations has increased after the successful hosting of the first round of test events at Alpine venues earlier this year.

Despite a slow start, organizers say more than 80 percent of the domestic sponsorship target of $850 million has been met and that they expect to reach 90 percent of the target by the end of the year.

A program of cultural events featuring pop singers and local sports stars was held in Seoul on Tuesday evening to mark the start of the countdown.

MORE: 500 Days to Pyeongchang: Five athletes to watch

500 Days to Pyeongchang: Five athletes to watch

PARK CITY, UT - FEBRUARY 06:  Chloe Kim celebrates a first place finish in the ladies' FIS Snowboard World Cup at the 2016 U.S Snowboarding Park City Grand Prix on February 6, 2016 in Park City, Utah.  (Photo by Tom Pennington/Getty Images)
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Today marks 500 days until the Opening Ceremony of 2018 Winter Olympics.

Below are five U.S. athletes to get to know before February 9, 2018:

Ryan Bailey (Bobsled): Bailey, who finished fifth as a sprinter in the London Olympic 100m, is attempting to compete at the 2018 Olympics as a bobsledder. On Sept. 21, just weeks into his bobsled career, he won the men’s push athlete national title. The last male Summer Olympian to make a U.S. Olympic bobsled team was Willie Davenport in 1980.

MORE: Converted sprinter Ryan Bailey wins bobsled national title

Brittany Bowe and Heather Richardson (Speed Skating): Bowe and Richardson have been trading world records in recent years. Last November, Bowe broke her own women’s 1000m world record, only to have Richardson lower it just three minutes later. A week later, Bowe broke the world record in the event once again.

MORE: Dan Jansen explains recent flurry of world records

Meryl Davis and Charlie White (Figure Skating): The future is uncertain for Davis and White, who became the first U.S. couple to win an Olympic ice dance title in Sochi. They have not competed since the 2014 Olympics, but they have also not announced their retirement.

MORE: Where Meryl Davis, Charlie White stand on possible comeback

Chloe Kim (Snowboarding): Kim mathematically qualified for the 2014 U.S. Olympic team in halfpipe, but at 13, she was not old enough to be eligible to compete in Sochi. A U.S. woman has won gold in the event at three of the past four Olympics, but Kaitlyn Farrington, who won halfpipe gold in Sochi, retired after being diagnosed with a spinal condition.

MORE: Kaitlyn Farrington retires from snowboarding

Mikaela Shiffrin (Alpine Skiing): Shiffrin became the youngest Olympic slalom champion at the 2014 Games, when she was 18. Four years later, she is hoping to become the first Alpine skier — man or woman — to repeat as slalom gold medalist. She also could become the first U.S. women’s Alpine skier to win gold medals in multiple Olympics.